Here’s an interesting snippet coming out of Spain tonight. It seems that new Chelsea boss (that really doesn’t sound quite right) José Mourinho really might have it in for both Juventus and Arsenal. After rumours that he might be ready to pounce on want-away Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic (s target for both Juve and Arsenal) it now appears that he is also thinking about a move for Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain! So Arsenal, Juve and now Chelsea are chasing the same pair of forwards!
The news comes from a Spanish radio station Cadena Cope and was reported on an Italian site here and loads of others too.
It might be quite credible as José Mourinho obviously worked with Higuain at Real and he is expected to sign a high profile striker this summer to compete with new signing Andre Schurrle as well as Torres and Ba.
There are some rather wicked whispers around today about the future of of one Fernando Torres. The Chelsea striker has been the subject of much speculation recently with Barcelona allegedly lining up a £17 million bid.
Now however the SportsDirect News site is claiming that Barca have a rival for Torres – Arsenal.
The site says
Emirates boss Arsene Wenger is a huge admirer of the 29-year-old, and believes he could help him recapture the form that made him one of the most feared strikers in the world at Liverpool.
Couple that with the fact that none of Arsenal’s supposed targets seem to be too interested in the club means that the site has its story.
It also claims to have heard from a Gunners source : “The boss loves Torres. He knows how good he can be, and a deal could come off.
“Chelsea are looking at strikers, Fernando has become surplus to requirements and Arsene is ready to pounce.”
Well the Rooney story is bonkers enough, but Torres. He is still young enough at 29 to have a few good seasons left in him, he also scored 22 goals last season, not a bad tally.
But I think it unlikely that even if Arsenal were interested that Chelsea would sell him to their rival London club. Barca are one thing. The near-ish neighbours are another.
Ultimately though buying Torres would be a huge personal gamble for Arsene Wenger. Were it not to work out I think he would end up personally taking the blame for a transfer which while it clearly could be a sensational signing still represents one hell of a risk.
Simon Poulter welcomes back an old pal. But has he cheered up since last time?
With, precisely, the very first answer to the very first question posed yesterday at Mourniho’s official Stamford Bridge homecoming press conference, the Portuguese deadpanned, in that Jack Dee scowl way of his: “I am the Happy One.”
Instantly, we made the assumption that José was being ironic, a little knowing in his answer. Which, in fairness, was a response to the predictable reminder from the floor that during his original unveiling to the press, in 2004, he’d declared himself “Special”.
In, literally, a word, Mourninho marked his card as a property the media would never tire of poking with a stick to see what came out. And thus it has been ever since. And, yes, as everyone else has remarked, life is a little more fun with José around. Ron Manager he is not. Isn’t it?
Much of today’s presser, as journalists call them, dwelled on Mourinho’s temperament. Was he calmer? “Calmer? I believe so,” he responded, calmly, as if a) he was talking about emptying the dishwasher and b) he was expected to burst into a Basil Fawlty-style rage at the question.
We all know of the crazy, non-calm things Mourniho has done in the past: appearing to poke Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova in the eye, celebrating goals by knee-sliding across the technical area and, allegedly, being evacuated from Stamford Bridge in a laundry basket to avoid getting caught by UEFA’s secret police.
This was a rock star performance without the rock star pretensions. Musicians, when they host press conferences, have a habit of disappearing up their own arses, talking about the need to reconnect with this and get to the essence of that. Mourinho is resolutely not in that camp, although he did end the press conference, answering a question about his weaknesses, with:
“If I speak of them, I have to say I’m trying to improve them. You don’t speak about weaknesses with your enemy, and my enemy will read the papers and watch television. We hide our weaknesses. Every player, manager has weaknesses. You have to try to hide them. So I’m not giving that chance for the enemy… with respect because, in sports, an enemy is not really an enemy. I know my weaknesses, not much… not many… but I try to improve and hide them.”
So he’s not talking about his weaknesses, then. Still, he managed to crank the cool level up to 11, even when his speaking about “boys” sounded more like a disgraced priest than a Ron Atkinson giving it the full “boys done good” managerspeak.
His former partners are his new rivals
If anything there was something muted about José today. Not quite caged animal, but restrained. Calm. He gave opaque reference to talking to John Terry about the future (“I know what he can give, so let’s try to make him again the best player he can be”), gave nothing away about player acquisitions (beyond saying that it would be “normal” to bring in one or two) and spoke in somewhat glowing terms about how, since he departed British shores three of his “boys” – Steve Clarke, Brendan Rodgers and André Villas-Boas (later self-corrected to “not boys anymore”) had moved on to take charge of the very teams that will be pushing Chelsea next year in their assault on Manchester.
