Time runs out for the Special One
Thursday 20 September 2007
Jose Mourinho breezed into Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004 as a European champion, declaring himself to be 'a special one'. The ego had landed.
In a little over three years he has proved he can be arrogant, eloquent, infuriating and brilliant, but never dull.
Two titles in two seasons suggested he was indeed special, but then so was the seemingly boundless budget he had to work with courtesy of club owner Roman Abramovich.
All of a sudden the wallet slammed shut last January, prompting the first suggestions that all might not be well and that Mourinho's trophy-laden stay in west London could be shorter than many had anticipated.
When their league crown was unceremoniously snatched by Manchester United last season the insult to Abramovich was two-fold - not only had his roubles failed to seal the title but Sir Alex Ferguson's side had usurped them playing the sort of free-flowing football the Russian craved, but which Mourinho seemed incapable of delivering.
So when a series of unconvincing displays culminated with defeat at Aston Villa earlier this month and were followed by lame home draws with Blackburn and Rosenborg - the latter attended by less than 25,000 fans - the writing was on the wall for the Portuguese manager.
Mourinho has demonstrated his willingness to walk away before - famously tearing off his winner's medal seconds after his Porto team had been crowned champions of Europe.
He has never been one to outstay his welcome anywhere - his success at Porto came over the space of just two and a half seasons - and as the saying goes, the star that burns twice as bright burns half as long.
He was the perfect fit for Chelsea back in that summer of 2004, the young upstart coach for the nouveau riche, upstart club determined to ride roughshod over Europe's established giants.
For the first time in his blossoming career, the coach who had proven a serial silverware accumulator in economy class was given the chance to show what he could do with unlimited supplies of cash.
Mourinho had turned Porto into one of Europe's most formidable teams after inheriting a team in steep decline.
In 2003 'the Dragons' completed a memorable treble - with the Portuguese title, Portuguese cup and, most memorably, the UEFA Cup, won by beating Celtic 3-2 in Seville.
The domestic championship was retained, and the club then claimed the ultimate prize in European club football - the Champions League trophy.
Many myths surrounded Mourinho.
The story perpetuated by some, that he became a football coach by accident after working for Sir Bobby Robson as a translator, is rather amplifying the truth.
Mourinho was born into a footballing environment and, despite an academic record which could have opened many other doors, he has never looked outside the game.
As the son of former Portugal goalkeeper Felix Mourinho, he has football blood in his veins and, when it became clear he would not make the grade as a player, he immediately began working towards a career in coaching.
In linking up with Robson, he embarked on a journey which would take him to Porto and Barcelona.
Highly educated, Mourinho speaks several languages and those familiar with Claudio Ranieri's daily mangling of the language of Shakespeare were disappointed to find that he spoke better English than most homegrown bosses.
He takes a scientific view of coaching and makes his players take home videos of their own performances, while also working closely with dietary specialists.
Mourinho also relies on American-style management techniques, with pep-talks laced with buzzwords, and directing his players to sacrifice personal ambition for team success.
He has also shown himself to be a master of psychological warfare and even got the better of Ferguson, one of the finest practitioners of that art, when their paths crossed for the first time.
Ferguson, infuriated by Porto's antics during the first-leg match in the last 16 of the Champions League in February 2004, had refused to shake his hand after the match.
Mourinho calmly pointed out that perhaps Ferguson was miffed that a team with a 10th of his budget had given Manchester United a footballing lesson.
There was no pitchside handshake after Porto had completed the job at Old Trafford - Mourinho had celebrated Porto's dramatic late goal with a dash down the touchline towards his celebrating players.
The two have developed a warmer relationship since, sharing a glass of wine or two after each meeting between the sides.
Ferguson, who has rattled Kenny Dalglish, Arsene Wenger and most memorably Kevin Keegan in his time, would almost certainly not take any pleasure therefore in having outstayed his latest rival.
A married father of two, Mourinho's first job in football was at the age of 27, as fitness coach with Estrela Amadora, before he moved on to Vitoria Setubal where he was youth-team coach.
Prior to taking the Porto job, he had also achieved great things with another less well known Portuguese club, Uniao Leiria, whom he had led to fifth place.
On arriving at Chelsea, Mourinho would never have avoided the spotlight even if he had wanted to, but in his early months at Chelsea he became a journalist's dream.
He was keen to offer his views on a variety of subjects and even drawing comparisons to Brian Clough for his irreverence and knowing cockiness in interviews.
That first year the domestic title was sealed with minimal fuss, but the first crack at European glory was tarnished by an unseemly row with Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard.
Mourinho alleged there had been a meeting between the Dutchman and Swedish referee Anders Frisk at half-time in the first leg of the last 16 Champions League tie at the Nou Camp.
UEFA, whose head of refereeing Volker Roth described Mourinho as "an enemy of football", decided Mourinho was bang out of order, fining him and banning him from the touchline.
Barcelona, whose fans taunt Mourinho as 'the interpreter', eliminated the Blues en route to winning the Champions League in 2006, and although the Premier League title was retained the feeling was that a third European failure would rankle with a certain Mr Abramovich.
The expensive remedies bought to heal that European wound, Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack, have both proved spectacular failures so far and, indeed, failed to carry the Blues to the Champions League crown last term.
Tuesday's draw with Rosenborg hardly suggested that drought would end in, ironically, Moscow next May, but perhaps of greater immediate concern was the apathy surrounding a team now labelled 'boring' by fans and pundits alike.
Mourinho had failed to infuse his team with the same personality he displayed in so many press conferences over the years, and so it is that the Special One's reign came to an end.
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