Belfast Telegraph

Jose Mourinho on the brink of Chelsea exit after blasting faltering stars

By Mark Ogden

There was a time when Jose Mourinho would only criticise opponents for parking the bus, but his final act as Chelsea manager may turn out to be the moment he threw his players under one.

One by one, Mourinho went through the card of those "superstars" he deemed to have let him down, not only in Monday's 2-1 defeat at Leicester but since the Premier League trophy was hoisted aloft at the end of last season.

Some were singled out by name - such as Diego Costa, for "leaving his areas" - while others were damned by their achievements, in a manner that was dripping with Mourinho's contempt.

"They have to look to Sunderland and Watford and say, 'hey, we are at the same level'," Mourinho said. "'I am not the superstar, I am not the player of the season, I am not the world champion, I am not the Premier League champion. At this moment, I am at your level.'"

Eden Hazard, already shifting uncomfortably with the hip injury that forced him out of the game after half an hour at the King Power Stadium, would have known precisely who Mourinho was referring to when he spoke of the "player of the season", while Cesc Fabregas would only have been fooling himself if he believed that the "world champion" in his manager's sights was August arrival Pedro rather than himself.

Still, with the Chelsea squad undoubtedly aware that their manager had just said in his post-match interview that his players had "betrayed" him, it is perhaps surprising that many of them chose to go through the ordeal of sharing the bus ride home with their coach.

This is the situation Mourinho now finds himself in - a manager sitting in the front seat, knowing that conversations are taking place behind him which will be anything but complimentary.

There will be whispers, shakes of heads, rolls of eyes, but the 52-year-old Portuguese has brought it all on himself, and his brutal assessment of Chelsea's failing players will be regarded as the beginning of the end.

Roberto Mancini lost the trust of those within the dressing room and then his job at Manchester City after one public outburst too many, even though the Italian guided the club to runners-up spot in both the Premier League and FA Cup after winning the league title 12 months earlier.

Mourinho would give anything to be able to offer Chelsea's owner Roman Abramovich such a return on this season, but with his team sitting one point above the bottom three ahead of Saturday's relegation six-pointer - this is what it has come to - against Sunderland, there is no light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel.

Hanging the players out to dry only works for managers who have so much power that dissent in the dressing room is not an option.

Sir Alex Ferguson castigated his Manchester United squad after a derby defeat against Manchester City at Maine Road in November 2002, but those players knew best.

Despite the flames burning beneath his feet, Mourinho is seemingly prepared only to blame everybody but himself. Referees have borne the brunt of his frustrations, as have players, doctors, the media and, at Leicester, the King Power Stadium ball-boys who were, in Mourinho's words, "a disgrace for the Premier League".

Chelsea's players, according to Mourinho, only won the title last season because "I did phenomenal work and brought them to a level that is not their level".

He can blame the players all he likes, but a manager cannot only take the credit for when his team is doing well. If the players are no longer listening, they are hardly going to keep him in a job if he turns on them in public.

Which is why Mourinho's remarks at Leicester felt like those of a man desperate to hurl a final insult at his detractors before he is turfed out of the door.

Belfast Telegraph


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