Claudio Ranieri was everything the Premier League needed this season. A manager brimming experience – good and bad; full of character; natural humility; a winning ethos and most importantly, an understated ego. The fact that Leicester City did so well all during the season ensured that we all came to know him better as with every victory came another interview. All of which were entertaining and interesting. With a touch of “will he or won’t he do the business for The Foxes to all of them. Even up day the club were to win the title Claudio was in Italy having lunch with his 97-year-old mother. A touch of class one would have to say and everything that makes the game of football truly beautiful. Therefor thought that Jose Mourinho may return to the Premier League as the boss at Manchester United is horrendous. His last game was at King Power before he was sacked and the Special ego got in the way of the job once again.
If true that he will be back the airwaves will be once again cluttered with his weekly nonsensical musings about matches. Or a streams of criticisms of match officials all of whom are seemingly part of an inter galactic conspiracy to make his life tough. Which at one time amused the press in the mixed zone, as The Special One was always able to muster a distraction, but have now become monotonous. His record at Real Madrid prior to the second coming at Chelsea used the same Modus Operandi and so few cried when he finally left the club in 2013. The polar opposite to the case were Ranieri to leave the King Power Stadium this week to take the Italy national; job for example. The City would draw to a halt in sick as the Italian has epitomised everything the sport should stands for; his club representing the spirit that football has enshrined over the decades. That over the years have eroded as the player wallets got bigger but somehow has been revitalised for the next generation of fans with the new Champions.
Not unlike Kevin Keegan or Graham Taylor in their time, Ranieri also introduced a new vernacular in the world of football speak - Dingly dingly dong.
Clearly the success of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United has come at an unforeseen price with the club apparently still unable to chart a path to success ever since the Scot retired. With his immediate replacement David Moyes failing to deliver results after arriving with an impeccable CV from Everton. Now the pedigree of Dutchman Louis van Gaal has failed to quell the rumours that his time may also be up now. And a narrative that has proved a constant irritant as the media repeat the questions almost weekly about his imminent demise. Which probably helps explains why Mourinho was so popular with the press as he provided easy copy daily for the less industrious writers. As van Gaal is less articulate in English the obsession became personalised and ultimately a negative force.
The latest reports now suggest that Mourinho may be a shoe in within days or hours to formally replace Mourinho former boss/ partner at Barcelona. Unimaginable though before the FA Cup Final next week.
With no track record in young players at any of his clubs and rarely lasting more than three season seasons at any in recent years Mourinho seems a strange choice for United given the need for longer term stability. Rather than a quick fix. Having just trusted van Gaal and arguably failing the long running rumours may solidify into fact pretty soon. With the added pressure of Pep Guardiola installed across at City it might make the fact that Jose was not originally selected when Ferguson left now irrelevant. When needs must the devil rides so they say and as the composition of the board has changed somewhat and the US owners are more anxious for results. Particularly seeing fellow American John W Henry enjoy a resurgence at the club’s other rivals Liverpool. The club now in the Europa League Final under Juergen Klopp – a new era manager with a proven reputation.
So the Glazers may bite the bullet and bring in Mourinho offering him an open chequebook to buy what he needs. Which is one thing Jose knows how to do – that is spend money - but not always effectively.
In truth Jose is more PSG material where with Middle East owners are not afraid to test the limits of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play and would enable the Portuguese manager to spend his way to success. More easily won in a Ligue 1 where Paris clearly now dominate and that allow focus to remain on the Champions League with minimal player rotation. Unfortunately, the incumbent Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has extended his contract until the end of the 2017/18 season. But the 50-year-old former France World Cup winner in 1998 has also played for United and knows the club. Having led PSG to back-to-back Ligue 1 titles and only last season completed an unprecedented treble of league, League Cup and French Cup triumphs he oozes ability. Which is more than Mourinho at this time and with a contrasting style that would befit the Old Trafford Club in their current battles.
Surely United could attract his interest as Blanc has failed to get his hands on the Champions league trophy in this three years at the club after replacing Carlo Ancelotti. So a change might be good.
Earlier this season in the first meeting of Chelsea and Leicester City Mourinho proved true to type and particularly after being defeated at Kings Power stadium to long-time rival Ranieri. It was a loss that left Chelsea resting around the drop zone area and put Mourinho out of work. An imaginable thought less than six months prior when the Special One was heroically celebrating another Premier League title at Stamford Bridge. So no doubt that even the darkest of humour could not have laughed that situation off. Even less so Mourinho – who fails in that department – and takes himself far too seriously. Therein lying his problem as his players seemed to desert him leaving the manager isolated on the side-lines at his hour of most need and helpless to correct anything. Seeking solace with megaphone diplomacy to reach out to his players in recent weeks. The opposite to Ranieri another former Chelsea manager.
