The Lead

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.


It must be won or lost here.”

Martin Rennie loses to his former club on penalties.

The 2012 Toronto FC season preview.

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.

Effing stupid.


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…

Comments (6)

  1. Why is Pep taking over Chelsea considered “effing stupid”? You think he’s back if Barca don’t win the CL this year? Maybe he’s finally ready for a new (rich) challenge? Why is it stupid that a team that has attracted coaches like Mourinho, Hiddink and Ancelotti would have a problem attracting Pep Guardiola?

    Unless you’re saying it’d be stupid for him to go there. Then I totally agree. It’d be stupid for a cockroach to go there.

  2. Very excited for the start of the Toronto Fc season. On paper it would seem that we have a pretty solid squad complemented with some interesting talent from the academy. I find myself much more interested in the season than in years past.

    Also, Pep is not an idiot. It would take the Cruciatus Curse (Harry Potter) for him to leave the greatest team in the past twenty years for a circus, run by the clowns at Chelsea Fc. Abramovich is blinded by arrogance. The Chelsea job is almost as big of a joke now as England manager.

  3. Absolutely absurd decision to fire Villas-Boas. Yes, results were not good, and the team wasn’t playing well, but at what point are the players on the field accountable for that?! This is the same team that essentially got Ancelotti fired last year. There is way too much dead weight on this team, but obviously such dead weight still carries the day in terms of off the field decision making. Past their prime veteran players moaned to the press and to Abramovich, that they couldn’t get along with the new manager (in other words, he wasn’t playing them enough) and they got their way. Obviously someone like Lampard still wants to be coddled by Mourinho and told that they are the world’s greatest midfielder. Ridiculous. Villas-Boas should’ve been given the chance to clear house in the summer and put his own team out on the field, not the remnants of the Mourinho/Ancelotti era. A winning team cannot be constructed when the person trying to construct has absolutely zero job security.

  4. I think Big Phil Scolari summed it up best: as long as certain players have a more direct line to the owner than the manager, the manager is in for a hell of a time.

    AVB saw the need for change. The core of this team has been together since 2005. By contrast, Manchester United have only 5 players on the books since then, only one of whom would be considered a first-choice lock player. the others, Scholes, Giggs, Ferdinand and Fletcher, have all taken reduced roles without incident or complaint (at least publicly)

    Furthermore, while Fergie has been rotating players for the better part of 15 years, those core players for Chelsea – Terry, Lampard Drogba and Cech, were worked like rented mules by Mourinho. If I’m not mistaken, Lampard had a rather lengthy consecutive match streak going that continued past Mourinho’s departure. Terry, Drogba and Cech are also never out of the lineup unless injured or suspended. all of this results in core players who refuse to step down and have way more miles on their engines than their Manchester United counterparts at the same age.

    This leaves Chelsea with a core even older than their age, but one that still refuses a rotation policy. They also have the power to get rid of any manager who suggests anything other than glorifying them.

    What does all this add up to? about 20 points off the pace. and in danger of missing Europe.


  5. Toronto FC, is this guy from Waking Up The Reds, is he watching the team play throughout the preseason and doesnt rate Caicedo as a starter over Harden??

    Chelsea, Scolari should of been kept, he is doing a good job in Brazil. Pep Gardiola will go if he’s paid $25 million a year.

  6. I love Dobby’s “presidential” music.
    Does anybody know what that piece is called?
    Whittall, you must know!

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