That, is what makes next season such an intriguing proposition. One particular comment that stood out today is that when Mourinho first arrived at Chelsea in 2004, Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal was the pace-setter. Nine years on, Wenger is the default elder statesman at the resident top end of the Premier League but with a reputation still struggling to maintain itself.
With the likes of Moyes and Pellegrini (himself due to be unveiled this week by Manchester City) settling in to their new clubs, and Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool champing at the bit, the competition around Mourinho will be far more intense than he’s experienced in Italy or Spain. Not that he will be bothered. Because he’ll be calm.
José’s performance today was just like those Chelsea teams he nurtured to back-to-back league titles in his first two seasons at the Bridge: it was businesslike, a little boring and well defended. Unlike other managers – belligerent (Ferguson), mad (Strachan), paranoid (Warnock), indifferently Gallic (Wenger) – José projected his version of cool. Not cool in the Steve McQueen sense, but cool in the…er…calm sense.
Is he worried about Roman?
Was he afraid of things coming unhinged again with Roman? “I hope I can go to the last day of the contract. If the club is happy and the club wants me to stay then I’ll be more than happy to stay.” You see? Calm.
But didn’t it go spectacularly pear-shaped in 2007? “I read and keep reading that I was fired and we had a complete breakdown in relationship. At the time we thought it was the best for both of us [to go our separate ways].” Still calm.
And what about Andres Iniesta’s claim that José “damaged” Spanish football while manager of Madrid? “I damaged Spanish football by being the manager that broke Barcelona dominance,” he responded. Calmly.
It was a typical audience with the sports press, I suppose. Inane questions designed to goad the subject were dealt with without any noticeable signs of exuberance.
Have you changed? “Do I have a different personality? No, but for sure I have a different approach and perspective,” without really saying what. Was he disappointed that neither Manchester United nor City had come in for him? “I am where I want to be – I wouldn’t change it for anything.” This was either glue-eyed rendering of the club Q&A or Mourinho’s interpretation of Keith Richards’ regular on-stage declaration: “It’s great to be here. It’s great to be anywhere.”
So what did we learn?
Temperament aside, we learned very little today. Indeed, José did, very little. Throughout the entire 60-minute press conference his head hardly moved, his expression hardly changed. If he was happy to be there, it was impossible to tell. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that the blue touch paper is being kept desert dry. Because while ice may have been coursing through José’s veins this afternoon, it’s not why we can’t get enough of the guy.
Ever since his return to Chelsea was first mooted, he has been talked of like no other returnee to a football club I can ever think of. Before he’d even been announced, officially, as the new first team coach at Chelsea, column inches – from the front to the back pages, stopping off at the Women’s section en route – had been devoted to him.
With David Beckham retiring to add Miami to his collection of exotic operational hubs, and Sir Alex Ferguson stepping upstairs to start a new chewing gum mountain in the Old Trafford boardroom, Mourinho’s return to centre stage in the English sports media has injected some much-needed fairy dust into the line-up of somewhat dull technocrats that pervade the game.
Anyone who has ever met real stars – and I’m not talking about about reality show wannabees in a Mayfair nightclub, but proper, rock’n'roll, Hollywood celebrities – know that part of what makes them a star is their aura. Plenty have said that of Bill Clinton. No jokes please.
Mourinho has that aura. But rather than being a smug looking show pony (not sure why Simon Cowell comes to mind there), he has the record to back it up: two Champions League titles, a UEFA Cup, two league titles each in Portugal, England and Italy, the Spanish title, and domestic cup trophies in all four countries he’s coached in. And, as he pointed out, “At 50, I think I am still very young as a manager and I think it is like the beginning of a new period.” I can’t wait.
There’s no sign that Arsene Wenger has made his mind up yet as to who is going to be his marquee striker singing this summer. Rooney and Higuain are still in contention and it might be a long shot but Lewandowski hasn’t yet put pen to paper for Bayern. Then there’s the wild card of Michu.
The one player that Wenger seems to have cooled on a little is Stevan Jovetic and according to a lot of sources this morning Arsenal’s failure to sort out a deal for the Fiorentina striker has let some old foes in.
