It is astounding that Jose Mourinho, the Portuguese puppeteer, is so distraught at having the strings taken out of his hands even for the mild two-match touchline ban meekly imposed by Uefa on Thursday that he is prepared to risk wrecking the Chelsea phenomenon that his brain and Roman Abramovich's wealth have created this season.
If it is a bluff. it is a dangerous one. If it is a serious example of his mindset, it is even more dangerous. Self-belief is a valuable asset in sport, but when it approaches obsession it can gain a destructive power. Chelsea and, ultimately, Uefa will face a serious problem if Mourinho advances further down the road he appears to have chosen.
Chelsea's representatives seemed content when they returned from the Uefa disciplinary hearing held in Switzerland into Mourinho's accusations that the referee, Anders Frisk, was guilty of malpractice during their Champions' League tie at Barcelona in February. And they were entitled to their satisfaction considering all that had been involved. A couple of measly fines and a two-match ban was a favourable result by any standard.
Mourinho, however, has been brooding deeply in the few days since, and is reportedly angered by Chelsea's refusal to appeal. His own lawyers, as they tend to, considered that an appeal would succeed. Chelsea appear to think it is wiser to cut their losses and get on with their world-domination plans, although they still have until tomorrow to make a final decision about an appeal.
A Portuguese TV station known to be close to Mourinho has said that he may consider walking out of Chelsea at the end of the season. A Chelsea spokesman dismissed it as an April fool story. That comment might rebound on him.
Meanwhile, having slapped a curfew on his mouth, Uefa are also reported to have Mourinho under surveillance by their gesture police to ensure that he doesn't in any way communicate with his players when Chelsea take on Bayern Munich in their Champions' League quarter-final at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. The touchline ban denies him contact with his players before and during play. He is not allowed in the dressing room, in the dugout or the tunnel, and certainly not in the rectangular chalk box called the technical area on the side of the pitch.
It will be undoubtedly a torment for him. He has had similar bans before while with Porto, and found a way to smuggle instructions and exhortations through to his troops. Now, and quite properly, Uefa insist that he sits in the stand and keeps still and silent.
Sadly, it is not in his nature to conform even if he has got away with murder. So, instead of being allowed to look forward to the intriguing football that ought to emerge from Chelsea's encounter with Bayern, we are caught up in curiosity about what devilry he will get up to next.
We now know that any hope Mourinho will take his medicine quietly and patiently has gone. Most of us recognise that he has a touch of genius about the way he coaches and controls his team, but we would be grateful for more proof that his is a benign genius.
Ironically, in yesterday's sports pages the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, took the unusual step of calling on Abramovich to bring his manager's behaviour under control. Wenger said that it would be helpful if we heard from Abramovich, because he is the man who sets the tone for the club. There is an echo of Wenger's past in that request, because a couple of seasons ago Arsenal's disciplinary record brought an intervention from his own chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, and it worked.
It was an interesting, and obviously heartfelt, plea by Wenger, who admitted that both he and the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, had made mistakes - they have both suffered touchline bans in the past - under the pressures at the top. Wenger was not to know that at the time he was requesting Abramovich to act, an outbreak of civil war was already shaking Stamford Bridge.
In any case, is the Russian the sort to lay down any behavioural codes? We know he can be ruthless, but the glimpses we get of him on television suggest more of an excited teenager than a tone-setter. He will undoubtedly want the boat steadied and a quick return to the alchemy that has served Chelsea so brilliantly this season, but Mourinho in maverick mood would not be easily controlled by anyone.
The worst scenario for Chelsea would be for their manager to attempt to defy the ban on Wednesday night, because Uefa's patience doesn't need stretching much further.
Any impartial witness to the events that accompanied the contentious first leg of Chelsea's tie with Barcelona would have expected the governing body of European football to bring a far harsher light to bear on their investigation. After all, a top referee and Barcelona's coach, Frank Rijkaard, were accused of colluding in the ref's room at half-time, and it was suggested that the referee's performance in the second half was influenced by that. Mourinho said he saw Rijkaard entering the room. He retracted this a couple of days before the hearing and said instead that two members of the Chelsea staff, Steve Clarke and Les Miles, had seen the Barcelona coach do so. At the hearing, it turned out that they hadn't either, and they received a warning.
Strangely, in their judgement Uefa did not emphasise strongly enough that the allegation at the centre of the entire affair was simply not true. They used words like "misunderstandings" and "mistakes", which hardly amounted to a full-blooded rebuttal that Rijkaard had spent time in the referee's room at the interval.
They deserve absolution, especially the referee, who had to retire because of death threats he and his family have received. Yet the shadow of the slur still remains. It all looked like a compromise to please all parties, and for Mourinho to complain that Chelsea had not supported him was ludicrous.
The club's demeanour in the build-up to Thursday's hearing was intimidating. No one was left in any doubt that had Uefa been harsh, legal action would follow. And with Abramovich paying the lawyers, that is a serious threat. Uefa weren't helped when one or two of their staff issued statements in fiery terms that smacked of pre-judgment, and this would have made Uefa wary of being too harsh.
One Chelsea figure who came out of it well was the chairman of their plc, Bruce Buck. I wasn't aware of Mr Buck's existence previously. It was as if they had called central casting and asked them to send along someone who could pull off a humble chairman act. He did it brilliantly. I shouldn't think he gets much of a word in at board meetings, but as a front man I would thrust him forward more regularly. A voice of calm and reason is always an advantage.
How will the players cope with the absence of another type of voice? Perhaps they will try a little cold turkey. God knows they are talented and motivated enough to take a temporary venture into the realm of self-expression.
As for Mourinho, it won't hurt us for him to be out sight for once. They should get them all out of our sight so we can spend more time watching the football and less watching the managers.Reuse content