I’ve always been Jose Mourinho’s biggest fan.
By Jonny Boyle – Editor – @beanroll
Even when he strolled into Stamford Bridge first time around in 2004, I loved his arrogance. He knew how good he was and exactly what he wanted to achieve at Chelsea.
And he did it all, lifting every domestic trophy he could and narrowly falling short of getting the Champions League title he consistently craves. The Portuguese coach made Roman Abramovich’s millions matter and along with the Russian oligarch transformed Chelsea into an English football force.
Mourinho’s Inter Milan team were enjoyable to watch too, the smartest in a league of cute players and counter-attacking teams.
I even enjoyed watching them stifle Barcelona over two legs on their way to becoming European champions in 2010.
That continued throughout all of his antics at Real Madrid – including the hard-line approach he took to knocking Barca off their perch and the running battle he had with several star players, including Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas.
I was jumping for joy the day his return to Chelsea was confirmed – delighted as a fan as well as a journalist to welcome some box office back to the English Premier League.
But two years after that initial reaction, it’s all turned sour for Mourinho and I.
As editor of talkingbaws.com, part of my background comes from playing football to a decent level in Scotland.
And I always held Mourinho as the manager to get the best out of me – capable of building me up into a player full of confidence in a team which knew exactly what it had to do to win a game.
There’s no denying Pep Guardiola or Arsene Wenger are top managers, but the way the Chelsea gaffer has found success wherever he’s been appeals to me more. He strikes a note with players and, for the most part of his career, has been able to build squads willing to run through brick walls in their attempts to please him.
How does Mourinho achieve that? Personalised man-management, according to the boss himself when he spoke to Sports Illustrated earlier this year:
To manage a player is like to make a suit by measure, because all of them are different I cannot go to a shop and buy some 38, some 40, some 42, some 44 and arrive in the dressing room. No. It has to be by measure, it has to be perfect.
So the personal relationship with the players is something very very important. Obviously there is also the collective leadership and I have to try and adapt my collective leadership to the profile of group I have.
Yet, just eight months after that interview was published, it seems like Mourinho has forgotten how to get through to his players.
And it’s for this reason I’d hate to be in the Chelsea squad right now.
Picking up just four wins from 12 games so far this season, it’s been a wake-up call for the English champions. Their main rivals won’t let them have an easy defence of their title and the rest of the league seem intent on making life as difficult as possible.
Porto have shown with their 2-1 victory at home that they won’t be any pushovers in the Champions League and the upcoming double-header with Dynamo Kiev will say a lot about Chelsea’s suitability for European competition this season.
It’s been a tough time for everyone at the club – but no man more so than Mourinho.
Now, it would be stupid not to mention the Eva Carneiro situation which dominated the first few games of the campaign at Stamford Bridge.
The manager’s reaction to the doctor simply doing her job was over the top, and the way he publicly condemned her was appalling. For Mourinho and the club to then allow her to leave was unacceptable and, regardless of the outcome of this season, that will leave a cloud over the campaign.
Since then, it’s been all downhill – with Mourinho the driving force behind it.
That usual swagger has gone to be replaced by a man who appears cold on the inside and outside.
By inside I mean with his players and backroom staff.
If Mourinho was bringing the best out of his men then Saturday’s victory over Aston Villa wouldn’t be their fourth in 12 attempts.
If he was putting that famed man management to good use then Chelsea wouldn’t be sitting 11th in the English Premier League.
And if Mourinho was in control of the situation, he wouldn’t be publicly criticising his players.
It’s that new character trait which has disappointed me most about him this season.
On the outside, he’s appeared on the offensive almost every time he’s spoken to the press. If he’s not attacking their questions, he’s using them to attack his players.
Take Saturday’s criticism of Eden Hazard for example. According to Mourinho, he’ll keep dropping the Belgian winger unless he can offer more to the team defensively:
I left out Hazard because we are conceding lots of goals. We need to defend better.
When you don’t have the ball, quality means nothing and what means [thumps chest]… you have or you don’t have.
It was just a tactical decision, leaving super quality on the bench, but bringing tactical discipline and hoping that the team could be solid.
Willian and Pedro did amazing defensive work and allowed the midfield players to be very comfortable. I continue that way [dropping Hazard], or he comes in our direction and tries to replicate the same work that Willian and Pedro did.
Has he forgotten Hazard’s 20-goal haul and many more assists as Chelsea won the title last season?
Even this term, the Belgian has contributed to four Chelsea goals – not quite hitting the heights of last season, but your best player doesn’t suddenly become a bad one overnight.
So, why does Mourinho feel it necessary to highlight his player’s shortcomings publicly? He’s done the same to John Terry, Nemanja Matic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek already this term. That’s too many times to be deemed a deliberate ploy on Mourinho’s behalf to improve his players.
What’s even more shocking is his unwillingness to criticise or drop Branislav Ivanovic or Cesc Fabregas despite neither showing anything remotely impressive so far.
Managing Chelsea is turning into a blame game for Mourinho and it’s no surprise to hear strong rumours that he’s lost the dressing room.
If he rarely plays you then there are very few reasons to stay loyal to Mourinho in his time of need.
And if you’re one of his former star men like Hazard, then it will be just as easy to stop backing the manager once he’s hung you out to dry in the press. Losing the faith of one or two players is manageable, but losing the backing of influential stars like Terry, Matic and Hazard could be fatal.
He’s made his name as one of the world’s best managers by matching his overconfidence off the pitch with results on it.
Mourinho needs to get back to that and fast before his team deserts him once and for all.