A fall reminiscent of “Humpty Dumpty,” the character in the old English nursery rhyme. An ignominious exit. That was the sad and abrupt end of the erstwhile enviable love affair between maverick Portuguese football manager, Jose Mourinho and West London football club, Chelsea. For many Chelsea fans and football enthusiasts, the news that the Mr Controversial of the beautiful game had been given the boot came as a bit of shock regardless of the clear handwriting on the wall. It was still hard to believe, even though virtually everyone knew he had had it coming for a couple of months now. Simply because it was Jose Mourinho! Arguably the best coach in the world, and unarguably one of the top three coaches in world football. Alas, it was true. The footballing world’s non-conformist had been fired for the second time by the same club, making history as the first manager to suffer such a misfortune.
Why I do not care too much for Chelsea as a club, I have always been intrigued by the personality of the most successful manager in its 110-year history. The reason is simple- controversial people are always interesting. While controversial and equally successful people are doubly interesting. The 52-year old effortlessly boasts of the two characteristics, hence the unsurprising cult-like obsession with him among fans and foes alike. I am not happy about Mourinho’s sacking. I had hoped that somewhere along the line, he would get his groove (and by extension his team’s groove) back, and that they would at least find themselves within a fighting chance of making top four. For its entertainment value, I had also hoped that his running feud with Arsenal’s coach Arsene Wenger would continue to spice up our viewing pleasure. But again, that was not meant to be.
Following the “Special One’s” sacking, there have been rumours about the Chelsea players ganging up to ensure that a consistent poor run of form and results would degenerate into the inevitable ouster of their manager. It’s not so difficult to align with this school of thought considering the fact that Mourinho himself confessed to feeling betrayed by his players after their last loss to high flying Leceister City. The duo of Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard have been particularly fingered as the ones who spearheaded the locker room revolt against the Portuguese. Now, let’s assume this allegation is true, it is imperative to ask what may have triggered the “backstabbing” of a manager who was once loved by players and fans alike. As unfortunate as the outcome of events have been at Stamford bridge, I am inclined to believe that Mourinho’s pride which saw him at loggerheads with several people (ranging from Eva Caneiro to Arsene Wenger to a couple of referees and match officials) finally culminated in his unceremonious departure from the club that has been tantamount to family to him.
There’s a reason why the popular maxim “Pride goes before a fall” rings true till this day. For all his celebrated genius and knack for winning trophies, the man, Mourinho had one problem which is almost always bound to bring down anyone in a matter of time. Pride. He had a hard time controlling his tongue, and while it may be convenient to lay the blame of his misfortune at the feet of a few of his players or even the entire Chelsea team, it would be sheer ignorance or blind loyalty to assert that the manager could be absolved of any fault in the matter. It didn’t matter who he perceived to have wronged him, his caustic tongue was always ready to brutalize such a one without caring about the consequences.
Perhaps his biggest blunder was tagging Arsenal’s manager, Arsene Wenger a specialist in failure; alluding to the long spell of trophyless seasons the latter has had to endure. He mocked Wenger. He fired Eva Caneiro, (the team doctor who did no wrong) without remorse. He made scathing remarks about a colleague’s (Rafa Benitez’s) wife without batting an eyelid. Let alone his frequent run-ins with match officials and the English FA. At different times, he’s been known to throw verbal jibes and even engage in mild brawls with rival coaches in the name of playing mind games. Mourinho became as likeable as a bad case of haemorrhoids in many quarters. He couldn’t keep riding his luck forever. It was always going to catch up with him at some point.
We all know that one person whom we always fear would become a tin god of sorts if they were ever fortunate to assume celebrity status. Personally, I have always believed that the reason why some people never attain a certain level of fame is because God already foresaw that they would become arrogant, rude and a law unto themselves. Not everyone can handle fame and the attendant attention that comes with it. Maybe if we tried to bear in mind that regardless of how much we seem to have achieved or how good we are at what we do, there’s always someone out there who has achieved much more and can do a far better job that we can, then we would be less likely to misbehave. It’s a way of thinking that will not permit us to think too highly of ourselves.
There’s always someone out there who’s more beautiful, more handsome, more successful and wealthier. What’s more, if those who are far better than us in almost all ramifications can manage to remain humble, then we,with our modest achievements really do not have an excuse to believe that we are the best thing to happen to humanity since Agege bread. Pep Guardiola won 14 trophies in the first four years of his managerial career, and is considered to be one of the best managers in the world. Yet, he has remained as self-effacing as ever. One wonders if Mourinho wouldn’t have achieved more success if he possessed some measure of humility.
Taking some time off coaching to reflect on his career so far with a view to becoming a better individual and manager might be the best thing for the Portuguese now. There’s no doubt that he is still very relevant in the round leather game, and will not stay unemployed for long if he so wishes. However, jumping into another job without taking time out to admit the mistakes of the past and chart a better course for the future will only mean that he has yet to learn his lesson, and it may only be a matter of time before he finds himself in a similar situation to the way he left Real Madrid and Chelsea. Making a mark but never really leaving a worthy legacy behind.