The iconic moment Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho announced himself as ‘the special one’ will go down in history as one of the most defining moments in Premier League history, and he certainly wasn’t lying.
The relatively unknown 41-year-old Portuguese had led former club FC Porto to the Champions League title the month before he announced himself on the biggest stage of them all, the Premier League. Flexing their newly found finances, Chelsea made him the highest paid coach at the time, and blimey didn’t he earn it.
If the players didn’t know much about Mourinho beforehand they certainly started to notice him when he arrived, after he threatened an exodus of the current deadwood claiming: “I want a small squad – 21 players plus the goalkeepers and no more. I think that is the correct number for the work I want to do.”
There was no room for passengers in this squad, not like with Claudio Ranieri. He was going to be ruthless, and armed with Roman Abramovich’s filthy oil money, he set about assembling a dream team. Didier Drogba, club legend and Premier League icon, was one of the first to join alongside Ricardo Carvalho, Petr Cech and Arjen Robben. Not to mention Michael Essien a year later, the man once considered one of the greatest defensive midfielders in the sport.
The four-time World’s Best Club Coach handed Chelsea two Premier League titles, two League Cups and one FA Cup in his first stint at the club. His tactics, though a little aged now, were revolutionary at the time, and his decision to play a 4-3-3 against the 4-4-2 commonly used by English teams was a revelation. As he said (these quotes sourced from Bleacher Report):
“Look, if I have a triangle in midfield – Claude Makelele behind and two others just in front – I will always have an advantage against a pure 4-4-2 where the central midfielders are side by side. That’s because I will always have an extra man. It starts with Makelele, who is between the lines. If nobody comes to him he can see the whole pitch and has time. If he gets closed down it means one of the two other central midfielders is open. If they are closed down and the other team’s wingers come inside to help, it means there is space now for us on the flank, either for our own wingers or for our full-backs. There is nothing a pure 4-4-2 can do to stop things”.
Mourinho departed Stamford Bridge for the first time in 2007 after falling out with owner Roman Abramovich which, given their prickly characters, was hardly surprising. Here is a point in Mourinho’s career where we think he enjoyed his most poetic stint in management, at the San Siro with Inter Milan.
We don’t know what it is about Inter that make them a special club; maybe it is their history, their colossal stadium or the fans’ passion. It just has that little something special, and when Mourinho joined it seemed like a match made in heaven.
Mourinho guided Inter to a Champions League trophy, two domestic titles and a Coppa Italia cup before leaving for Real Madrid in 2010, in what he would almost certainly admit as his most heart-breaking departure as a manager.
The Spanish capital is a special place to manage, yes, and he did special things there, winning his third World Manager of the Year award, but it just feels empty and sanitised. And with Real Madrid being as fickle as they are and Mourinho lumbered with his infamous three-year curse, he was back on the road again in 2013 – Stamford Bridge the destination.
A match made in heaven ten years ago, yes, but sadly not in the 2010s, it was a story of highs, lows, public bashing of players, destroyed water bottles, Stamford Bridge controversies and boardroom betrayal for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United, his most recent job in management.
Mourinho now offers his expert opinions as a sports pundit and, in all honestly, looks better for it. It’s the first time we have seen him smile doing something in a long time, anyhow. But we have a sneaking suspicion he won’t be resting for long.
Chelsea fans, what are your standout memories of Jose Mourinho? Let us know in the comments below!
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