Jose Mourinho has never been a man to outstay his welcome. His longest tenure as manager at any club was his first spell at Chelsea, where he spent a little over three seasons before things turned sour with Roman Abramovich.
He gives off a restless vibe, someone always pursuing a new challenge in order to enhance a glittering CV. Whether it’s due to an alleged falling out with an owner (Abramovich), a curious lack of success (Real Madrid) or a simple yearning for a bigger challenge (Porto and Inter Milan), Mourinho doesn’t do long-termism.
Yet this time it is different, and he has said so himself. In an interview with Gary Neville in the Telegraph recently, Mourinho said that if he was offered a six year contract extension by the club then he would ‘sign tomorrow’.
The 51-year-old earlier this year proclaimed that if Lewis Baker, Izzy Brown and Dominic Solanke don’t make the first team under his stewardship then he will accept the blame. Given his varied success in integrating youth in to star-studded line-ups before, this was quite the statement from Mourinho. But this time his intentions are transparent; he is here to stay.
The question is, why now? An obvious starting point would be to point out that he has frankly run out of other options. He has managed probably the biggest club in the wold in Real Madrid, and his relationship with Spain’s other colossus is, to put it mildly, strained. The Manchester United job, one that he openly craved, was somehow lost to David Moyes.
His time at Inter Milan was an unrelenting success, but there was a clear lack of feeling between him and the Italian game as a whole. The only club big enough for his demands in Germany is Bayern Munich, where his recent foe Pep Guardiola sits on the throne.
Another feasible reason is that Mourinho has genuine warmth and affection for Chelsea and its fans. It is after all where he cemented his name as Europe’s most wanted coach, a behemoth of the modern game. He won trophy after trophy and forged special relationships with his players, most notably Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Petr Cech.
But one trophy eluded him at Chelsea, the European Cup. Maybe he feels he owes it to the fans. Maybe he feels he owes it to himself. Maybe he feels cheated that it was Roberto Di Matteo that lifted the crown after Drogba converted the decivisive spot kick.
But Mourinho is a man of logic, not a man of sentimentality. The main reason he is back at Stamford Bridge for the foreseeable future is staring us right in the face; Chelsea are more primed than they ever have been to join Europe’s band of elite clubs. Success in the English game doesn’t automatically translate to success on the European stage, but Mourinho and many of his team have been here before.
Everyone knows by now why Chelsea didn’t win the Premier League last season. They had the best defensive record in the league and enjoyed some excellent results against the other big sides, but they didn’t’t have a clinical goalscorer to see them over the line against some of the smaller clubs. In the last three months of the last campaign Chelsea lost to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland.
That simply won’t happen again. Diego Costa, provided he stays injury free, is too much of a force of nature, and Loic Remy is a worthy second striker. Cesc Fabregas has added an extra layer of wondrous creativity behind the ever-maturing front three of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian. Nemanja Matic is now firmly entrenched in the holding role, allowing Fabregas to venture into more dangerous territories. Mourinho’s teams have often been seen as a little prosaic, but this side is full of vivacity and flair.
Add that to the fact that they have the sturdiest defence in the league and you’re on to a winner. Thiabut Cortouis’ command of his area is a lesson to all other goalkeepers, whilst John Terry and Gary Cahill continue to provide a strong base for the rest of the team to work from. Branislav Ivanovic can slot in at both full back and centre back perfectly, and Cesar Azplicueta and Felipe Luis make up the other spot.
Against Burnley in their first game of the season, Chelsea fielded just two players over the age of 28, Terry and Ivanonvic, yet none of the players that started that day were under the age of 23, something that must be a clear worry to teams in England and across Europe. Chelsea’s attacking players are continuing to mature, ergo Chelsea are reaching their peak at an alarming speed.
As we have already discovered this season, Manchester City are the only team who can realistically stay with Chelsea, but even they are are finding things tough going, and they are yet to find a winning formula in Europe.
Without Luis Suarez and the injured Daniel Sturridge Liverpool have dropped way off the pace, and Arsenal continue to promise everything and deliver nothing. Manchester United have been slightly reinvigorated under Louis Van Gaal but their leaky defence is a pressing concern, added to the fact that Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie are perhaps a little past their highest level.
Chelsea have only conceded four points so far this season from nine games this season, both in the dying stages away to Manchester City and United. It shows that they are fallible, and despite Mourinho’s diligence when coaching his defence, they will still make mistakes. But they are offering precious little in the way of hope for opposition sides, and it the rare event they don’t dominate a game with the ball they can fall back on a safe back-line. Their pre-emimence in England is becoming more obvious by the week.
While he cannot afford to take his eye off the Premier League, Mourinho will undoubtedly be devoting a lot of his time to the European Cup. Despite the class of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, you feel no one is safe from a Chelsea team that has added a level of ruthlessness to a well-oiled machine. It isn’t hard to see why their Portuguese boss fancies sticking around for a while.