Chelsea, who in the past few years have nabbed Arsenal targets Hazard, Mata and Cahill, are apparently mulling over a move for the talented Montenegrin.
The newly appointed Chelsea manager has told the board that he wants to make the Montenegro striker his first signing after returning for his second spell at the club and talks have opened with Fiorentina over a £23 million transfer.
I get the feeling that this one is going to go on all summer long.
Another long running saga is the future of Etienne Capoue. The 24 year old French midfielder has also signaled his intent to move on from Tolouse. The player, who is away on international duty, said to L’Equipe.
‘If he (Casanova the Toulouse coach ) wants to keep me, that is good,’
‘That says that he counts on me, that he is happy with me.
‘But it is football. I feel it is the moment to leave, to play in big competitions.’
The player is also being tracked by Arsenal’s rivals Spurs too.
Finally Arsenal are looking to land another talented European youngster, HITC has details on Sky Italia’s reporting that Arsenal are in pole position to sign Aleksandr Mitrovic from Partizan Belgrade.
The 18 year old featured in the Serbian 2012/13 Team of the Season and he scored 15 goals last season.
Here’s what he is capable of.
Arsenal have already apparently signed Yaya Sanogo and Dan Crowley this summer. So for all the noises about buying experienced players Arsene Wenger still seems very keen on adding young players to his squad.
If I were to believe the club and it’s patronizingly-titled “Interim First Team Coach” for the last seven months, all that Chelsea set out to achieve this season was achieved.
The reality is somewhat different. Winning the one trophy that, at the beginning of the season, wasn’t even amongst the seven Chelsea were contending for, is an unnatural victory.
Of course, as a fan, I am delighted they won a consecutive European trophy and joined the small elite of clubs to have won all three of the continent’s major silverware. But, still, Chelsea as ever the masters of dysfunction, what with their handling of the Clattenburg affair, the aftermath of the John Terry racism mess, and the annual managerial switcheroo. Keeping Roberto Di Matteo only long enough to pay lip service to his successes as interim boss (yeah, only the European Cup and FA Cup…) was hardly a shining moment of endearment to the fanbase, which they worsened by hiring the most divisive individual they could have possibly chosen. Rafa Benitez says – with some justification, I’ll concede – his appointment has been vindicated. I would say that third place and a second-choice, default trophy only vindicates the decision to make him an interim coach.
Performance-wise, Chelsea regressed this season. Yes, I know, 69 fixtures and all that, but if that stretched the side so much, why did they have virtually a full 11 out on loan, with Romalu Lukaku banging ‘em in for fun at West Bromwich Albion and Thibaut Courtois helping Athletico Madrid to the Copa del Rey and third place in La Liga? What, too, was the point of replacing Di Matteo with Benitez when the waiter’s record hasn’t been fundamentally any better – an identical win ratio of 57% over a similar number of games in charge.
Did Chelsea progress at all over the course of this season? Yes, in spots. Eden Hazard eventually settled in to become a lethal component of an attack, with Juan Mata making himself indispensable and justifiably the club’s player of the season. Fernando Torres still spent most of 2012-13 as a grumpy teenager, but despite not scoring in the league between December and last Sunday, a 23-goal haul for the season is not at all bad.
Further back, Chelsea was, at times, a defensively gaping chasm this season. But at least give to Benitez for converting David Luiz to holding midfield, where his discipline improved out of all recognition, and he began to appear destined to become one of the club’s big personalities, a latter day Joe Allon, and even a captain in the making.
Mention should also be made of Nathan Ake, the Dutch teenager who not only emulates Ruud Gullitt’s former hair-do, he also emulates Gullitt’s midfield presence. And finally, hats off to Paolo Ferreira: as loyal a servant as you’ll find these days in football, he played out his contract at Chelsea without complaint or going on strike, serving as a true squad player as well as providing invaluable support and mentoring to the club’s young Brazilians. Obrigado!
Arsenal (73 pts, GD +35) 4th
There is a scene at the end of the terrific World War II movie The Bridge At Remagen where Robert Vaughan, playing a somewhat sympathetic German officer defending a Rhine crossing from the advancing Allies, is carted off by the SS to be shot. In his final scene, Vaughan’s Major Krüger asks an SS goon whether the planes he can hear are German or Allied. “Enemy planes!” comes the curt SS reply, to which Krüger, with a downbeat look on his face mutters, “But who is the enemy…?” before being shot. I mention this only because Arsène Wenger has, at many times this season, carried the same look as Vaughan’s in that final scene.
