Friday, September 21, 2007

Mourinho calls it a day at Chelsea

Around an hour after midnight in England on Thursday, the news was broken that Jose Mourinho had left Chelsea after three years at the helm.

Jose Mourinho


The Portuguese coach, who won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and League Cup at Stamford Bridge, but failed to get beyond the Champions League semi-final, quit the club "by mutual consent" following the Blues' disappointing 1-1 home draw with Rosenborg in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night.

Relations between Mourinho and billionaire club owner Roman Abramovich had been tense for some time, and following the $60million signing of Andriy Shevchenko last season, allegedly arranged by Abramovich above Mourinho's head, rumors were fuelled that the former Porto and Benfica coach was on his way.

Mourinho in England was as opinionated and forthright as he had been in Portugal, but always stopped short of slamming his employer, despite everyone knowing he considered Abramovich his nemesis.

Their final parting, following a meeting to discuss Chelsea's lame tie with the Norwegian minnows, therefore comes as no surprise, but is still a shock given that arguably the best coach in England has bagged the annual sack race for 2007/08.

Mourinho will surface again at a big or ambitious club before long, as talent of his calibre is too good to sink without trace. But the big issue emanating from today's news, in a week when another anonymous Russian billionaire muscled his way into English football, is how the new breed of English club directors are seeking to impose their impossible dreams on the clubs they have splurged their wealth onto.

Managers and directors/owners have rarely seen eye to eye, but in this day and age the distance has widened intensely. When a coach as good as Mourinho is dispensed with, the fingers point inexorably towards a boardroom bust-up between one man oozing with football experience and another loaded with currency but with his head in the clouds when it come to the nitty-gritty of the sport.

A leader who wins five trophies in three years, including two domestic titles, half a century after the club's previous league triumph, and receives the acclaim of the football world for his achievements, is surely someone worth keeping.

But that is not taking into account a flush Russian with a passion for global fame and success but with questionable sense about the sport he has bought into, a game in which sustained perfection is as good as impossible for any team to achieve.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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