Oh how lovely it would be to be a Chelsea fan right now.
The winking, eye-poking, gawking, smirking, cursing, lean mean talking machine and George Clooney lookalike Jose Mourinho is back at the club. And with him, he brings the aura of a football manager unlike anyone else in the world. This is the Special One we're talking about — and while the stuff about Alex Ferguson's retirement and David Beckham's tears evoke sad emotion — this return is pure football romance.
Or, is it?
While Mourinho's return will certainly lift the Chelsea fan's spirit, deep down in the recesses of their brain, where the football-thinking takes place, they know that this is not a risk-free move. This, in fact, is a high-risk move. They know things are not the same since Mourinho left, they know that despite him not being at the helm, the endless managers whose names we've forgotten have still won trophies — and most importantly the team has changed.
However, one factor remains constant, and it casts a dark shadow over Mourinho's silhouette as he walks out of the tunnel next season — Roman Abramovich. And Mourinho selflessly puts his Chelsea legacy at stake in front of the whims of the Chelsea owner.
Here are a few things that will test Mourinho's expertise as a manger, and if there's one person who can adapt, it's him.
Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, John Terry and Petr Cech are still at the club. Expect Michael Essien to return from his loan deal at Real Madrid, and that gives you half a team of former henchmen ready to die for you. However, it remains to be seen how much power these players retain in the dressing room. Most of them are older now.
Believe it or not, there is always a power-struggle in football teams. Football players are not above the basic socio-political human behaviour. With Mourinho's return, some players may be left disgruntled. For example, and purely as an example, Oscar may think: "Okay so Mourinho's here, does that mean Lampard gets the nod ahead of me regularly?"
But it will also have a galvanising effect on the team. Mourinho is said to sing songs and play poker with his team — and there will be no language barrier. The guy knows Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, English and who knows... maybe Russian?
"I believe we will have five or six teams that are very very strong. In my time here from 2004 it was more about us, Manchester United and Arsenal and after that there was a gap to the other teams. At this moment you can put a group of five or six teams aspiring to reach a Champions League spot and with more ambition to win the Premier League," roared Mourinho, louder than the lion that looks like it's desperately trying to get out of Chelsea's club crest.
Now this... this... this... boring conundrum that no one is sure affects results or not.
When Mourinho left the club, Chelsea were known to be the defensive stalwarts of the game. Defend and hit them on the break! Defend, and make your home a fortress. Defend, and frustrate opponents without giving away a precious own goal. In fact, if you remember, Mourinho's departure sparked a search for a manager who would 'entertain' and play attractive football.
Now without going into the details of how beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it's simple to say that there is not a particular brand of attractive football. Our sports desk also differs on what attractive football is. One says Arsenal and Swansea, the other Tottenham Hotspur. The third, we guess, will say Liverpool — knowing his allegiances.
But Mourinho's brand at Chelsea was rugged — made to win, modelled on opponents and adjusted to situations. The questions will remain, though - given Chelsea's mighty midfield and how he will accommodate all that attacking talent. He hates adjusting and tinkering. So players will get disgruntled, tactics may become stale and forget about seeing Brazilian samba at Stamford Bridge.
Will Romelu Lukaku come back from West Bromwich to play Didier Drogba's role? Will Fernando Torres remain at the club? Is Demba Ba up to the standards of former strikers Mourinho has managed? The guy sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic for God's sake!
And then, the tedious little tidbits: 4-4-2 or 4-3-3... 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-1-3? Or 9-0-1? Juan Mata or Eden Hazard? Oscar or Lampard? Gary Cahill or John Terry?
At Real Madrid, his team scored at least a hundred goals in three consecutive seasons. Chelsea have become an unbelievably attack-minded team, at least in the league (we all know there is only one way to beat Barcelona) — will Mourinho's arrival take them back a few steps?
THE MAN HIMSELF
He says he has matured. But Mourinho is like The Joker (in a good way). He says something, but you never know whether to believe him or not. Mourinho, in fact, has not changed too much. Come on Chelsea fans, you know it. He's the same guy — salt and pepper hair and evil grin.
He had problems at Inter Milan. He had problems at Real Madrid (Iker Casillas etc. comes to mind) and he's vocal, vociferously opinionated and his own king. Yes, there's no doubting that his journeys to Italy and Spain have made him a well-rounded and more successful manager, but Mourinho's claim that he has 'matured' was preceded by a simple message: "I have the same nature."
You know what, forget about everything. The fact that Mourinho's back is just phenomenal for the English Premier League.
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