Belfast Telegraph

Jose Mourinho answers call of destiny to complete Chelsea job

By James Lawton

Who on earth does the Special One think he is kidding when he tells Chelsea TV that he has returned to his most important passion?

From time to time he has listed many of the contenders and naturally they now include Internazionale, whose players wept when he left them after winning the 2010 Champions League. He has also frequently referred to his reverence for Our Lady of Fatima.

Nor is there any doubt that the enduring affection of the Stamford Bridge fans has a special place in his feelings and maybe never more so than when he fought a tide of hostility at Real Madrid.

However, in the joyful ceremonials of his resurrection as Chelsea manager we should not for a moment forget that Jose Mourinho is living, swaggering proof that when you fall in love with yourself there is every chance it will prove a life-long romance.

We should also recognise that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, having been rebuffed by the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp for the most impeccable of reasons, has made his best possible appointment.

Manchester United, having seen him not so long ago as the outstanding candidate to one day replace Sir Alex Ferguson, cooled swiftly when his defiance of Real's lofty view of itself was combined with behaviour outrageous even by his standards.

Yet Chelsea, of all clubs, are required to put aside such delicacies. Their treatment of front-rank managers has been without conscience since Mourinho was first undermined, then eased out of Stamford Bridge in 2007. The project handed to Andre Villas-Boas was a disaster comprised of worthy promises about long-term support which could never be sustained once he had lost the dressing room.

The appointment of Rafa Benitez was a convulsion never justified by his limited potential to have a dynamic effect on an ageing but still formidably talented squad.

So where did Abramovich go while weighed down by the suspicion that no manager, however strong his reputation, would ever prove immune from his whims?

He had to go to Mourinho. Why? Because he is the most remarkable winner of his generation of coaches, a truth which should not be lost in the fact that last season in Madrid he suffered his first season in the top flight without a significant trophy. It did not disguise the fact that he had challenged Barcelona, full on, and in the process stripped away the mythology that this was a team destined to dominate not only Spain but all of Europe for the foreseeable future.

It is also true that for all the discord at the Bernabeu, the rebellion of a dressing room which contained figures hardly less self-regarding than Mourinho himself and the disdain of a hierarchy which has quite as much of the blood of coaches on its hands as Abramovich, he finished just one late goal short of guiding his team to the Champions League final.

Had he got there, who knows how his unique brand of psychological warfare might have worked against Bayern Munich?

We will never know that but we do know the consequences of a Mourinho victory at Wembley. He would have been the first coach to win the greatest prize in club football with three separate clubs.

As it is, he brings a huge charge of renewed confidence back to Stamford Bridge. It is the gift of a natural-born leader.

Frank Lampard describes him as a great, great manager and we can take it that this is not some starry-eyed tribute to his tactical brilliance. It is about his ability to take hold of a group of players and make them believe they can clear any obstacle in front of them. He did it at Porto with astonishing drive and authority. He did it at Chelsea until Abramovich set up his own counter-regime of men who were somewhat more pliable.

Mourinho has a four-year deal and, we have to assume, certain assurances about his scope to create a team more in his own image.

The midfield is impressively stocked by any calculation, but will Oscar, for all his brilliance, be a little too fragile for Mourinho's taste? If Eden Hazard's talent is evident enough, will he pass all of the new coach's vital efficiency tests?

There are many such questions but none of them touch on the central point that Mourinho has not come back to Chelsea to play the role of a yes man. It would be a self-defeating proposition, of no benefit to either the man or the club.

He has returned to fulfil a destiny that he has always believed was rudely, even ignorantly, disrupted. When he arrived that first time he said, memorably, that he saw himself as both the star and the director of a new and unforgettable movie. It is a brave man who bets that, second time around, he will not create a much more satisfactory ending.

Reaction: he always creates interest...

Arsène Wenger: "I have nothing against Mourinho. Overall I think he always creates a lot of interest in the media, especially in England but over the world. It creates interest in the Premier League and that is good."

Frank Lampard: "He took my game on a million miles, and my personality in terms of football on a million miles. A lot of the reasons I moved on in the game is because of him."

Ron Harris, Chelsea 1961-80: "I think 95 per cent of the Chelsea supporters are pleased. I think it's a pat on the back for Roman Abramovich for bringing him back."

Nathaniel Chalobah, @chalobah: "Just seen on the cfc website. Glad to have Mourinho back @chelseafc. Great news #cfc."

Ryan Bertrand, @ryanbertrand3: "This is what we've been waiting for! welcome back #mourinho excited for the new season already."

...but here's why it doesn't usually work

Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool): Nearly 20 years after dramatically quitting the Liverpool manager's job, the Scot returned to replace Roy Hodgson but lasted less than 17 months despite winning the Carling Cup and reaching the FA Cup final in his only full season.

Kevin Keegan (Newcastle United): Having been pipped for the Premier League title in his first spell at St James' Park, Keegan was enlisted again by owner Mike Ashley in January 2008. However, he was on his way just nine months later after growing unhappy with the way the club was run.

Howard Kendall (Everton): After leaving Everton in 1987 having won two league titles, an FA Cup and the European Cup-winners' Cup, Kendall was lured back from Manchester City in November 1990. He could not work his magic again and left just over two years later. A third spell in 1997-98 saw Everton involved in a bitter fight against relegation and though they stayed up on the final day of the season, Kendall had had enough.

Steve Coppell (Crystal Palace): Took Palace to the FA Cup final in 1990 and finished third in the top flight the following season. Never managed to match those achievements during three further spells in south London.

Harry Redknapp (Portsmouth): Left to join arch-rivals Southampton in December 2004 but, having taken them down, returned to Fratton Park a year later, saved Pompey from the drop and won the FA Cup in 2008.

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