As the season has worn on it has been obvious that Wenger’s Arctic-tog Millets sleeping bag-come-overcoat wasn’t for keeping out the cold but protecting him from his own side’s bullets. He has, on occasion, looked quite forlorn and helpless, the perfect presentation of that line “hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way” from Pink Floyd’s Time. The problem is, how much of this has been his own fault? On paper – and certainly if you are a Spurs fan – achieving Champions League football for the 16th consecutive season is a glittering prize, but crucially, it is still the only reward Arsenal can claim after eight dismal years without so much a silver teaspoon in the trophy room. And that just isn’t good enough. Arsenal are still a brilliant side led by a brilliant manager, but at times it’s like finding Hendrix playing bar room blues in a provincial pub.
This is simply where Arsenal shouldn’t be. Two positions higher, they’d be runners up. Three, champions. The 12-points separation between Manchester United and Arsenal isn’t such an unassailable gap, but then that only inflames the situation further. What difference would a striker have made to those 12 points? What difference would some flair in midfield have made? Would some better options for creativity have made things better?
“Boring, boring, Arsenal”, is how we used to chide visiting Gooners, but more for the disciplined way they got on with being annoyingly more successful than ourselves. Now that ‘boring tag’ seems to apply to a team that will happily achieve another tilt at the Champions League, taking the nice little welcome package that comes with it, and still do nothing about making one of football’s great clubs perform like it.
Only Wenger can really answer these questions. Fourth is no disaster, and no one team actually deserves anything, anyway. But even to this Chelsea fan, the look on my face this season as I’ve looked across London has been as flummoxed as that on Wenger’s. Except that it’s his job to fix the problem.
Over the last couple of weeks sports journalists have been trying their best to construct the richest analogy to cover the Will he? Won’t he? Surely he will…? speculation surrounding Jose Mourinho’s supposed or actual return to Chelsea.
Most – actually, all of them – have tried to position coach and club as star-crossed lovers, destined for each other regardless of the more rational arguments as to whether it will be a success second time around.
Whether Chelsea need Mourinho or Mourinho needs Chelsea is not completely clear. We all probably agree that Chelsea need a manager like Mourinho, but is ‘sloppy seconds’ really wise? What Chelsea do need, however, is someone who will deliver trophies , galvanise the fans and, if everyone can just play together nicely this time, provide consistent success over a longer period of time than the current standard length of service of nine months before Abramovich gives his white cat a stroke and presses the button in front of him marked ‘Kill’.
The Mourinho/Chelsea, Chelsea/Mourinho thing may be correctly compared to a showbiz affair between the ill-matched (Rihanna and her charming beau Chris Brown come to mind, but according to The Sun they’ve just split up) but it is only a part of the wider drama playing out at Stamford Bridge, which does come across as a homo-erotic soap opera:
Roman wanted Carlo, but Carlo wouldn’t leave the relationship he was in, so he got Jose instead. Then, after a massive argument caused by Jose showing off too much, Roman kicked Jose out and brought in Avram. Now Avram may have been old and slow and a tad dull, but didn’t do too badly. However, he still had to go. In his place came an exotic Brazilian, Luiz Felipe, but that didn’t work out at all, and they had to bring in Guus. However, Guus said he would only stay a short while, and so it was back it was back to the drawing board.
Actually, it was back to Carlo again, who this time said yes, and everything went well, until it stopped going well, and even Carlo had to go. Then came André, who was a lot younger than all the others, but had boundless youthful energy. Except he didn’t work out, and Roman had to ask Robbie to take over temporarily, then permanently, and then he was shown the door, to be replaced by an unemployed Spanish waiter with a very high opinion of himself, who will soon be packing his bags to make way for Jose to come back.
Tonight there will be a further twist when young André comes back, now with his new family, to take revenge on Frank Lampard whom he says “never supported me” and to leave a horse’s head or something like it on Roman’s pillow.
Plot twists aside, the return of football’s self-appointed Special One to Chelsea – despite the press having universally made up its mind that it’s a done deal, that Jose is in love with Chelsea, and Chelsea is in love with Jose – is nowhere near clear-cut.
Expensive release clauses at Real Madrid, the future working relationship with Michael Emenalo, Chelsea’s technical director, the desire to play strong, physically imposing players rather than the diminutive but fleet-of-foot forwards currently running rings around defenders, are all possible hurdles to the Second Coming. The relationship between Roman and Jose has, according to those in the know, dramatically thawed, but for Mourinho to come back there will need to be some significant obeisance on both sides.
