Could Mourinho Be ‘Special’ At Inter?

It would seem almost certain that former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is ready to throw himself back into the lion’s den of football management. Mourinho, who has been out of work since he left Chelsea in a blaze of publicity 8 months ago, looks like he’s going to try Serie A for size following Mancini’s departure. Whether he’ll be as adored there as he was at Chelsea remains to be seen – the Italians can be a pretty unforgiving lot in defeat. I’m sure that even after their domestic success, it feels a little hollow in the circumstances and the lack of success in Europe compared to AC Milan really grates for Inter – they won’t tolerate further ‘failure’. On the flip side to that though, if he can manage to do what he couldn’t quite achieve at Chelsea, the Nerazzurri will make him feel very ‘special’.

Strangely enough, Mourinho seems to be playing down his ‘Special One’ tag a bit ahead of his new post – well, sort of. As only Jose can, he humbly says he isn’t worthy of being called ‘special’, but only because he regards himself as “a great football manager” instead. Now I’m not even going to argue that his record as a good manager speaks for itself – Champions League victory with Porto, followed by six trophies in three years with us – but how ‘great’ he really is, is yet to be determined.

When you think of ‘great’ managers, it’s names like Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson that spring to mind – the clue being in the title maybe? But whilst Mourinho has proved, without question, that he’s a great tactician and motivator, he’s yet to prove there’s more to his management than his own ambition.

I’m not aiming for a complete character assassination of Mourinho here, because there’s still plenty I like about him, but having had 8 months to sit back and look at where things went wrong at Chelsea and reading his slightly bitter comments in the wake of our Champions League defeat, it’s just interesting to hear what he’s got to say for himself as he heads for the San Siro.

Whether or not he’s ready to drop the ‘special one’ label isn’t all that clear because he says its not necessarily a bad thing – and I personally think he prefers to believe his own hype.  Statements like “I only have strengths. And when I have a weakness I try to hide it”, have Jose written all over them but does he hide his weaknesses as well as he thinks he does? Because although he says “I see myself as a person who is emotionally resilient”, I think this is one area where TSO falls down in the management game (transfer market aside).

Mourinho’s personal ambition is so great it’s not clear whether he loves the beautiful game as much as he does himself. Rather than a desire to win, his style of football reflects his determination not to lose and his verbal spats with officials and opposition are driven by his ego. Before every Champions League game with Liverpool, for example, his fear of being beaten saw much mud slung in Rafa’s direction, only to end up in the mire himself each time. Fortunately for us, Rafa adopted the Mourinho-style big game preparations this season and his personal crusade against Drogba paid dividends – for us.

So, having battled with the self importance of their previous manager and seen him out the door, it’ll be interesting to see how the ego’s at Inter warm to TSO. He’s already pre-warned them by saying “As a manager I’m a very easy person. It’s very easy to work with me because it’s clear and neat – players must be open and ready to follow me” – very pied piper. Let’s just hope Lampard and Carvalho aren’t ready to dance to his tune again!

Would Scolari Fancy Chelsea?

So, the axe continues to fall at Stamford Bridge, with Henk Ten Cate following Grant out the door. Having had the ‘your job’s safe’ kiss of death off Gollum only days ago, Ten Cate was reported to have said “He (Kenyon) told me the news and he also said that the sacking of Grant would have no consequences for me. I would rather believe him than the newspaper reports.” But, just like everyone else who’s had Kenyon’s word in the past, Ten Cate’s realised it ain’t worth much as he sits holding his P45 today.

Whether Ten Cate’s departure counts Rijkaard out of the running for the Chelsea hotseat remains to be seen, although he certainly seems to be less of a favourite with the press than he did in the days immediately after his dismissal from Barca. That’s partly down to the latest European reject declaring his interest in the job – despite his agent’s suggestion that he’s above begging for work. Why we’d even consider Mancini given the parallels between him and Mourinho though remains a mystery to me.

Fortunately, he doesn’t appear to be the only name on Roman’s secret wish list, and Scolari seems to be at the head of that list according to recent reports. The Portuguese Football Federation are said to be expecting an approach from Chelsea to speak to Scolari, who’s £2million a year contract expires after the Euro 2008 finals. But Roman will have to get a move on if he wants that chat, with the PFF and Man City already queuing up to have a word in his ear.

However Scolari, having previously turned down the offer of the England job, citing concerns of press intrusion (as if!) as one of the reasons, might raise his eyebrows a little at the goings-on at Stamford Bridge over the past 8 months. Two managers sacked inside one season, in-house fisticuffs and an owner who may or may not want a say in the latest transfer, coupled with constant pressure from the rags. Are these the sort of conditions Big Phil would uproot his family from Portugal for?

I’m not convinced.

Mancini Not The Man For Chelsea

I have to say I was less than impressed to hear reports on Sky Sports yesterday of Roberto Mancini being the new ‘favourite’ to take over as Chelsea manager. I’ve touched on Mancini as a candidate recently and think my dislike for him is probably evident. So the fact that Sky seemed pretty certain there was some truth to these latest rumours had me a bit worried, until I looked at what exactly backs this particular ‘exclusive’ up.

