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Abramovich left to rue sacking of Jose

ROMAN ABRAMOVICH has learned a few harsh lessons about football and life from Jose Mourinho.

How he must regret the day he allowed his ego to rule and sacked the genuine article – a real winner. Last night Mourinho saw Inter Milan deliver a near-perfect Champions League performance; one packed with great defence, great energy and a clinical finish when the chance fell for Samuel Eto'o.

He has a good team, packed with good players who back their manager with all they have. In some ways it's almost magical the way he inspires such belief and confidence in those around him.

But it's the hallmark of a great manager and, regardless of the distaste I have always felt for some of his more flamboyant outbursts in the past, I have to admire his ability as a coach and a manager.


He combines knowledge and charisma to produce teams which know how to win football games. He has found a formula that works and that's a rare thing in the game.

I would have to say, too, that Mourinho conducted himself very well throughout the two weeks he was engaged with Chelsea in the Champions League and I'd like to see more of that.

He doesn't need to allow the brasher side of his personality to emerge so often or to indulge in the enjoyment he clearly derives from hogging the limelight.

But it's a behavioural detail which doesn't impact on what he has achieved on the field of play at three clubs and in the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

Remember, Chelsea was no cakewalk when he arrived in England, mouthy and arrogant after taking rank outsiders Porto all the way in the Champions League.

He still had to deal with a multi-billionaire's ego and a squad of functionaries which surrounded the team while he tried to communicate his vision to the players.

But he succeeded in doing this and, along the way, earned the trust and undying loyalty of all around him.

That he achieved so much in such a short space of time was remarkable and he simply picked up the theme again in Milan. I'm certain he would have achieved a great deal more had he stayed at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have had what would generally be considered as three world-class managers in quick succession – Phil Scolari, Guus Hiddink and now Carlo Ancelotti – but I don't think Abramovich will ever find a better match for his club than Mourinho.

That must have been on his mind while he watched Mourinho's fantastically committed and well organised Inter chase Chelsea around Stamford Bridge, denying them space and possession and reducing Ancelotti to a long ball strategy for most of the second half.

Remember ‘sexy football'? We were told that Abramovich wanted his team to play in a more attractive way but I'll bet you an oil well or two he now understands that winning football is the sexiest football of all.

I never subscribed to the notion that Mourinho built a dour team based on a strong physical presence and endless cash at Chelsea, and that they were hard to watch.

I would have watched Mourinho's Chelsea every week without complaint and I was baffled when Abramovich decided he wanted something more.

It was ironic to see Ancelotti, normally a reticent man, talk before the game about how he was delivering the type of football Abramovich wanted to see and then watch Ross Turnbull send punt after punt towards Drogba for most of the second-half while Lucio and Walter Samuel mopped up everything.


This was a big defeat for Ancelotti. At the start of the season Chelsea looked like the strongest outfit in the Premier League and, with a top-class Italian coach running the show, they looked like a good bet for the Champions League too.

But they have been unable to shake off either Manchester United or Arsenal when they had plenty of opportunities to do so, and now must watch while their main rivals gather strength and momentum at home and in Europe. The biggest worry for Ancelotti after last night's defeat will be the fact that his big-name performers didn't or couldn't deliver.

Drogba was blatantly manhandled without any protection from the referee, and Inter lived on the edge of fouling and beyond until he eventually lost his cool. All over the pitch Chelsea lost the small battles against smarter players and Ancelotti had no answer from the bench or in his head.

His weekend assignment is a trip to Ewood Park and a 90-minute examination from Sam Allardyce, a man who has never had much time for ‘sexy football'. After sustaining such a major blow to morale, this could be a treacherous fixture indeed for Chelsea.