Jose Mourinho is returning to coach Chelsea six years after leaving London
The Portuguese coach's three-year tenure at Real Madrid ended in failure
Mourinho ready to build a dynasty at Chelsea, according to a Portuguese journalist
One of his former players says Mourinho is perfectly suited to English football
“The English media created an icon, an almost perfect human being.” - soccer agent Paulo Texeira.
Above all else, Jose Mourinho just needs to feel loved again.
It has been in short supply during the final, painful throes of his tempestuous tenure as coach of Real Madrid.
Beaten to the La Liga title by Barcelona, blasted out of the Champions League by Borussia Dortmund and battered by the press in Madrid, this is a season he’s decried as the worst of his career.
The 50-year-old leaves looking visibly drained, with dissent dripping from the dressing room and insults ringing in his ears, rivals lamenting him as a “scourge” on Spanish football.
Little wonder then that Mourinho has opted for a return to Chelsea, the English side that helped the Portuguese etch his name into the fabric of modern football folklore as “The Special One.”
For a man who seems determined to forge new frontiers and embrace different cultures around the continent his desire for a second stint at Stamford Bridge has come as a surprise to many.
But according to Portuguese journalist Jose Carlos Freitas, Mourinho’s latest move is down to the concept of pater familias; having reached a stage in his career where he wants to mold a club in his image for the long term.
“I think he is ready to come back to Chelsea in a different way, to try and build something from zero,” Freitas, a reporter at the Record newspaper, told CNN.
“It will be a challenge to rebuild Chelsea’s team. This might be the job that keeps him there for five or 10 years. He needs to be the number one guy in the club, not only winning but thinking about the club, changing it, preparing it.
“When Mourinho was starting his career he wanted to win things – leagues, cups and the Champions League – but now he has achieved this status in his career where he needs more.
“I see this might be a great chance for him to finally have a real connection with (Chelsea’s billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich) in the way that they can build a Chelsea to look like Manchester United did under Alex Ferguson.”
Freitas agrees that Mourinho’s time at Real will have chastened the coach who famously anointed himself as “special.”
Three years in Spain have brought a hat-trick of domestic trophies, including a league title that broke Barcelona’s dominance under Pep Guardiola, but, crucially, not the 10th European Champions League crown their fervent fans crave.
Growls of disquiet had been audible for a while but as soon as Real’s quest for “La Decima” ended, it became a crescendo.
Mourinho spoke of the people in Spain who “hated” him and confirmation of his departure led Barcelona vice-president Carles Vilarrubi to declare him a “scourge on Spanish football” in a radio interview.
Vilarrubi also predicted he’ll be a “disaster” at Chelsea.
Dressing room dissent
Unusually for a coach who has prided himself on forging unbreakable spirit amongst his squad, criticism has also seeped from his players.
The coach’s decision to drop goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Spain’s World Cup-winning captain and a Real poster boy with 23 years’ service to the club, in favor of new signing Diego Lopez caused much of the consternation.
His own players, including fellow Portuguese Pepe, criticized his treatment of Casillas but Mourinho would not yield, dismissing the defender’s remarks as jealousy.
Despite this fractious finale to his Real career, one of Mourinho’s former players has a different take on the culture of conflict that has dominated the final chapter of his Bernabeu reign.
“At Real Madrid some players were against him but you have to look at that in a different way: why, in a 12-year career, is it that only two or three people are complaining?” asks Frederico Castro Roque dos Santos, known as Freddy, who played under Mourinho for Portuguese side Uniao de Leiria.
“For me this is success, this is huge. Everywhere he goes people like him; he passed through so many clubs, so many players, so many figures and only now some people complain.”
Even as a young coach Mourinho was laying the founding principles upon which his success would be based. His first step is demonstrating, and demanding, ultimate loyalty from his charges.
So what was it like to play for him?
“He protected us from everyone, from the president, from fans, from journalists. To protect his own people he doesn’t care about the consequences outside,” Freddy explained.
“Even when he left Inter Milan, one player that hardly played (Italian defender Marco Materazzi) hugged him and cried with him, so this revealed what he does inside a team.
“He makes you believe you are the best player. In my case, a player who was 20 years old, he told me I would be the best player in the league. Even though I wasn’t, I believed him. This is like a father to a son, your son is always the best. This is his major weapon.
“He’s also good with personal relationships – he is like a psychologist. He has a lot of qualities that are not normal in coaches.
“I believe he is the same person but when you are coach of Chelsea or Real Madrid you have more enemies, let’s say. It is a more difficult fight when you are in a big team, but he will protect everyone until the end.”
Mourinho’s entrance at Chelsea back in 2004 was unforgettable.
Suave and sophisticated, he strolled into his new post as a Champions League winner with Porto and instantly declared to the gathered media: “I think I am a special one.”
This one line came to symbolize his close relationship with the English press. They loved his perceived arrogance, the way he prowled the touchline, and he admired their principles of fair play.
Though that relationship had soured by the time he left Chelsea in 2007, having secured five major trophies – including the club’s first league title in 55 year – it still represented the high point in his dealings with the media.
His time as coach of Internazionale in Italy, which yielded two Serie A titles, two domestic cup wins and another Champions League triumph, was punctuated by rows with journalists – one even accused him of physical violence.
Relations with the notorious Madrid press veered between difficult and impossible; Mourinho’s desire to shape the club the way he wanted combined with his confrontational style jarred with many.
“He always understood something that is awfully important in modern football, to play a role, as if in the theater,” Freitas explains.