Jose Mourinho returns to Chelsea older, wiser, richer... but still hungry
The manager insists he is older and wiser than his first time at Chelsea
From the inside of his jacket pocket, Jose Mourinho pulled a pair of reading spectacles. Not his big heavy designer sunglasses, or, for that matter, the mock glasses he sometimes essays with his finger and thumbs to indicate to the referee – in moments of high tension – that he might have missed something crucial. These were the plain old glasses he said he needed to read the newspapers, and proof that he had well and truly hit middle-age.
"It's a different moment of my career. My kids are older. I have more grey hair. I have these glasses," he said. Later he returned to the theme after a demolition of what he regarded as the Spanish press' slavish attitude towards Iker Casillas. "The only thing that affects me is the glasses, man. I don't adapt. I need these to read a newspaper. It's the only thing. After that, I'm happier than ever with my family, to see my kids reaching fantastic ages."
He is 50 now, and nine years after he arrived at Chelsea for the first time, the attitude that Mourinho attempted to project was that of a man at ease with the world. He was no longer a man in a hurry. More grey hair than first time? Certainly, but this time he was sure that he would not get sacked even if he ended the season without the league title. He was older, he said, but just as hungry for success and not counting the "pounds in his contract".
It is an intriguing idea, whether it works in practice, we will just have to see. In many ways it was a variation on the message in his last summer as Chelsea manager in 2007 when he claimed on tour in America to have discovered the word "mellow" and applied it enthusiastically to his outlook on life. But by then Avram Grant was already peering over his shoulder, Chelsea's appetite in the transfer market had waned and by September he was gone.
He walked into the Ron Harris suite on Monday like the groom at a wedding, walking down a line of television reporters, shaking hands and patting shoulders. Later, when he briefed newspaper reporters in the club's Dolce and Gabbana suite (heavy velvet drapes, low lighting, chunky furnishings) he shook everyone's hand as if to make the point that - in case you had not noticed - this was him in non-combative mode.
In the background the backroom entourage arranged themselves on the sofas drinking coffee. The old loyalists who were here first time, like Rui Faria and Silvinho Louro. Jose Morais, who first worked with him at Inter Milan, and Steve Holland, the Englishman kept from the previous regime. Even Jorge Mendes, a "super-agent" to Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo among many others turned up for the coronation.
Bruce Buck and Ron Gourlay, the Chelsea chairman and chief executive were there. The only one missing, aside from technical director Michael Emenalo, was Roman Abramovich, and of course, he is all that matters. Is his new relationship with Mourinho one of long-term stability and faith in youth without the need to spend excessively to achieve success? We will just have to take Mourinho's word for it.
As usual, everyone was talking about what Roman wanted - without Roman being there to tell anyone. Asked whether he had to win the league in his first season, Mourinho said that was not an absolute requirement.
"I don't need anybody to push me to have that ambition. I have enough motivation and self-esteem myself, enough desire to do it. But if we don't do it but show an evolution in the season, show we're moving in the right direction, I think we'll be champions in the second season. I don't think it's a drama.
"It has to be analysed in the proper way, part of a process of formation, that 75 per cent of the guys will be better next season. When you have this profile, you can't think the best will come next year. It has to come in two, three, four, five, six years time. We are speaking about boys with 10 years to play football. I'd expect to be here to win it in that second season. Of course."
Last time, when he won back to back league titles in 2004 and 2005, a feat that is unmatched by any Premier League manager other than Sir Alex Ferguson, he said, was different. "If you have a team with John Terry, William Gallas, Ricardo Carvalho, Claude Makelele, Michael Essien and Dider Drogba in the best period of their careers, you cannot ask for time. You have to win."
This time at Chelsea, they say it is about the long-term, on the agreement of two men who have made it their trademark to pursue relentless change in the time they have spent in football. All those bitter disagreements he left behind in Madrid? "Many of the things you read were not true," Mourinho shrugged with a dismissive wave of the hand.
This time he says it is different, but then even he seems to acknowledge that the rest of us will wait for the proof that this really is a new departure for him and Chelsea.
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