Letters to Jose

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Betrayed. That was the word Jose Mourinho, “the best manager the club has had”, used when he sounded out his team after their hard to believe ninth league loss of the season. It would ultimately be his last game in charge. For the second time in their history, Chelsea had sacked their greatest manager. Events at Stamford Bridge have been as painful to watch at times as they have been fascinating. It is not uncommon in sport to see once great teams, individuals or establishments fall from grace. After all, when you reach the summit, the only way is down. But a meltdown so rapid and unexpected from Champions in May to 16th in December – an unparalleled implosion. It could only ever look like a betrayal. But a betrayal of what? Or by whom? Betrayed by Cesc Fabregas, the man he made his midfield general after he was so openly rejected by both Arsenal and Barcelona? Betrayed by Diego Costa, a volatile player few would work with before and even fewer would consider now? Betrayed by Eden Hazard, the player who lit up our screens so brightly last season leading his manager to proclaim him better than the current Ballon d’Or holder?

I’m not here to speculate as to why Chelsea are in the position they’re in. I’m a coach, not a journalist. There are many more interested in theories than I am, and I am sure they will write at length about it. I am simply here to bemoan the second loss of one of the most domineering, polarising and successful characters in Premier League history. I make no apologies for my bias towards the Special One. As a coach, my footballing beliefs are completely in line with those of Cruyff and Guardiola. They showed us another way to win. For me, the right way. But in football, there is no right way to win. And if anybody is the embodiment of that, it is Mourinho. Win at all costs. Win beautiful. Win ugly. Win through quality. Win through grit. A master of the ‘dark arts’ but as capable as any of producing brilliant attacking football. His Real Madrid side still hold the record for the most goals in a La Liga season- one even the most potent attacking trio in football history failed to break last season. This is a man who has made his indelible mark wherever he’s gone. Often negatively, but always positively. Always successfully.

But it is at Chelsea he will be remembered most vividly. That ability to inspire unbridled allegiance from both his players and the fans was remarkable, although it seemed the former deserted him in the end. His apotheosis by the Chelsea faithful is a measure of his role in the shaping of the club into a modern footballing superpower. Probably only Ferguson at United, and Dalglish at Liverpool have enjoyed such fervent devotion in modern Premier League history. Not even the great Wenger enjoys this much reverence from Arsenal loyalists. That much is telling. He wanted to build a dynasty. He will now never get that opportunity. Fool me once and all.

Mourinho is the same age Ferguson was when he won the first of a record 13 Premier League titles. Maybe the best is yet to come. I hope he will not go gentle into that good night, but instead rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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