Football's hit maker Jose Mourinho has mislaid his Midas touch
Jose Mourinho fired himself as Chelsea manager last Monday night. For a coach who has always strived for complete control, his post-match interview after his side had lost to Leicester City was the last defiant act of self-determination. As is so often the case with Mourinho, it happened to be an act of self-destruction too.
Chelsea agreed the details of his departure on Thursday afternoon, but the defeat and its aftermath at King Power Stadium meant the end for Mourinho at Chelsea, and maybe the end for him as a manager believed to be a guarantee of success.
In the hours following his dismissal, people could be heard saying that the idea of the dynastic manager was now over, as if Mourinho could have ever been expected to establish a dynasty.
Mourinho is in demand for something else. He is a hit factory, a one-time guarantee of instant success and immediate burnout. You may as well complain that Simon Cowell never seems to produce an artist who endures. But eventually, as Stock, Aitken & Waterman discovered, the hits stop coming.
On the eve of the Community Shield game against Arsenal at Wembley last August, Mourinho made one of those meaningless statements which can be turned into a story on a slow news day. He was, he suggested, a better manager than he was ten years ago when he'd won his first title with Chelsea. He wasn't just plateauing, he was evolving and improving. It would have been a story if Mourinho had said he wasn't as good a manager as he'd been ten years ago. It would also have been closer to the truth.
Mourinho pointed to experience as the thing which distinguished him from his younger self and that sounded plausible. But all experience has done for him is deepen his suspicion and paranoia. He has experience of people being out to get him and everything is shaped by those experiences. It's fitting that he left Chelsea just as he was beginning the search for a new mole, engaged in paranoid ramblings like Joe Pesci's character in JFK, only with better hair.
Mourinho returned to Chelsea two-and-a-half years ago talking about love. He had been reunited with the club of his dreams and he was happy. But this was not love, it was an extension of his narcissism and, like so many narcissists, he has ended up alone again.
His relationship with his players was not fractured because that would suggest there was a bond to begin with. In most dressing rooms, there is not a unified view of a manager and the same is true of the Chelsea players. But the players he needed were not the players who were loyal to him.
As a man in love with his own mythology - 'Last season I did phenomenal work' - Mourinho was always going to find all but the most blindly devoted a disappointment. He had a different dressing room to the one he had when he arrived in 2004 and quickly recognised that men like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba would fight for him, in the dressing room and on the pitch.
They remained his disciples, more or less, even after Mourinho had gone. This time round the players were different, but his judgement has been coloured by all those experiences. He discarded Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne when a different manager - a better manager? - would have recognised what they could do for him.
There was a preciousness and a weakness in his attitude to ambivalence. Mourinho has always operated as if his greatness was not in question, but now he saw it as suspicious if anyone doubted or simply wondered about his plans for them. The more he demanded an unquestioning approach, the more the questions flooded in.
This season has been spectacular, a demonstration of all he is capable of. The players may be culpable as well. Chelsea's supporters remain loyal to their former manager, but no matter how often they chanted his name, Mourinho looked helpless. He postured and declaimed but all it did was briefly conceal his inability to change the course of the season until the next poor result came along.
Yesterday, he announced he would be staying in London and would not take a break from football. There will be clubs who are desperate for him, but their desperation will be the key factor in his appointment.
He may return to Real Madrid or maybe Manchester United will decide that what they need after two failed appointments is a manager who will bring a greater promise of success.
But there is only one guarantee with Mourinho now. If he showed up at Old Trafford, a club where fiefdoms are being created in the wake of Alex Ferguson's departure, he would eventually create the perfect conditions for civil war. Perhaps the Class of '92 need to be disabused of a few notions, but nobody can expect a precision attack. Football knows one thing for certain now. Mourinho, like Clemenceau, has one policy: he wages war. Always, everywhere, he wages war.
Naturally, Chelsea have been damaged as well. Once again, they are seen as a club of plotting and player power. When Michael Emenalo spoke so highly of the players and confirmed the palpable discord last Thursday, he was not only reassuring the squad, he was speaking to those who are next in line for the job.
In this analysis, one man would have to take the blame for what has happened this season. There will be many who think the players get away with things too easily and crave some retribution for those who appear to have power without responsibility.
But they will recognise Mourinho's work too. Where there is harmony, he brings discord. And where there is palpable discord, he brings anarchy.
Chelsea will have to plan again. They have been committed to short-termism since they brought in Rafa Benitez and it became immediately clear that that was never going to wash with the supporters at the club. When they reappointed Mourinho, Chelsea abandoned all the development which was geared towards creating a side attractive to Pep Guardiola. Now they have to reinvent themselves again.
They have done ok doing it Abramovich's way. Sure, there is a meltdown every couple of years which sees the owner turn up at the training ground to tell the players things are going to change, but they continue to pick up trophies like the European Cup, even during the most turbulent years.
Clubs may wonder what they will get with Mourinho, or, more precisely, they will wonder what they will get along with the paranoid delusions, the suspicion and the hunt for traitors. Chelsea finished third under Benitez and won the Europa League. They managed that despite the manager being despised by the club's own supporters. In Mourinho's first season, they finished third again and made it to the semi-final of the Champions League. Last season, Mourinho won another league title in a poor season, but failed again in Europe.
At Madrid, he could at least point to the challenge of beating one of the greatest sides the world has ever known, as Barcelona stood in his way domestically and in Europe. In England, the conditions were perfect for sustained dominance, but he couldn't manage it.
Chelsea might reflect that a number of managers could have continued the progress since 2012. Things were moving in one direction and other coaches might have won the first title in five years for the club last year in a way which might have ensured some continuity.
But few could have transformed things as they have been transformed this season. Few could have carried out so many attacks on so many fronts. There aren't many figures in football who could have gone to war with his players, humiliated his medical staff and accused the world of a conspiracy, while guiding the champions of England into a relegation battle.
Only a special talent could have done that, only a man untethered and unable to control his self-destructive impulses could have achieved all Jose Mourinho has achieved this season.
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