Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea F.C. was a big story in the offseason, and could just be the biggest coaching change during the summer break. As the English Premier League readies itself for a new season, Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge is quite different from his first. Here are five ways Jose Mourinho’s second tenure at Chelsea differs from his Blues debut in 2004.
The Footballers of Chelsea Football Club
In 2004, Chelsea was a team looking for a fresh coat of paint, and Mourinho, wielding a coin purse full of Russian billionaire money, was ready to give them just that. While the likes of Frank Lampard and John Terry were already established, Mourinho added his Porto defensive duo of Paolo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho, while signing players like Arjen Robben, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba in his first season. This core group of players became his team, and the English Premier League title soon followed.
This time around, Chelsea is not a team looking for a huge facelift, nor is it a club full of Mourinho’s favourites. Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Ramires, David Luiz and co. are all players signed in the post-Mourinho era and while the talent is there, Mourinho will need to establish himself as the leader of the pack this time around. His only significant signing, André Schürlle, isn’t a starting line up superstar.
He’ll also be tasked with fazing his players out of the line up – Terry, Lampard and co. aren’t getting any younger. This could prove difficult for Mourinho, who has always been a fan of the club, even after leaving. Suffice it to say, this is not the Chelsea Football Club of Mourinho’s days, and he has some work to do to make it so.
The Champions League Dream Has Been Fulfilled
Chelsea signed Mourinho after winning the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto, a feat that owner Roman Abramovich surely wanted him to repeat with the Blues. While Mourinho took on the rest of England successfully, the Champions League remained an elusive target, and Mourinho departed from the club having never won the grand prize.
The two sides went on to win the trophy separately, Chelsea, under Roberto Di Matteo, and Mourinho, with Inter Milan. Nowadays, the pressure of winning the Champions League has lessened – managers used to be fired for not winning the cup, but with a title to their name, Chelsea are far less desperate for the win, content with challenging for the cup. Don’t be fooled, Abramovich will spare no expense to win the Champions League again, but with a victory under his belt, the pressure to be crowned champions of Europe has lessened.
The duck has been broken, as they say, and it’s no longer something Mourinho has to dwell on.
A Shift in Power Dynamics Behind the Scenes
When Mourinho first arrived at Chelsea, he was a relatively new face in the world of football, a manager who came out of nowhere and made FC Porto shine. His departure from Chelsea in 2007 was called a mutual agreement, and to this day, Mourinho insists he wasn’t sacked or fired.
That may very well be the case, but with a return to a former club comes a shift in the power dynamics between manager and owner. Mourinho is no longer a young, unproven manager looking to make his name at a big club – he is a Champions League, La Liga, Serie A winning coach and an infamous name, too. His tactics have been praised and criticized, his style of coaching insulted, adopted and documented, and his charisma unmatched in the modern game.
Mourinho and Abramovich’s relationship, therefore, will be vastly different than the first time they worked together. Mourinho will have far more control over the club, due to the combination of experience and expectations, but he will also hold an ace in his pocket – he was hired again. He has value. Abramovich can’t replace him, and his second tenure at the club might as well be his last, because unless Mourinho wants to leave the club, Abramovich simply cannot fire him without cause again.
A Touch of Modesty Gained In Madrid
On the flip side of the coin, Mourinho does have something to prove once more. The Champions League title eluded him at Madrid, and, couple with a blow to his reputation, Mourinho will be looking to rake in as many trophies as he can, and fast. His success with Inter Milan – and the club’s subsequent collapse – showed that Mourinho does know how to win in the short term, but his spell at Madrid will be considered by the Madridistas as somewhat of a failure.
See, even though Mourinho won La Liga, and showed an incredibly dominant F.C. Barcelona side that they had weaknesses, he did not restore Madrid to the position of Spain’s number one club. That title rests, still, with their rivals in Barcelona, regardless of historical title totals. Mourinho didn’t ruin Madrid, per se, but he didn’t revive them to their former glories, instead, stemming a collapse, making the club competitive and giving them an identity once more. That will be his contribution to the club, instead of an abundance of trophies – he was a facilitator of a grand project rather than a leader of a group of champions.
With Chelsea, Mourinho will want to do one thing – win. He has to show that he is capable of maintaining a winning side once more. When he first came to Chelsea, he was a hot shot, calling himself the “special one” but he has since disowned that title, joking with reporters that he was “the happy one” but never really showing that side of himself again. It’s a touch of modesty, coupled with maturity that makes Mourinho a different manager in the English Premier League.
No Old Friends, and New Opposition
Speaking of different managers in the EPL, the final difference between Mourinho’s two terms at Chelsea come in the form of a changed cast and crew. No longer does Mourinho have the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson or Rafa Benitez to butt heads against, nor does he have to worry about the likes of Liverpool or Arsenal taking the title.
The landscape of the EPL has changed, and new faces have taken control. Mourinho will need to focus on dethroning Manchester United, as usual, but he’ll have stiff competition in the form of Manchester City, a team that was formed during his absence from the league and features players that he has largely not encountered in the EPL before. He’ll be coaching against Manuel Pellegrini, André Villas-Boas and David Moyes (and yes, Arsene Wenger).
Not only are there new coaches to outwit, but there are new players to figure out, too. The Arsenal of old is no longer the Arsenal of today, and while Robin van Persie may still be a threat, he’s a threat for Manchester United now.
The cast and crew that Mourinho played against have changed, and it presents a new challenge for the club. True, the likes of Crystal Palace won’t threaten Chelsea, but the big clubs he once played against are no longer the same, and he’ll need to adapt once more to a league that is so familiar to him and is, at the same time, vastly different. If Mourinho can overcome these five differences, establishing himself as a leader at Chelsea, focusing on making the club great once more, winning titles, using his lessons from abroad and adapting to the EPL of 2013, then Chelsea has every chance of reigning once more in England. If anyone can do the job, well, it’s Jose Mourinho.