In the days of hippy free love, Stephen Stills wrote the immortal lines: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”. In the case of Jose Mourinho, there can be no alternative squeeze. His avowed affection for the English game, not to mention the none-too-subtle eyelid flashing towards his former club in south-west London, might signify that he and Chelsea are so mutually drawn to each other that a reconciled second marriage can be the only outcome. After all, who else would be willing to get drawn into Roman’s mayhem?
Which brings me back to press analogies. Let proffer my own: Mourinho and Chelsea are the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor of football. Or…the Den and Angie of football; the JR and Sue Ellen of football; the Kat and Alfie of football; or the Liam and Noel of…well, you get the idea.
In case you haven’t seen it yet this is the ITV interview in which Jose Mourinho was just about to reveal where he was going to manage next year, but got interrupted as the channel had to shoot off to the news/ads.
I think the technical term for this is doing an Adele.
Mourinho did say though “I know in England I am loved, I know I am loved by some clubs, especially one.”
This says to me that he will be managing Chelsea next season.
In form Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani has dropped his biggest hint yet that he might be on his way out of Napoli in the summer.
The player, who has scored 29 times in 36 appearances this year, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
“I’m fine in Naples, but in football there are lots of things to consider. I can only say that I will give my all in this shirt until the last day I wear it.”
The news, reported here and several other places, is likely to alert a host of suitors. Chelsea and Man Cit have both allegedly been tracking the player, while Arsene Wenger admitted that Cavani was a player he’d love to sign back in January.
Arsenal fan Julius @OneGunn3r on why the battle for third and fourth is set to get very, very interesting
As our North London rivals can vouch, it is remarkably easy to get carried away on the back of a string of good results. Since Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale danced round a hapless and hopeless Arsenal defence 37 days ago, the Gunners’ resultant form has been second only to that of champions-elect Manchester United. This has made the race for third and fourth much more interesting, especially when you factor in how awry it has gone for Tottenham.
Villas-Boas (or AVB) confidently asserted that his side’s 2-1 win over an anaemic Arsenal would send his team into an “upward spiral”, and cast us into one of the downward type. Of course, we have heard much from up the Seven Sisters road about a “shift in power”, as if some sort of seismic earthquake rips through Islington whenever a relatively assailable gap appears.
There was even Robbie Keane’s belief that 2009/10 would be the season Spurs were ready to sail past a sinking ship, Arsene Wenger frantically calling for lifeboats and all. Of course, that belief never materialised. Last season, ‘Arry was talking of a similar shift, going as far to say that “If we keep up form, we’ll win the league”. They didn’t win the league. Or finish above Arsenal.
Since that awful day for anyone in red and white at the Lane, Tottenham have won two of the proceeding seven matches. They have only mustered up ten goals in that time and have conceded twelve. In the league, they have won just once in four attempts, failing to even hit the net at home against notoriously bad travellers Fulham. In that time, Arsenal have won four on the trot, including the gloriously disappointing night in Munich and an impressive win at West Brom. With a game in hand, albeit against Everton, that famous gap has shrunk to two points. It is back in Arsenal’s hands.
There will be difficulties for both sides in the N postcode. The Gunners welcome Everton and Manchester United to the Emirates in a fixture list that includes trips to Fulham, QPR and Newcastle, three away fixtures in which we picked up a solitary point last season. It will surely be even harder for Spurs. Should they progress against Basel, they will have to sandwich in another pair of European games on top of visits to Wigan, Stoke and Chelsea and still find a way of beating Manchester City at home.
Technically, both sides can reach the top four if Spurs gain more points than Chelsea and beat them at Stamford Bridge. But unless there is an incredible collapse at the Etihad, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal must tussle for two Champions League spots. That obviously cannot work, so one must fall out of the running. If history tells us anything, it is that there will be a lot more twists and turns.
It was at this stage last year when Arsenal had established a healthy lead over Spurs and seemed to be coasting into the top three (the only guaranteed path given Chelsea’s progress in the knockout stages of the competition itself). Hiccups against Wigan, Noriwch, QPR and Stoke allowed Tottenham back into the running, who complied with victories over Blackburn and Bolton.
