Extending his season of columns for one more week in light of Monday’s big news, former Chelsea star Pat Nevin greets a familiar face…
Now without sounding too ungrateful, I have to immediately admit one thing. I have discovered when to expect big news from Chelsea in advance. All I have to do is finally have a day off and bang, huge news arrives from Stamford Bridge and my plans for a game of golf, going to a gig or just spending a little time with my family are scuppered. This time however I was pretty much delighted to be inundated with calls from the media to talk about the special news about the Special One coming home.
I have grown quite accustomed to excitement and drama at Stamford Bridge over the past decade. There was a time when I did drone on about how good it would be to have a quiet time with a bit of continuity and calm, but after a slew of Premier League wins, a bunch of FA Cups as well as the two European trophies in the last two years, I am actually getting pretty much addicted to the unexpected. In fact I expect the unexpected if that can possibly make sense.
Maybe the return of Jose Mourinho wasn’t all that surprising in itself in the end; the stars seemed to be aligning over the past few months to make it look more and more likely. Since he left he has certainly had a rather interesting time in Milan and Madrid. When you look at his career as a whole it is something approaching astonishing. Titles in Portugal, Italy, Spain and England suggest he is maybe more than just lucky, it suggests he is an extraordinary talent, one which we at Chelsea knew all about anyway.
The very best managers in history have shown that their skills are transferrable not just throughout leagues but over time as well. It is hard to look past Sir Alex Ferguson for the absolute gold standard. In Scotland, where his Aberdeen side not only dented the historical dominance of Celtic and Rangers, he also won a European trophy. Then he went to England and built team after successful team as the game changed around him. Fergie was adaptable and so far Jose has shown if anything an even greater adaptability as he has bestrode the European scene.
There are those who would question his impact at Real Madrid, but he did win the title there against what was accepted as the greatest club side of the age in Barcelona. Over an entire season to overcome the peerless Messi and his friends was exceptional, even if he only managed it in one out of his three attempts domestically for that La Liga title. For all that he was clearly big enough for that job, no one lasts long over there and if you are Portuguese it just makes it twice as difficult. Good luck to the man following him; he will be a very hard act to follow.
In the end we care little because we have finally got him back and there is quite an irony in the most desired manager in the world for the Chelsea fans following one who could have initially claimed to be the exact opposite. Rafa has however left a pretty good legacy, an exciting team who managed to finish on a real high and most importantly delivered Champions League football for next season. Over and above everything I guess Jose must look at the group and think, ‘I really have got something to work with here.’
Of course he will want to make his own mark on the squad, every manager does that and I will be incredibly interested to see the first couple of ins and outs over the summer. That should give us a pretty good steer on how he wants to take the team forward in terms of style and tactics. How will he view Lamps, JT, Petr and Ashley? I doubt they have much to worry about. On the other side how will he consider the likes of Lukaku, Courtois or even Chalobah? He must see the depth of quality as a huge positive and I suspect he will be desperate to get to work with all the younger players to make them even better, whether it is Eden Hazard, Oscar, Nathan Ake or whoever.
One thing is for sure, away from the pitch and the training ground the entertainment levels in the press conferences will be going through the roof once more. Headline writers throughout the land will be jumping for joy and jobbing journalists covering the Chelsea beat will be flexing their fingers getting ready for the best copy going. As for the rest of us donning the blue scarves, we can simply sit back and look forward to a number of seasons of continuing constant interest at the centre of the football world. From a selfish angle what will it mean for me in particular? I will continue to expect the unexpected and continue to accept that days off in the media talking about Chelsea will be few and far between. Secretly I am delighted.
Welcome home Jose we missed you and I suspect you missed us just as much, let’s have a ball together, again.