English Premiership

Blues braced for Mou's return

2013-05-21 19:03
Frank Lampard and Jose Mourinho (Getty Images)
London - Jose Mourinho looks set to be welcomed back to Chelsea with open arms, but his reputation has been sullied during his three-year stint at Real Madrid and he will return to Stamford Bridge with several thorny issues to address.

Having been released from his contract by Madrid, the charismatic but controversial Portuguese is now widely expected to return to Chelsea, with some British bookmakers offering odds of 1/20 on that he does so.

Chelsea's fans have already made their feelings known about the prospect of his return, having lustily chanted his name on several occasions during the final weeks of the season.

His previous stint at the club, between 2004 and 2007, saw Chelsea emerge as the dominant force in English football and even their recent continental successes carried echoes of his impact.

Seven different managers will have been and gone by the end of the campaign, but the Europa League winners remain very much a Mourinho team - dogged, compact, and still bossed by Mourinho loyalists such as Petr Cech, Frank Lampard and captain John Terry.

Mourinho left after his relationship with owner Roman Abramovich broke down and, in his subsequent spell at Inter Milan, he confirmed his status as one of the great managers of modern times by leading the club to league, cup and Champions League glory in 2010.

It is nonetheless a chastened Mourinho who will return to London.

He found in Italy that the local media did not lap up his pot-stirring quite as enthusiastically as their English counterparts had, and in Spain things were even worse.

After Madrid went out of the Champions League following a one-sided semi-final loss to Borussia Dortmund, he told reporters: "In Spain, some people hate me; many of you in this room."

It has long been part of Mourinho's strategy to portray himself as a victim, but any sympathy for him is mitigated by the list of misdemeanours he has perpetrated in the Spanish capital.

The image of Mourinho poking then Barcelona assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye during the Spanish Super Cup in August 2011 left an indelible stain on his reputation, and his long dispute with club icon Iker Casillas this season saw him alienate half the Madrid changing room.

His antics prompted Manchester United director Bobby Charlton to observe that a "United manager wouldn't do that", and Mourinho's off-pitch conduct was one of the factors that pushed the Old Trafford club to look elsewhere for the successor to Alex Ferguson.

Mourinho's desire to succeed Ferguson has long been apparent and the 50-year-old was lampooned in the British media for adopting what was seen as an uncharacteristically obsequious tone after his side's victory over United in the Champions League last 16.

As well as the worry that he may still harbour ambitions to coach United, Chelsea's fans must also hope he is able to reconstruct a successful working partnership with Abramovich.

The Portuguese would also have to submit to the authority of sporting director Michael Emenalo, a close Abramovich ally who oversees first-team affairs.

Despite the potential for fireworks, Chelsea fans believe Mourinho feels compelled to come back.

"The way he left was such a shock - it almost felt like a bereavement," Chelsea Supporters' Group chair Trizia Fiorellino said.

"Both supporters and Jose himself think that there is unfinished business, which is why, I think, he is so keen to return."

Several of Mourinho's successors struggled to dismantle the ageing team that he had created, but interim coach Rafael Benitez has moved the squad forward during his turbulent six-month spell in charge.

The influential Terry is no longer guaranteed a first-team place, while Fernando Torres looks a far more potent force than the spectre-like figure who wore the number nine shirt like a millstone in his first season and a half at the club.

In Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, Chelsea also possess three of the most gifted creative midfielders in the country, although Mourinho, who has always favoured powerful, counter-attacking football, might be reluctant to fit all three into the same team.

Whatever happens, with Mourinho at the reins, it would be anything but dull.


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