Had they beaten Aston Villa, Spurs could actually have leapfrogged Arsenal to head into third before the ultimate final day, but an early red card for Danny Rose meant they could only draw 1-1 at Aston Villa. The final day came and went, with Arsenal ending up with the somewhat oddly coveted crown of qualifying for a competition they were hardly going to win.
The rest of the season will be an entertaining spectacle for any neutral. It seems unlikely that both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur will end up with premier European football next season, and whoever wins the battle will be able to take the bragging rights which Arsenal have hogged since George Michael was top of the charts with “Fastlove”.
So Chelsea fans – do you fancy having the Special One back at the club? A number of papers are reporting this morning that Jose Mourinho not only knows where his next job will be, but that it will be at one of his former clubs.
The Real Madrid manager is expected to leave the Bernabeu at the end of the season and it seems now that Chelsea or Inter is his favoured destination.
In an interview with Maxifoot Mourinho said
“I have an adventurous spirit and I do not know what will happen next season. It is not easy to choose a new destination, having worked in England, Portugal, Italy and Spain.
“Maybe I could go somewhere where I have been before. Beware of surprises.”
Meanwhile one manager who says that he has no contact with thew club is Chelsea old boy Gianfranco Zola.
He told the Mail on Sunday
“No-one from Chelsea has spoken to me. I am respectful for what Watford have done for me and I am focusing on getting the job done here.
“I really don’t know what is around the corner for me, but whatever happens to me is all down to this experience because I have to prove myself as a manager. I am enjoying what we doing at Watford, enjoying and learning.”
Well after yesterday’s revelation that Yaya Toure could be about to quit Mnan City the papers today are hinting that Chelsea could be favourites, alongside Real Madrid, to land the 29 year old.
ESPN suggests that Chelsea see Toure as the perfect replacement for England international Frank Lampard, who may or many no be with the club after the summer.
Chelsea are one of only a handful of clubs in the world who could afford to match Toure’s current wages which rank at £220,000 a week.
There doesn’t appear to be too much weight to this story, but it is one to keep an eye on.
Meanwhile the Express suggests that Chelsea are a step nearer signing Atletico Madrid’s sensational striker Radamel Falcao after the club had a secret meeting with the player at the weekend.
According to The Express Spanish TV station Punto Pelota claims a secret meeting between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea took place on Sunday to discuss a proposed move for Falcao. There are however a few sticking points namely that as part of any deal with Chelsea, the club want to keep Chelsea’s on loan goalkeeper Thiabut Courtois another year.
Falcao would be a hugely impressive addition to the Chelsea squad. Were Toure to sign too surely Chelsea would start the season being perceived as potential Premiership winners.
“He’ll be here next year.You can have my word on that.”
The Man United manager added
“There is no issue between myself and Wayne Rooney. To suggest we don’t talk is nonsense.”
Ferguson then explained that Rooney understood why he was left out of the side’s recent game with Real Madrid.
“He understood the reasons completely. Tactically we got it right. We don’t always but we did then. I left out Shinji Kagawa after he scored a hat-trick. I thought I would get more stick for that.”
This always seemed the most likely outcome after several days of wild press speculation. The sad truth for Rooney is that, unlike in 2010, there was no suitable move on the cards. City don’t want him and none of the other north west clubs could accommodate him.
Realistically only Chelsea and possibly PSG would be in the market for him.
It would be dreadfully obvious for me to launch into badinage over Manchester United’s Champions League exit last night, but come on, there is surely nothing funnier than Sir Alex Ferguson in full-blown eruption, the hairdryer set to ‘Kill’.
I just couldn’t get enough of Sky Sports News repeatedly showing the clip of an apoplectic SAF leaping (well, sort of leaping) from the exotically furnished home team dugout to protest at Nani’s red card.
At first he seemed unable to decide in which direction he should explode. Like Dad’s Army’s Corporal Jones in full “Don’t panic!” fluster, Fergie appeared to go this way and that, before an unfortunate camera angle (the camera being positioned on the other side of the Old Trafford pitch) caught sight of Mike Phelan with the outstretched arms of his boss emerging from behind him.
When Congreve wrote the oft-misquoted “…nor hell a fury like a woman scorned…” he clearly had no idea of what an enraged 71-year-old Scotsman could be capable of in unleashing such a flamethrower of bile about a refereeing decision that he could be left “too distraught” to speak to the media afterwards. “It’s a distraught dressing room and a distraught manager. That’s why I am sitting here now,” explained Phelan in the post-match press conference, by way of some apology.
