London - At the FA Cup final in 2007, José Mourinho followed his players up to Wembley’s Royal Box and counted his fingers until he got to six.
Didier Drogba’s 116th-minute goal against Manchester United had settled the first final at the new stadium and the Special One was eagerly ticking off the trophies.
Premier League, Premier League, FA Cup, Carling Cup, Carling Cup, Community Shield. Mourinho was getting close to a full house.
It was done to remind owner Roman Abramovich that Chelsea were a trophy-winning machine with Mourinho at the helm.
This year, Mourinho’s first back at Stamford Bridge, the blue and white ribbons can remain in his desk drawer. Lucky for Mourinho, then, that Chelsea’s billionaire benefactor decided to swerve their final home fixture.
He had seen enough last Wednesday, when Chelsea were eliminated from the Champions League after losing 3-1 at home to Atletico Madrid.
Somehow Mourinho passed it off as a learning curve, but all is not well and it will take more than Mourinho’s endless talk of transition to put things right.
There are signs, judging by his final programme notes of the season, that he is attempting to buy time.
“You know our boss isn’t just the owner, but much more than that,” he said. “He loves the club. You know that he will try to give us the conditions to build for the future. If you think about the happy moments after the past decade then you have to believe in the next 10 years… like I do.”
Pull the other one.
Mourinho was brought back on two counts: to win trophies and to appease the fans after the “Rafa Beneathus” era.
Even Benitez, who won the Italian Cup on Saturday night with Napoli, lifted the Europa League with Chelsea - a decent effort for someone widely despised by the fans.
On Sunday, as it began to sink in Chelsea had blown the Champions League and Premier League in the space of five days, the club attempted to sugar-coat it.
“We have finished third,” boomed the pitchside PA announcer just moments before an excruciating lap of appreciation from the players.
“It means we guarantee Champions League qualification.”
Well, whoopee doo. For a club of Chelsea’s pedigree and ambition, this is supposed to be standard. Mourinho is meant to bring more.
There were boos from Chelsea fans at the final whistle, and who could blame them?
This is not the Mourinho we knew, the stylish manager who lifted silverware for fun at Porto, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea first time round. It’s at times like this when he reaches out for his family and there was an awkward tribute to son José Jr in Sunday’s programme.
“I know this space is to communicate with you fans, but one of you is my son and I want to tell him thanks for being there every second, a few metres behind me, jumping for every goal,” he said. “Thank you kid, for being my kid. Every time I look at you I see you, but I also see your sister and your mum, both at home but also playing with us, waiting for us to go home to be an amazing family.”
When Chelsea were still in with a shout of winning the title and reaching the Champions League final, he considered these players to be part of his extended family.
On Sunday, when he emerged from the tunnel five minutes before the start of the second half and sat in the dug-out, he looked estranged.
More of the same next season and the love affair will be over.