The biblical admonition that pride comes before a fall would appear to be an apt commentary on the ongoing sorry story of Jose Mourinho’s time at Chelsea this season, a time brought to a decisive end with the brutal swing of the fabled Abramovich axe yesterday.
The actual biblical quote is “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
That Mourinho’s haughtiness proved to be his undoing, bringing his second spell at the club to an inglorious end, few could argue with.
The irony of Mourinho’s unravelling since the start of the season is that he is the pioneer of the new managerial culture which many are adopting, one where the legendary spraying of dressing rooms with hot tea and multiple expletives is confined to history and players are now coaxed and encouraged by positive psychology to reach heights not even dreamt of.
The classic example is Frank Lampard – a decent midfielder psyched to arguably world-class levels by the mastermind motivational skills of Mourinho. Mourinho himself is proof that latent genius can be found in seemingly ordinary packages. His derisory nickname of The Translator, given him by sneering Barcelona officials and fans, is one that he has turned into a badge of honour. Mourinho is the living embodiment of Fantasy Football Manager, the walking, talking evidence that ordinary blokes can be special ones if given the chance.
Tactically, Mourinho is not that special. His railing of teams who “park the bus” belies his own cautious approach which sees a heavy reliance on defence in order to overcome opponents. It is in his motivation of players that Mourinho excels light years above and beyond his managerial contemporaries.
Telling journeymen professionals they are world-beaters relentlessly until they start believing and acting it is Mourinho’s forte. And he is the undisputed master of it. Or at least he has been until the early stages of this season.
An infamous sidelines spat with team doctor Eva Carneiro sounded the alarm bells and the speculation is whether or not this was the start of the meltdown or just the public eruption of problems bubbling underneath. What did become clear in the aftermath was that Mourinho’s arrogance and intransigence undermined his own role. As is often the case in such scenarios, his refusal to humble himself led to painful humiliation a la the Bible verse quoted above.
The fact is that Mourinho is no longer the Special One at Stamford Bridge – except for the legions who still adore him. It is those legions that Abramovich will have to placate, especially if Guus Hiddink fails to lift both the atmosphere at the Bridge and the team’s perilous position near the dreaded relegation zone.
That should not be all that difficult a task. Chelsea are still the reigning champions and it is clear that their on-field misfiring of late has been down to Mourinho uncharacteristically losing his players rather than those players losing their abilities. On top of which, Hiddink is one of the game’s true managerial maestros.
So the season might yet see Chelsea qualify for a European place and a regrouping might see them come back stronger than ever next season. The real question is whether The Blues can move out of the Mourinho shadow, a shadow which covered the wonderful Champions league win in 2012, despite it being another manager who led the team to those dizzying heights.
The reality is that Chelsea’s dominance and success in recent times is attributed more to Jose Mourinho than to any other factor, including Abramovich’s billions and the managers who have equalled or surpassed Mourinho’s achievements at the club.
To millions, Jose is still The Special One. One thing is for sure. He is a a hard act to follow.
And one thing is not for sure. That Jose Mourinho will never manage his beloved Chelsea again.
Image from Sky Sports