Manero

Mou’s Odyssey

By: Alfonso Duro

Love him or hate him, José Mourinho is a force to be reckoned with. In his second year back at the helm of Chelsea, the Portuguese manager found a way to lift his third Premier League title, and is now the best active coach in England, tied with his nemesis Arsene Wenger.

Yet Mourinho’s dominance in England hasn’t been easy this year. As he said, the Premier League is the toughest and most competitive league in the world, but his team—fueled by Roman Abramovich’s petrodollars—has once again recovered the crown of champion of the land and has done so following “The Special One’s” guiding principles.

THE OLD WITH THE NEW. Above all else, Mourinho is a clubman. And by this I mean a “players’ coach.” Up until his stint at Real Madrid, he continuously boasted about the fact that none of his former players ever had anything negative to say about him. His teary departure from Inter Milan after winning the Champions League (something that managed to make tough-man Marco Materazzi break down), will always be one of the most touching moments in modern football.

And so, upon his second coming to London’s uppity Chelsea neighborhood, he had many demands in terms of signings, and one key player to bring back: Didier Drogba.

Mourinho knew the costly arrivals of Thibaut Courtois, Cesc Fàbregas, Filipe Luís or Diego Costa in this second season as manager were as important as the recovery of his safety guard, led by the players who brought him his previous glory with the Blues. John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic or Obi Mikel were key elements in his mission, but the return of Didier Drogba—the biggest living legend for the Stamford Bridge faithful—was his first order of business.

Drogba has had a supporting role on the pitch, but has been one of the cohesive elements in the locker room. Mourinho surely will not be happy if his move to the MLS becomes a reality this summer.

BORING... BUT EFFICIENT. Trouble ensued when Arsenal fans decided to chant: “Boring, boring, Chelsea,” during the 0-0 tie at Emirates Stadium that virtually gave the Blues the Premiership title. Of course Mourinho, not one to ever hold back, reminded fans that “boring” is to not win a title in almost a decade.

However boring his style may be, we cannot deny it is also quite efficient, and proof of it are the 23 titles during his career (four more than Pep Guardiola thus far, for example), albeit in a much longer coaching trajectory.

Based on a solid defensive system, Chelsea has managed to lead the Premier League every week except one this year, so fans have fully enjoyed themselves regardless of how flowery their attacking football may or may not have been.

Plus, leave it to the players to show everyone they are not boring at all.

BUILDING A LEGACY. Upon his return to Chelsea two summers ago, Mourinho was quite clear in his objective: to make the team competitive once again, along with building a sustainable legacy within the club.

In the past, the Portuguese has been quite pragmatic in every step of his career. Perhaps the most business-minded coach in professional soccer, Mou always thought of his career as a logical progression that would take him through the biggest clubs in the biggest leagues to win the best titles and, eventually, to the Portuguese national team, where he’d have the chance to win the World Cup so he could be called the best manager in the history of the game.

But as years have gone by, Mourinho has become wiser. He has realized that such an ambitious plan may be too much to ask for. He experienced the gruesome feeling of seeing two of his former clubs lifting the Champions League thanks (mostly) to the structures he built for them (Chelsea 2012, Real Madrid 2014). Perhaps a bit of patience would have helped the Portuguese reap even more glory than he has.

Now set to fully enjoy his second chance at Stamford Bridge, and with the wisdom brought forth by the years (and a few more white hairs) Mourinho is looking at a much longer term. His potential transfer targets for next year are geared at securing dominance in England, and attempting the same in Europe, and only when he has built a solid enough structure to withstand his departure will he pursue his lifelong dream: being Portugal’s national team coach in a World Cup.

Alfonso Duro is a Spanish freelance writer. When he's not managing Google's agency in the United Arab Emirates (his current job), chances are he's watching and writing about soccer.