The S – Word


Still Special – Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge
March 17, 2010, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Champions League | Tags: , , ,

Jose Mourinho was on familiar ground when he made his return to Stamford Bridge this week – to a key clash between two European sides in the Champions League, to an eager press pack – full of expectation and hungry for the kind of soundbites that only he can deliver, and also to tabloid tales of Chelsea defender Ashley Cole’s most recent philanderings. Nothing new there then.

When Internazionale were drawn against Chelsea in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League, it was a fixture that couldn’t have been more beautifully scripted. Mourinho, a god in the eyes of the Blues’ supporters, was to return to Stamford Bridge. However, it wasn’t to be the return that fans of the club have dreamed about and yearned for since he was ousted in 2007. No, he was to return as manager of the Nerazzurri.

Inter have been knocked out of the Champions League at this stage for the last two seasons running, at the hands of both Liverpool and Manchester United, so this year the need to get past the last 16 and past English opposition must have been stronger than ever, especially with Mourinho facing up to his old employers.

Add to that the fact that Chelsea’s newest manager is the former AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti – he who presided over the Rossoneri for eight years and won two Champions League titles in his time with Inter’s biggest rivals – and you have an intriguing sub-plot to a game that is already sparkling with promise.

Okay, I have to admit at this stage that I am guilty of being a little bit in awe of Mourinho. Either that or a little bit in love with him. I know plenty of heterosexual males in the United Kingdom who would admit the same thing. What is it about him? His Clooney-esque good looks. his brooding temperament, his success?! I don’t know exactly but Mourinho was a breath of fresh air when he arrived in the Premier League in 2004. He was funny, he was charming, he was mischevious and most importantly he was a fantastic manager. I hate to admit it but Chelsea were outstanding when he was in charge. Likeable no, impressive yes.

The self-styled Special One.

And oh how we missed him when he left England, especially us football journalists – nothing was the same, no Jose-quips to look forward to in press conferences and Match of the Day, no exciting quotes to look forward to in the dailies, just more weary cliches from Premier League managers or their right-hand men. I think I can speak for almost every football fan at that time when I say there was a real sense of mourning when Mourinho departed. Love him or hate him, you missed him.

For those of you who may not already know what set Jose Mourinho apart from the rest, watch this Ahem, sorry about the music… 

Back to the Champions League. When Inter travelled to England for Tuesday’s game, they came with a 2-1 lead from the first leg at San Siro but progress to the next round was going to be far from easy. Chelsea, of course, had not been beaten at home in the Champions League for 21 games and have history of doing well against Italian teams at this stage in recent seasons.

But, in Mourinho’s words, his return was ‘almost perfect’. Thanks to Samuel Eto’o’s second-half strike, Inter ran out as victors with a 3-1 aggregate victory. Didier Drogba was also given his marching orders in the closing minutes of the tie. Pleased? Moi? Just a bit.

“I love Chelsea, I love this stadium, I love these people but I am a professional,” said Mourinho.

“I celebrated a lot in the dressing room when the game was over. It was a big victory for my team.”

It was almost like going back in time, we got to see Mourinho, we got to hear Mourinho and, just like old times, he celebrated a win at Stamford Bridge. Perhaps it’s easy to admire him when he’s not in charge of Manchester United’s Premier League opposition but it’s clear to me that Jose is still special and he’s still very much missed.

Thanks for reading!