For all Mourinho’s alleged suaveness and style, he is unable to do a number of basic things required of an experienced football manager – the first is having a thick skin. Also to accept defeat when it arises, understand the vagaries of refereeing, display some humility when there are short comings to his plans, or even accepting blame at times for mistakes. Most importantly though, moving on to the next game and leaving the past behind him.
That’s not for him as it is always the blame game and at Leicester City it was the turn of the ball boys – who allegedly in Jose’s eyes – were too slow giving back the balls to his players towards the end of that game. Perhaps playing a causal role in the Chelsea’s loss as a result in his view. The need to win at all costs is something that has worked well over the years since he first landed on the football landscape with the Champions League win at Porto in 2004. Having repeated the feat with Inter Milan in 2010 and added league titles in four European jurisdictions his CV leaves him in an exclusive club no doubt. However, it does not all read like a fairy tale as at each of the clubs he has left behind some level of crisis as he is capable of starting a row on his own in a phone booth - when the mood takes him. With an ability to also target those players who he feels carry too much power in his dressing room. Or too high profile in his eyes.
Hence Juan Mata was shipped out off to United on Jose’s return to Chelsea despite having played his best season at the club the previous year.
Mourinho then chose to find a home for Radamel Falcao for some reason at Stamford Bridge - someone who hardly played a game since leaving Monaco - and carrying an injury since dominating the headlines for Atletico Madrid they won Europa league in 2013. In addition, the chase for Diego Costa, who also had established himself as Falcao’s replacement at Atletico under Diego Simeone - but was injured toward the end of the season – even coming off in the Champions League Final in Lisbon. Which was followed by a poor world cup with Spain in Brazil, and unable to reclaim his place under Del Bosque. It took time but he eventually outperformed all expectations in his first season for Chelsea. But has been absent without trace this year.
Perhaps Jose’s best decision was to sell David Luiz – doing so at the top of the market during the last world cup – and before the splendour of the home teams hopes imploded on the Copacabana – when they were dumped out by Germany. With PSG paying €50 million euros for a player even Rafa Benitez could not decide was a defender or midfielder. And lest we forget there were some other astute moves like coaxing Cesc Fabregas back to London from Barcelona, a move that paid dividends for both parties as the former Arsenal player delivered last season. Eden hazard was another that repaid Mourinho’s faith as did Drogba when he returned from China.
But ever since the unneccary Eva Carneiro incident Hazard has only been a shadow of his former self, as indeed has been Fabregas. With neither performing as needed this season. Why Oscar wasn’t sold during the transfer window was another bizarre Jose decision given that he was unable to hold his place in the physicality of Mourinho’s game plan in the Premier League.
As the former Liverpool striker and one time Wales and Real Madrid manager, John Toshack, used to say - even top class managers last only three seasons. The one in which they arrive and acclimatise to the job, which then may pose problems in the second if there is the need to win something and prove the honeymoon is over. With the third possibly cut short even if titles were won year as the winning laurels are easily forgotten if not maintained. The exit door the surest guarantee. As occurred at Real when Mourinho accused the players of leaking team information to the media. The two targets in his sights proving immovable club stalwarts, captain Iker Casillas and vice-captain, Sergio Ramos and the ensuing carnage during the club’s chase for the tenth Champions League title.
No doubt Mourinho’s own paranoia get the better of him also given his need to control all events with that over exaggerated self-belief. Which don’t make him immune to life’s realities. Those times when events are not going his way for example and there is an urgent need for Plan B. It appears that Mourinho doesn’t do that second plan. Its all or nothing for him.
At Chelsea that inability to adapt cost him the job he craved at United once Real Madrid agreed to dispense with his services. Whether going back to Stamford Bridge was wise is now a redundant argument as they won trophies last season. With the chastening experience of the current developments one imagines Madrid would not seek his services ever again. With Porto not big enough anymore and Inter offering no vacancy either. From all the soundings through his agent it is clear that Mourinho wants another go in the Premier League to right the perceived wrongs.
If the bookies were to be believed at the time his departure the move was contrived to secure the Special One a spot at Old Trafford - the place he always wanted - but was never offered. The club selcting instead the low key choices of David Moyes and then the pedigree of van Gaal that were the preferred options. But both proving short of the mark thus far and leaving the United board still facing the Fergie replacement problem four years on. With that overriding sense of desperation it may mean Mourinho does come back.
But would we would not be all better off with less of the bitter Mourinho and more of the Real Special One, Claudio Ranieri.
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