Well, Mancini was given the push from Inter – but, thankfully there appears to be no more substance than that. His agent has admitted that at the present time there has been no contact with Chelsea and suggests that Mancini would never stoop so low as to propose himself to a club. But then he more or less does exactly that by going on to say “he waits for a club to look after him, so we are in that position right now.” Good job he hasn’t resorted to whoring himself in the press already then.

But whilst Mancini has made no secret of the fact he wants to manage a club capable of challenging for the Champions League, is he capable of doing that himself? I mean, he is Inter’s most successful manager in the last 40 years, having won three out of four Serie A titles, but then Mourinho won a couple of titles with us and still could never get past Liverpool when it came to Europe.

In his first year at Inter, Mancini finished third in Serie A and won an Italian cup and this was followed by the scudetto hattrick, but whilst that looks good on paper, the reality takes the shine off it a bit. The 2006 title had to be handed down by the slightly more crooked Juventus and last year they didn’t exactly have much in the way of opposition, with AC Milan 8 points behind from the start of the campaign and Juve dumped into Serie B.

More worryingly though, from a Chelsea perspective is the Mancini Inter have seen this season. With rumours of a bust-up with his players doing the rounds following the defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League, Mancini did little to dispel them by announcing his decision to quit at the end of the season. Although in true child-after-tantrum fashion, changed his mind a few days later. And the rumblings of dressing room unrest were only given more credibility when an 11-point gap over AS Roma at one stage, dwindled down to nothing, with Inter taking the title on the final day.

With ‘player power’ being thought of as the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Mancini getting his P45 is concerned, you’d have to think Roman would be a bit iffy about this particular candidate. Because with Chelsea needing something a bit more stable than the last 8-month manager’s stint, I’d have to say Mancini’s temperament might not even hold out for the duration of an interview.

Arsenal Shocker: We Won’t Spend Big

So, Danny Fiszman, Arsenal director came out yesterday saying the club aren’t prepared to spend big – and this is news?!

The Gunners, who failed to win a trophy during the previous campaign (yeah, yeah, I know we didn’t either but at least we never gave up til Utd crossed the finish line), are determined to remain financial martyrs til the end of time it seems. And whilst getting plenty of digs in at our admittedly outrageous spending during the Roman era, Fiszman appeared almost orgasmic when telling the world Arsenal won’t be buying any ‘big-name players’. Hefty pat on the back for him then as any player who thinks he’s something special avoids Arsenal like the plague this summer.

Fair play, he did grudgingly admit that we weren’t in the ‘big spenders’ category last summer, before getting a few more digs in. But when he went on: “the football we played this year created expectations, and the fact we had a five-point lead (over Utd) created even greater expectations so I think everybody is sad and deflated”, there weren’t any violins coming from my direction. Because, whilst I’ve never been an advocate of Chelsea lashing out obscene amounts of money on even average players, I genuinely believe being a top side means competing on all levels. And whilst it’s all very well saying “we believe it is a team sport……we don’t want the disparity between the top and bottom earner being too big. It takes 11 people on the pitch to deliver”, I’m not entirely sure how realistic that is. I mean, in an ideal world what club wants a huge gap between top and bottom earners? But this isn’t an ideal world, it’s the Premier League – possibly the best, and most competitive league there is – and I think the odd ‘big name’ isn’t always the luxury Arsenal regards it as.

So, whilst there’s associated dangers of splashing the cash Mr Fiszman, there’s also the odd danger when you don’t – players will go and get it elsewhere. Not just the big players out there refusing to come in for less than they’ll get anywhere else, but also the players who’ve become pretty useful at the Emirates already, lured away by whichever club waves more Euro’s around. And whilst I’m not suggesting for one minute that the way football has gone, with some players not even prepared to get out of bed for less than the crown jewels these days is a good thing, for now at least, that’s the reality.

And so, when I hear the Arsenal director saying “we can’t win every year and hopefully it will be our turn next year and for many years to come”, I just don’t buy it.

Bentley To Chelsea?

With an announcement of our new manager apparently imminent, I’m sure most of us just want it sorted so we can move forward. After all, its even harder to believe all the transfer speculation when there’s no-one there for new players to actually play for.

Anyway, onto one of the latest players who’s rumoured to fancy a move to an as-yet manager-less club – Blackburn’s David Bentley. The 23 year old midfielder is reported to have turned down a new, improved contract, doubling his salary, because he fancies a move this summer and naturally, we’re allegedly in the race to get his signature.

