The Chelsea return of two-time Champions League winning manager Jose Mourinho heralded another dawn of excitable headline writing and international press gathering earlier this month, June 10, as the “Special One” — who now self-styles himself the “Happy One” — enjoyed his second debut media conference at Stamford Bridge.
The assembled journalists noted a mellower Portuguese. Mourinho, perhaps calmer now he has turned 50, reflected on his 13-year coaching career to date.
“Football is an industry that demands a lot from yourself, and you learn a lot every day,” Mourinho said. “Back in 2000 when I was managing for the first time [at Benfica], I thought I knew everything. After 13 years, you realize you knew nothing.
“My adventure around Europe was fantastic for me. England, Italy and Spain… different cultures, mentalities, players, leagues, tactics, media, different everything. It was a fantastic period for me.”
That Continental experience will only benefit Mourinho as the Chelsea team he has inherited in 2013 is vastly different to the one he left in 2008.
Stamford Bridge stalwarts John Terry and Frank Lampard have aged half a decade and lost a yard of pace. Didier Drogba departed for foreign ventures. And Mourinho’s sole countryman is Paulo Ferreira, a bit-part reserve player who once was part of the core consisting of Ricardo Carvalho, Tiago, Maniche and Ferreira.
While the Terry-Michael Essien-Lampard-Drogba spine that Jose engineered was built on strength and power, the Blues’ spine is now far more Continental in style with a technical trident consisting of David Luiz, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, who all act as the Club’s heartbeat.
At Real Madrid, Mourinho managed clinicians such as Luka Modric, whilst also maintaining the peak form of Xabi Alonso, Cristiano Ronaldo and overseeing the phenom-like development of defender Raphael Varane.
Getting the best out of Mata, continuing Oscar’s football education and elevating Romelu Lukaku and Victor Moses, should therefore come naturally to a manager who has honed his coaching skills on all types of players.
The area Mourinho may take the most time to adapt to, though, is his current lack of an antagonist. One of the most notable successes of his managerial reigns is his ability to deflect attention away from the flaws of his team, and onto himself. His success in creating a them-versus-us mentality and his ability to get under his opposition’s skin.
Off-the-pitch, Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea was characterized by his manipulation of media, of uniting his team through instilling a belief that everyone wanted to see them lose and because of their nouveau riche status. He also lived for the competition with recently retired Manchester United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson. At former club Real, in his own words, he relished the heated rivalry with Barcelona.
“I damaged Spanish football by being the manager that broke Barcelona’s dominance,” Mourinho said. “They were dominant, and dominant, and dominant, and it looked like a dominance without an end. Real Madrid won a cup final against Barcelona, Real Madrid won the Super Cup against Barcelona, Real Madrid won in Barcelona, and Real Madrid won the historic championship. I hurt them. It was a fantastic time for me.”
Back at west London, who is there for an older, wiser Mourinho to duel with? There is no club in the Premier League who he harbors as much animosity towards as he does to Barcelona. Ferguson has been succeeded by David Moyes. And his only other real rival to the division crown is newly-appointed Manchester City boss, Manuel Pellegrini.
Mourinho, however, acknowledges added enemies in the race for the title.
“I was, in the last three years [in La Liga], playing in a two-horse race,” Mourinho said. “Now I move to a league where you lose more times, lose more points, but the competition is open. It’s not just the two.”
For his happiness to remain this time next year, expect Mourinho to settle for nothing less than repeating the successes of his first stint.
“I want to believe it’s possible,” he said. “I always trust my work… Working well, success normally arrives.”