Jose Mourinho shouldn’t risk Chelsea legacy but seek a new challenge
Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho risks damaging his Chelsea legacy by returning to Stamford Bridge, writes Kieran Beckles
Jose Mourinho could be set for a romantic return to Chelsea this summer but the Real Madrid manager and Blues supporters would do well to heed the advice of Roberto Di Matteo.
Almost 12 months ago, the popular Italian was quizzed about a possible return to West Bromwich Albion at a pre-match news conference ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Di Matteo had been linked with a move back to the Hawthorns at the end of his spell as interim Blues boss after the FA appointed Roy Hodgson as England’s new head coach following an impressive reign at the Baggies.
In response to the speculation, the 42-year-old delivered some apt advice, quipping: “In my life I’ve gone back to an ex-girlfriend and it didn’t work out. I’m not sure whether it’s the right move.”
Di Matteo went on to lead Chelsea to their first-ever Champions League crown and earned a permanent deal before an autumn slump saw the Italian depart and Rafael Benítez take charge on a temporary basis.
Almost a year later, Chelsea have reached another European Cup final – albeit the Europa League – and talk is rife that club legend Mourinho could end his turbulent Real Madrid reign and return to the Stamford Bridge hot-seat.
It’s no surprise that the Blues players and supporters, plus the majority of the Premier League, have welcomed the prospect one of the most successful – and entertaining – managers returning to the English top flight.
But should he take up his old seat, which has be warmed by no less than seven different managers since his departure in 2007. If he does, he will be faced with a much different proposition to that when he arrived in west London nine years ago.
In 2004, Chelsea duo Frank Lampard and John Terry were evolving into fully fledged England internationals and becoming key components of the Blues side, while Mourinho inherited crucial cogs such as Cech and Claude Makelele and made successful acquisitions, of the likes of Didier Drogba.
Lampard is now 34 and still to sign a new Blues deal as his current contract enters its final months amid talk of a move to Major League Soccer, while Terry is currently a regular on the Stamford Bridge bench. Drogba left the club last summer.
The 50-year-old, who took charge of Chelsea fresh from back-to-back Uefa Cup and Champions League successes with Porto, was able to craft a side which capitalised on a Premier League devoid of any dominant sides.
Arsenal were coming to the end of a special cycle which saw the north London side go 49 games unbeaten, Sir Alex Ferguson was still nurturing Cristiano Ronaldo and yet another all-conquering side, while Benítez was plotting his Spanish revolution at Liverpool.
It’s a much different landscape in the English top flight now. United won their 13th Premier League crown at a canter this season, with talk of the current side being Ferguson’s best-ever as Robin van Persie proved an instant hit with 25 top-flight goals.
The 71-year-old’s retirement will be seen as an opportunity for their rivals to close the gap but the Scot will leave behind one of his most talent-filled Red Devils squads, with David Moyes favourite to replace his compatriot at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils’ noisy neighbours, Manchester City, can match the Blues’ spending power and have the chance to win a second FA Cup in three years before rebuilding in the summer in an attempt to win back their top-flight crown.
In north London, Arsenal are perennial top-four finishers and are expected to strengthen in the off-season, while Mourinho’s prodigy, Andre Villas-Boas, is building a side capable of challenging for top honours, aided by Gareth Bale’s brilliance.
In the Champions League, Mourinho has failed to secure Real Madrid their elusive 10th crown during his three-year reign at the Bernabeu, experiencing first-hand Germany’s burgeoning dominance in Europe.
During his last spell in west London, Liverpool, Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona and AC Milan all won Europe’s top prize before Pep Guardiola’s Barça side dominated the continental scene. Mourinho missed a great opportunity for European success with the Blues.
It would be a much tougher mission for the Portuguese coach to bring a Champions League crown back to the Bridge now with the emergence of powerhouses Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, while Barcelona still possess their potent weapon Lionel Messi.
Such has been the unwavering speculation surrounding a potential reunion of Chelsea and Mourinho, the club’s supporters will be expecting instant success with the Special One at the helm, as happened in 2004-05 with a first Premier League title.
The same could be said for Blues owner Roman Abramovich, who is notoriously impatient and is reported to have shared a frosty relationship with Mourinho in the past. Even if the pair have struck a truce in recent years, both are unpredictable characters.
With a legacy to protect at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho could risk another failure after his stock fell during a difficult reign in charge of Madrid and a fresh challenge could be just what the Special One needs – not a return to west London.
Mourinho, who appeared to be angling for the United job in a post-match interview with ITV following Madrid’s triumph at Old Trafford, would no doubt relish the greatest challenge of them all: succeeding Ferguson.
But with Moyes looking increasingly likely to be named the next Red Devils boss, the former Chelsea manager should perhaps opt for the French capital and Paris Saint-Germain over a summer return to Stamford Bridge.