Well, we’ve all been there before, either through travesties of officiating calamity or literal applications of the law. Cast your mind back to the 2004-05 Champions League semi-final between Liverpool and Chelsea when the red team – managed by one Rafael Benitez – beat the blue team by a single goal. This was later described by the then-Chelsea boss, a certain Jose Mourinho, as a “ghost goal”, on account of the fact that Luis Garcia’s fourth minute strike didn’t actually cross the Chelsea goal line, and that William Gallas – in a career-rare example of commitment – cleared it off the line.
Cast your mind back, as well, to the 2008-2009 Champions League semi-final between, yes, Chelsea and Barcelona, during which the hapless referee Tom Henning Ovrebo managed to turn down four nailed-on penalty appeals by Chelsea in a game largely dominated by the gravitationally-challenged behaviour of Barca players, and capped by Didier Drogba’s industrial rant down the lens of a live television camera. Ovrebo had to be smuggled out of England. All round, not exactly football’s finest evening.
So, then, last night’s result couldn’t really have happened to a nicer team. The rationalist in me can see the point many neutrals made last night, that Manchester United were grandly injusticed. But I’ve seen United get away with too much over the years to care; Fergie’s hectoring of fourth officials, and his impetuous wristwatch-tapping when trying to shorten extra time, like an irascible pensioner complaining that his mobility bus is running late.
Man U have had plenty go their way, so an injustice, even one as perceptibly heinous as last night’s, only generates so much sympathy in me. Yes, from one angle Nani appeared to go in studs-up like Bruce Lee, and, yes, from another angle, he looked like he was trying to hook down the ball, and Alvaro Arbeloa merely clattered into him.
Even as a Chelsea fan, with previous with Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir (he sent off John Terry at the Nou Camp last year for that kneeing incident with Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez in the Champions League semi-final), one ultimately has to agree with the Nani decision. Cakir was correctly applying the letter of the law. Studs up – early bath. Even if it was clear, from the more advanced optics of TV, that Nani’s eyes remained trained throughout the incident on the ball.
But, Roy Keane – being somewhat disingenuous, perish the idea – had a point: “It’s dangerous play – it’s a red card. You have to be aware of other players on the pitch. Does [Nani] think he’s going to have 20 yards to himself?”. One wonders what Keane himself would have done…
The pain of accepting the red card decision being the right one is that with Nani walking on 56 minutes, Mourinho merely had to send in Modric and the odious Ronaldo to pull United asunder. Rarely has a red card inflicted such obvious pain on a side: Modric’s equaliser was top-drawer, the winner from Ronaldo – who wears so much hair product these days you expect to see dead seabirds appearing on beaches – proved fatal.
The irony of last night, then, is that the man walking away from Old Trafford quietly, and with the smug grin we have all seen before, was Jose Mourinho. With a barely concealed smile, Mourinho shed a few crocodile tears in his own post-match interview: “Independent of the decision, the best team lost,” he non-blubbed, adding: “We didn’t deserve to win but football is like this.”
Could you have blamed Mourinho for declaring the result sweet revenge for the Liverpool incident nine years ago? Course not.
Some fantastic mischief making from The Daily Star which has today run the story that Chelsea’s favourite son, Jose Mourinho, will be back running the Blues this month if Man United knock Real Madrid out of the Champions League tonight.
It is no secret that the ex-Blues man is unhappy at the Bernabeu and is angling for a return to the Premiership. None of the other big jobs in the league are likely to be available which makes a reunion with Roman and the squad most likely.
Well that’s the theory. Could it happen?
Mourinho has got unfinished business in Spain. Real might be 13 points behind Barca in the league but they do have a Spanish Cup run to continue. And can you imagine Jose ending a season without any silver ware?
Also it doesn’t feel like it is Jose’s style to leave a club mid-season.
Chelsea, well the fans at least and quite possibly the owner and the players, are however a club that would welcome his return. If they drop any more Premiership points then Arsenal would be breathing down their necks for that last Champions League place. If that happens and Roman pulls the trigger on Benitez then Chelsea will need a manager quickly and ‘The Special One’ would be an obvious choice. Maybe Roman would make Jose a deal he couldn’t refuse.
As The Daily Star reports Mourinho has bought a home in London and his daughter, Tita, 16, is attending Camberwell Arts College, as he appears to prepare to work again in the capital.
This is one of those moves that seems unlikely – but who knows circumstances might end up dictating that it happens.