Bentley’s no doubt aware of the interest this little snippet will arouse – speaking of which, the press are already having a field day with it, linking him to Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool – not least of all because good, young, English players are becoming hot property. Obviously, the current £12million price tag would rise a bit if Chelsea did want to sign him but the question is, would he want to sign for us? He’s certainly ambitious and confident, but enough so to maybe not have a guaranteed starting place the minute he walked through the door? Then again, would he fancy a fourth place finish with Liverpool or worst still a mid-table finish and no European football with Spurs? After all, having watched last week’s Champions League final, his statement of ambition seemed pretty clear to me “They’re the matches I want to play in. I want to reach the top of my game, and haven’t done that yet. I’ve not played in a big tournament, in the Champions League. I’ve still got it all to do. Everyone wants success today. I wouldn’t say I’m impatient, but I’m hungry for success” – kind of rules Spurs out then.

So, in exchange for a no doubt over-inflated contract, what could the young man bring to us if we manage to drag him away from the lure of those cheeky, lovable scousers? Well, he’s averaging around 7 or 8 goals a season, double that in assists and although he’s pretty useful across the midfield, he ain’t too shoddy on the wing either. But even better than that, he’s the first player in the history of the Premier League to score a hattrick against Utd – and I’m sure we could cope with some of that.    

Terry To Lead England

After a pretty grim week, John Terry has been given the welcome boost of the captaincy for tonight’s game against the USA. The announcement came, as expected, by the England manager yesterday, who reckon’s he’d already decided it before Terry’s Champions League slip. Personally I think he’s a sentimental old sod really. In handing back the captaincy, albeit temporarily, Capello said “I think at this moment it is a good decision for John Terry after the not good situation on Wednesday.”

Terry had previously worn the armband under McClaren but his badboy image for Chelsea didn’t go down too well with Capello, who subsequently let Ferdinand try it on for size.  And Terry shouldn’t get too comfy wearing it either, because it might be on a different arm again in the game against Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday, with Capello happy to play pass the parcel a bit longer.

With a permanent skipper set to be named by the time England play their last friendly before the World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic in August, Rio seems to be the bookies favourite. Personally, if I have my Chelsea head on, I’d give it to Terry but from a purely England point of view, I’d be happy to see either of them lead England out.

For tonight’s game though, I think Capello’s played a blinder. There’ll be no-one out there with a bigger point to prove than the captain and I think the England manager summed it up nicely:

“I think it is very important to be a leader and John Terry is a leader”.

Is Hughes The Perfect Man For The Job?

The talk seems very much about Frank Rijkaard taking over the poison chalice Chelsea hotseat in the near future and whilst I’ve seen that one coming for a while and would probably see it as an acceptable appointment (if I can get over the fact I can’t stand him as a person), there’s been another name in the press lately that’s caught my imagination – ex-Chelsea star and current Blackburn Rovers manager Mark Hughes. Now while I appreciate this is probably just the usual press speculation, it’s got me thinking about Hughes as a real possibility.

Having earned himself some brownie points at international level during a five-year spell in charge of Wales and pretty much turning Blackburn around following his arrival there in 2004, Hughes is quietly becoming a top British manager.  Whilst Blackburn might not appear to set the world alight, guided by Sparky’s winning mentality and his sheer determination not to lose, they’ve certainly become a pretty hard team to take the points off, as Arsenal, Utd and Chelsea have found to their cost. And even with funds much more conservative than those dished out to managers at Stamford Bridge, Hughes has shown himself to be pretty shrewd in the transfer market. During his time at Blackburn, Hughes has put together a squad with proper depth and it should be noted that Blackburn aren’t just robust defensively, they also have some of the most sought after attacking players in the Premier League.

Of equal importance, is Hughes’ ability to man-manage. Not only is his ability to get the best out of his players apparent, but also, in dealing with players like Bellamy and Savage, his attention to discipline speaks for itself – not that we don’t get the odd glimpse of the old ‘Sparky’ on the touchline now and then.

Hughes would certainly be a popular choice amongst the fans as a firm favourite during his time with us as a player, and the possibility of Steve Clarke and even the legend that is Zola teaming up with him, is surely the stuff (wet) dreams are made of. And if it’s an attractive, attacking style of football Abramovich is after, he might like to observe Hughes favours playing with an attack on the wings as well as two front men – memories of the pre-Mourinho days anyone? Certainly, with the on-again-off-again plans to address our ridiculous transfer policy, maybe a change to a more British management style is the way to go.

So, in terms of meeting the necessary requirements to manage Chelsea, Hughes knows the club and has admirers on board already, he’s young and ambitious, with a strong enough personality to command the respect of even Chelsea-sized ego’s. He’s got a good record in the transfer market, is tactically astute and has the ability to both manage and motivate his players. Add to that the fact that he doesn’t feel the need to surround himself in a blaze of publicity and it’s hard to imagine why Roman isn’t banging down his door for a signature.

Of course there’s the small matter of whether a manager like Hughes would actually subject himself to the ordeal that goes with the Chelsea job. Having said that though, with the average stay usually only around the 3-year mark anyway (for those that excel of course) and Fergie considering retirement around the same time, maybe a bit of Champions League experience to add to his CV might be something worth suffering temporarily for?