All roads lead to Jose Mourinho, of course. A London visit mere days before Andre Villas-Boas was put out his misery by the powers-that-be at Stamford Bridge, and now he’s the odds on favourite to replace him as Chelsea manager after the end of this season.
While everyone is (rightfully) decrying the idiotic regime of Roman Abramovich, the problem started with Mourinho some eight years ago, by no fault of his own. He’s a managerial genius, able to transform very good sides into the very best. For example, his Real Madrid side is currently ten points clear of Barcelona in La Liga, a team that we know from past head-to-head results (1-8) is objectively better. The difference is their respective consistency in the league—Madrid have won their last ten domestic matches. The difference is Mourinho.
So naturally, when he first strode into West London in 2004 after winning the Champions League with Porto earlier that Spring, he promptly won two Premier League trophies. This happened right before “manager mania” in England (and Europe), the rise of the notion that the elite manager can transcend history, players, and finances to win at the football across all possible worlds. Mourinho fed into the notion that soccer’s lodestone wasn’t the players or the annual budget, but the man waving his arms frantically in the technical area.
The problem, as we now understand, is that Mourinho is a spectacular outlier. Genius of his variety is not just comparatively rare; it’s extraordinarily rare. Other mere mortals require time—time to gain the confidence of the dressing room, time to instill their particular tactical system, time to select players that will suit their style and temperament in the transfer market.
Modern football, where the difference between fourth and fifth place has real consequences on the ledger sheet and the chance at sustained success, has little time to spare. Mourinho’s genius is he doesn’t need it; for him there are no “transition periods.” Abramovich, heady with early success, likely assumed this was the norm. Since Jose left in 2007, Abramovich wasn’t in search of a replacement for Mourinho; he was in search of Mourinho.
Roman may still get him back, but the rest of Europe should heed the lesson that despite the Portuguese’s astonishing ability, changing football managers is a long, destabilizing process. For most gaffers to succeed, the circumstances must be right. They must be a sensible fit with the club, its culture, its balance sheet, its fans. That requires search committees, research, a protracted interview process—in other words, time. Grasping in a mad panic for famous names will no longer cut it.
Martin Rennie loses to his former club on penalties.
Luis Silva has been impressive for the Reds.
Toronto FC depth chart.
League Managers Association tears into Chelsea for AVB sacking.
Scolari says the job will be “hell” for whomever replaces him.
Key to success for Sir Alex Ferguson this season—don’t panic.
Meanwhile lots of panic as Chelsea youth players do something very, very silly.
Roberto Mancini says marriage might be the best thing for Mario Balotelli.
Arsene Wenger says Jack Wilshere might be fit for Euro 2012 with Engerlund.
Sunderland’s violent Tyne-Wear derby leaves them with a personnel problem.
Five things the Grauniad learned this weekend.
Luis Suarez is a funny fellow.
Harry Redknapp says he’s not “distracted” by England.
Allegri says nice things about his team ahead of useless second leg round of 16 Champions League match against Arsenal.
Lazio’s Rome derby win might mean drama queen Edy Reja will finally chill out a bit.
Inter fight back for draw after going two goals down against Catania.
Real Zaragoza in real trouble, writes Sid Lowe.
Spanish refs want Gerard Pique punished for remarks.
Dortmund’s sustained Bundesliga run all down to “chemistry.”
Round up of all the weekend’s matches.
Hamburg have work to do if they want their top flight record to remain intact.
Bits and bobs
Slow progress at Rangers FC.
And that, give or take, is the story so far…