As every fan knows, the range of tunes on which football chants are based is limited.
You have Go West, the paradoxically camp 70s disco anthem by the Village People which becomes repurposed as “Crap, and you know you are!”. There is the traditional hymn, Bread of Heaven (“Are you Tottenham in disguise?!”); a cheesy Italian Eurovision Song Contest entry from 1958 – Volare (“Vialli – wo-oh, Vialli – wo-oh-oh-ohh”); and a Cuban folk song about a saucy señorita from Guantanamo Bay – Guantanamera (“Sacked in the morning, you’re getting sacked in the morning”).
Frankly, I wish football fans would broaden their base of references. We Chelsea fans, for example, should pay attention to Steely Dan. The arch-70s pedlars of smart arse jazz-rock-soul have within their impressive oeuvre the perfect song on which to base a chant – The Boston Rag, with its chorus “Bring back the Boston rag/Tell all your buddies that it ain’t no drag” can easily be restyled as “Bring back the Special One”.
Because, let’s not kid ourselves, it is José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix we want to see back at Chelsea, not some lesser European careerist, or another former Stamford Bridge playing hero who will break our hearts when the inevitable phone call of dismissal comes from Roman’s office.
Life is more fun with Jose
Life was more fun with Jose around. True, the football may not necessarily have been, but no one went wanting for things to talk about. This week we’ve had a timely reminder of just what made Mourinho so special to begin with: it wasn’t his own inflated self-opinion, but his ability to disrupt – in the positive sense.
He’s had a difficult season at Real Madrid, but then life at the top clubs in Spain and Italy is rarely easy for anyone. But Real’s 3-1 Copa del Rey victory over Barcelona the other night was one to savour, not lest of which for the way it has set up the next El Clásico this Saturday night.
The irony is that it should come in the same week as Rafa Benitez – Mourniho’s sparring partner when they were rival managers in England – should emotionally implode once again as journalist bating and fan abuse got to him. But, here, the song should be “Rafa Benitez – we’ve been here before”.
Not for the first time, Benitez allowed emotion to get the better of him when he was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live last night. “At the end of the season, I will leave,” he heaved, adding sarcastically “[The fans] don’t need to be worrying about me”. To be honest, we weren’t. What Chelsea fans are worrying about is who comes in next – and when.
Countering fan hostility is one thing, but then openly criticising Roman Abramovich for naming him “interim first team manager” was downright stupid, and typical of the half-baked bombast Benitez is, sadly, capable of.
So, rather than facing the prospect of looking for a new coach at the end of the season, it is quite likely that Chelsea may be looking to appoint an interim-interim first team coach more immediately. Of note. come Monday it will be exactly a year to the day since Andre Villas Boas was relieved of his duties and Roberto Di Matteo appointed on an interim basis as well. Still following this?
The timing is certainly unfortunate, yet again: with the Blues facing Manchester United next in their defence of the FA Cup, and through to the final eight of the Europa League, not to mention still chasing the cherished top-four league position, the team focus shouldn’t be getting distracted by speculation about the next Chelsea manager.
Mourinho – who has expressed a desire to return to English football and is expected to leave Madrid in the summer – is currently odds-on favourite to return to Chelsea, although there is fairly decent betting currently on former Chelsea players like Gus Poyet (currently second favourite) and Gianfranco Zola, David Moyes, Cesare Prendelli, Michael Loudrup, even Avram Grant and Carlo Ancellotti (who could also be replaced at Paris-Saint Germain by Mourinho) getting the job.
The question is, who would be mad enough to take on the game of Russian Roulette that is managing Chelsea? Mourinho could do it with his eyes shut and we fans would love to see the capricious old sod back at the club. But would he want to go through all that personality nonsense with Abramovich again?
There is also the view that, as in life itself, in football you don’t go back a second time – “I don’t do sloppy seconds”, as Gareth Keenan so gracefully put it in The Office. He had a point. Second time around rarely works – there’s always a reason why it failed in the first place. So, if Chelsea do bring back the Special One, is it destined to end in tears?
Deep within our hearts, we know it would be right. Jose did become a monster of his own creation. He not only challenged Roman Abramovich’s authority but also his place in the pecking order. But, man alive, wouldn’t it be fun to have him back? Wasn’t football an insanely entertaining circus when Mourinho was patrolling the touchline, sliding to his knees when Chelsea scored, or scowling in the stands under UEFA sanction again?