Dublin – Friday night at the Bernabeu, and if the people who pull the strings at Chelsea were watching, they will have been reminded of one thing above all. When Jose Mourinho leaves your club, there is usually more figurative bloodshed than in a performance of The Revenger's Tragedy.
Not for Mourinho the discreet exit out the back door and the car to the airport. When he goes, he goes with a bang. Sent off in Friday's Copa Del Rey final defeat, he thrust his face into that of the fourth official before he departed, watched by a bench featuring many of the players he has alienated. The supporters singing his name were the Atletico Madrid fans and they were singing for him to stay.
“'Tis a heavy season,” laments Antonio in The Revenger's Tragedy, one of the few to make it through in one piece to the end. A heavy season indeed. Who has Mourinho made enemies of in his third year at Real Madrid? It might be easier to list those he hasn't. Last week the Barcelona-based newspaper Sport ran a cartoon of a four-man Real team, captioned: “Mourinho picks the four players still on his side.” For the record they were Michael Essien, Diego Lopez, Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso.
The enemy camp is rather more crowded. There is Iker Casillas, Pepe, the Madrid football press, not to mention those who blame Mourinho for driving a schism through the heart of the all-conquering Spain national team. You might add to that list King Juan Carlos, who was handing out the medals on Friday night, a presentation which Mourinho boycotted.
Any suggestion that he may have mellowed from his days of relentless conflict have been well and truly quashed this season. Watching from afar, Chelsea will not want to be swayed on the basis of one more combustible evening, but even they – from Roman Abramovich through to his key advisors and executives, Michael Emenalo, Bruce Buck, Ron Gourlay – must be feeling a little frisson of concern.
Why is Mourinho the right man for the Chelsea job? Easy. He wins trophies, and he did so brilliantly in his three full seasons in England. He is capable of handling the biggest names in the dressingroom because he is, arguably, a bigger name than all of them. He changes games with bold tactical moves, although in fairness, since his days at Uniao de Leiria, it is not like he has been in the habit of managing basket cases.
Mourinho has a lot going for him. But one thing that will mark out his appointment at Chelsea from his recent predecessors is that no one at the club can believe this will go beyond the short term. Mourinho is an impact manager. The only empire he is interested in building is that of his own reputation. The clubs change but the trophies keep rolling in, and that third Champions League title, when it comes, will take him into rarefied company.
Nothing wrong with that, as long as both parties understand what the deal is. But Chelsea would do well to consider now a question that will be asked from the minute Mourinho walks in the door, which is: what do they do on the day that he walks out?
Chelsea's appointment of Andre Villas-Boas two years ago was made with a view to building something similar to Barcelona under Pep Guardiola. Carlo Ancelotti was regarded as a potential long-term team-builder, so too Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2008. All other appointments – Avram Grant, Guus Hiddink, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez – have been made on the hoof after sackings. Or in the case of Di Matteo last summer, when he was elevated from caretaker status, because the club felt they had to.
On the face of it, Chelsea are showing all the capacity for faithfulness of Mad Men's Don Draper on a bad day, or a good day, depending on how you view him. Yet still – in a lovelorn way – the club are seeking the one with whom they can settle down. They must know that Mourinho is not that one. He, to continue the Draper theme, is the mid-afternoon hotel-room assignation. Both parties know it will not last; the only questions is: how much damage will there be when it ends?
That is what jars about Mourinho's pending appointment. Everything else fits, even taking into consideration that the likes of Juan Mata and Oscar do not feel instinctively like Mourinho players. He is a Premier League winner in a Premier League that only has one other manager, Arsène Wenger, who can say the same. His arrival will heal a lot of wounds with the supporters.
But still, what is the long-term vision? The Villas-Boas brief, which was embodied in the players whom Chelsea have signed over the last two summers, was to create a new Barcelona. Mourinho has spent the past three years trying to bring down the original Barcelona. The last thing he wants to do is build something in their image.
There is no doubt that the last three years must have been stressful, even for a man of his capabilities. He is now saddled with having the worst trophy return of any Real coach given three seasons. Diego Simeone at Atletico has as many trophies, three, in 18 months, as Mourinho has in three years. Yet to give Mourinho his due, he has been up against arguably the greatest team of all time domestically and has finished in the league second, first and second.
In recent times, Mourinho has tended to rewrite history when it came to his time at Chelsea, in terms of his relationship with the British press above all, which he bizarrely seems to remember as some kind of prelapsarian idyll. You have to wonder whether at Chelsea they have also trained themselves to forget.
When Mourinho left in September 2007, Chelsea released a conciliatory statement which was unusually revealing for them. “What is clear,” the club said, “is we had all reached a point where the relationship between the club and Jose had broken down.”
Less than six years on and it looks a lot worse than just plain old “broken down” between Madrid and Mourinho. So the stage is set for him to run back to Chelsea and the second part of that story will be fascinating in the new post-Ferguson Premier League landscape. But let's not kid ourselves. We all know how it is going to end. – The Independent