Admittedly, that headline is a little rough.
Did it have to be this way though?
It all started so well for Jose Mourinho when word spread that Chelsea had re-hired the Portuguese manager in 2013. It was supposed to be a homecoming for the self-professed “Happy One”, a return to glory for a man who had left Chelsea for Inter Milan and Real Madrid and soared to the heights of World Football. It was an exercise in groupthink when everyone believed that bringing back the “Special One” would reignite Chelsea and bring the same sort of dominance and success that Mourinho’s first reign as manager brought. This was a man that had become, in some circles, the best manager in the world. For a time, Mourinho even proved his supporters right.
Chelsea won the Premier League last year without even breaking a sweat. The breakthrough of Eden Hazard, the brilliant play of Cesc Fabregas and even the strike-rate of Diego Costa gave credence to the belief that everything in West London had returned to status-quo.
It’s frightening how so much can change in such little time.
Regardless of whether or not Chelsea is saying that they came to a mutual decision with Mourinho to end his tenure (they didn’t), the Portuguese manager was let go this morning after 9 defeats in the Premier League to start the season and a total of 15 points in the table. The results were good enough for 16th and a precipitous closeness with the relegation zone. For Chelsea, which had seen a championship last year with the likes of highly-skilled and just as highly-paid players like Eden Hazard and the aforementioned Diego Costa, this wasn’t just a disaster. It was unthinkable.
The reality of the situation however, was that even when he was first hired, Mourinho was entering a situation where he was coming back to his old home only to find that the furniture was rearranged and put in place for someone else. It’s no secret that Chelsea had been flirting with Pep Guardiola and made all the necessary changes to try and ensure he would come to West London. They brought in the technical players like Hazard and Fabregas and brought in players who were more in line with the possession style that Guardiola is renown for. When Guardiola spurned Chelsea for Bayern, Mourinho was the option, and although he won and won often, it was never really his team, for the players never really suited his style and his mode of play.
Furthermore, Mourinho spent much of his time this year criticizing referees, players and his own physio staff; removing the much-beloved Eva Carneiro from First Team duties for treating Eden Hazard for an injury without what he called his “explicit permission”, a move that brought with it a lawsuit, a sexual harassment case and negative attention to a team and brand that could sorely afford it.
For all his complaints about the referees, Mourinho never addressed the true problem at the core of Chelsea’s season. His tactics had grown repetitive and stale, he had begun to get scouted and when he carried much of the same lineup and lacked the desire to adapt, he turned the by-then predictable results on the players, blaming them for the results and criticizing them for the lack of results. In what turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, the team gave up on Mourinho and stopped playing for him. They soured on his rhetoric and they soured on his methods and message.
As anybody can tell you, when you lose the locker room, you’ve all but lost the plot and eventually, you’ve lost your job.
Still, Mourinho was so indignant that even when the losses continued to mount, even when the writing was on the wall, he still stood by his own skill set with such arrogance and aplomb that you had to applaud the man for being so self-serving. He continually threw his team under the bus, he continued to criticize players and continued to believe that he himself was doing a good job, but that other pieces of the puzzle were not doing their job.
It was career suicide if there ever was one.
The downward spiral began when Mourinho pretty much begged Roman Abramovich to fire him, quoted as saying, “If they want to sack me, then they’ll sack me because I’m not running from my responsibility. If they sack me however, they’ll be sacking the best manager they ever had.”
It was a move so steeped in arrogance, but so typical of Mourinho’s comportment that you had to believe that it did nothing but raise tension in backroom meetings and discussions amongst those in charge.
A now famous row with Diego Costa and an impassioned rant where Mourinho claimed his team had “betrayed him” and his abilities as a manager were the final straw for a man who had long ago lost the team and his grip on the manager role. Claiming that the team was now no longer in position to battle for a Top 4 position, no matter how true it was, was the icing on the cake.
It has been widely reported that the Portuguese manager told Abramovich to “pay him and he’ll go”, but Chelsea saying it was a mutual decision is merely sugarcoating what was a decision a long time coming. Abramovich merely gave Mourinho every opportunity to succeed because he was still feeling the effects of failing to convince the fanbase that firing Mourinho in 2007 was the right move. He couldn’t afford a sacking before it was truly necessity, but with his recent actions, his recent comments and his actions done in private, Mourinho pushed Abramovich’s hand and forced the sacking upon himself.
It’s been widely reported that Jose failed to learn the names of the scores of staff at the West London club who weren’t directly linked to the First Team Squad. He could be rude and petulant at the drop of the hat. He had long since criticized his own board for transfer dealings. He had stopped motivating his players and had on multiple occasions gotten into well-publicized rows with them, often in front of the camera.
If you’re the manager of a club at the stature of a Chelsea FC, you cannot have someone as high-profile a player like Diego Costa throwing a bib at you. You cannot have a player like Eden Hazard sub himself off because he’s openly stopped caring about the direction of the squad and their season. You cannot humiliate team legends like John Terry by subbing them off at halftime of meaningful games. You cannot have players like Cesc Fabregas leading the revolt in the locker room.
Those players are paid far too much money, and have too much sway and influence for you to start getting into pissing contests with them. The day you begin to do that, you’re days are numbered, and as we have seen now for the second time with Chelsea, Mourinho was unable to survive his own arrogance and dare I say, ignorance.
What makes this more unsurprising is that this result isn’t exclusive to Chelsea FC. Mourinho has worn out his welcome anywhere he goes. He has lost the locker room at both Real Madrid and Inter Milan before that, he has lost the support of the board and by the end of his tenure, his methods grow stale and even daunting to withstand. His abrasiveness is tolerable when you are winning, but once everyone figures out his system and his tactics and the wins dry up, an organization the likes of Chelsea, Real Madrid or Inter Milan is going to get sick of it.
If anything, this is yet another 3 year cycle where he has incredible success early only to get figured out and see his petulance run him out of town.
Once is an anomaly.
When it happens everywhere you’ve gone for the past decade?
It’s a habit. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Tags: Chelsea FC, Jose Mourinho, London, Soccer