Busy revelling in the glory of clinching the first meaningful piece of silverware English clubs can compete for - sorry Arsenal, we’re not buying the Community Shield - there’s very little criticism Chelsea fans would think about levelling Jose Mourinho’s way.
If building a world-class squad as defensively sound as it is lethal going forward was what The Special One set out to achieve then it’s very much mission accomplished at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho's project success
Front to back the Blues are a cohesive unit packed to the rafters with as much flair as any English side can hope to boast whilst the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid remain on an eternal hunt to cherry pick the best attacking talent Europe has to offer, and a host of huge characters mean there’s very little chance of Mourinho’s title challenge coming off the rails thanks to combustions of an internal nature.
With this in mind it’s fairly difficult to rib Chelsea’s much-loved manager for anything. Sure, he’s as outspoken as he’s ever been and his arrogance is running on par with Zlatan Ibrahimovic levels, but since when has that been a bad thing coming from a coach as decorated as he?
As the stats today are quick to point out he’s a man who averages a major trophy every 35 games or so, so enough with the ‘Mourinho is bad because of the way he acts’ argument, please.
That’s not to say that he is an invincible entity in football though. It’s more to suggest that due to his annoyingly efficient setups those who wish to play down Mourinho’s brilliance are forced to dig out the little mistakes to be found his reign. The decisions that didn’t end up in the masterstroke pile, as it were. Admittedly it’s slim pickings.
Despair not though, as sceptics have a fairly recent topic of debate to pick apart, and from where I’m sitting it’s a fairly credible claim: Mourinho perhaps made the wrong decision in essentially swapping Mohamed Salah for Juan Cuadrado.
The deal in question went down at the end of January and saw an established Serie A talent with the ability to glide past opponents and chip in with an adequate goal haul arrive in west London with a reputation certainly in-keeping with Chelsea’s new mantra of fielding exciting, in-form figures. Heading the other way turned out to be Salah, who for all his razzmatazz had looked horribly out of place since joining from Fiorentina.
A like for like swap position wise, yet two players who were contrasted in terms of recent showings on a similar level to how Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe are in height. For those unfamiliar with football, that means massively so.
The respective forms
Of course the laws of footballing form are known to be as flimsy as the wind, and they’re never more adjustable than in the aftermath of a transfer to a new club. As it stands now Salah has re-found his feet in Italy, and Vincenzo Montella was quick to let the public know that on the pitch the Egyptian is at least a comparable talent to Cuadrado.
Mourinho might say the same given how the Colombia international has fared during his first few outings at Chelsea, not that it’s a good thing from his perspective. To criticise Cuadrado and label him a flop in English football is of course outrageously narrow-minded, so we’re not delving to those depths just yet. But at the same time one wonders if his arrival was one that was necessary for the Blues to improve, or if Salah might have been a more useful option in the future.
First and foremost there is the obvious argument over the respective ages of the pair involved. At 22 Salah is still in the period where he can be considered an uncut diamond, whilst Cuadrado, four years his elder at 26, is far closer to his peak years.
Salah for the future?
If Mourinho is planning to be at the Stamford Bridge helm for many years to come, and his recent comments on the matter would indicate as much, then maybe having Salah on the books as a backup to the energetic Willian until he proves either way whether or not he has it within him to adapt to the Premier League would have been a better option.
It just may be that Salah is the type of player destined to fail in England and excel everywhere else. We’ve seen plenty of those in the past and if it is the case then Mourinho has once again called it right.
Then though you have to factor in the chance that Cuadrado might be the same and, taking age into account, you still end up with £23 million in transfer fees essentially wasted.
It’s a talking point that is extremely hard to quantify given how little game-time Salah was given at Chelsea and how much more game-time Cuadrado is sure to be afforded. Yet if Mourinho is to be judged on the finest of margins in what could turn out to be a treble-winning campaign then there’s a case for doubt. Will letting Salah go be a mistake he lives to regret?
Chelsea fans, should Mourinho have given Salah more of a chance at Stamford Bridge? Or will Cuadrado prove worth the money and time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below...