Jose Mourinho's legacy remains Chelsea's driving force

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As a triumphant smile filled with elation and ecstasy glistened on the face of Roberto Di Matteo as he rose above the stands of the Allianz Arena to proudly hold aloft Chelsea's maiden Champions League crown in 2012, you could be forgiven for feeling a slight sense of emptiness.

The seemingly incongruous realisation that the Italian had led Chelsea to its greatest triumph as interim manager in a rollercoaster season feels as out of place as Tony Pulis coaching at La Masia.

Roberto Di Matteo held a special place in the hearts of all Blues supporters even before his short stint in charge though, thanks to six years of service as a player where he is best remembered for lashing a 30-yard screamer home after just 43 seconds of the 1997 FA Cup final against Middlesbrough, as well as his decisive goal in the final three years later against Aston Villa.

Famous night in Munich

However, despite all the emotions ranging from relief to pure unbridled joy at having finally claimed the holy grail after such a long time, deep down there must have been a little sense of unfulfillment, especially from the senior players. Of course, winning the Champions League is all that really matters for the players but if there was one man who was as driven and destined to deliver the 'Big Ears' to Stamford Bridge it is none other than Jose Mourinho.

He is the spiritual leader of this football 'club' throughout the Abramovich era, the man who moulded the modern Chelsea and transformed it into a well oiled machine that would dominate with its parts adopting winning as part of its DNA. 

Given how close Chelsea were to winning Europe's greatest prize and the controversies and heartbreak which ultimately characterised Chelsea's Champions League ventures during Jose Mourinho's first reign, it would have been fitting for Mourinho had he led Chelsea to its first victory after a succession of near misses.

Still something to prove

The inability to do so during his first reign is perhaps something that still stings the special one, given how eager and happy he was to return to Chelsea after three tumultuous campaigns at Real Madrid.

His rivalry with then Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez throughout their Champions League bouts were gripping for their tactical acumen if not for the aesthetics on show, with Benitez triumphant on both their last four encounters during 2005 and 2007.

A proud man such as Mourinho would be livid with such ostensible incompetence, but given the nature of the defeats which involve the awarding of a controversial 'ghost goal' to Luis Garcia and a penalty shootout defeat, Mourinho would have been even more frustrated with Chelsea's inability to reach the final.

Frustration still there

Besides the near misses during his first reign, what Mourinho brought to this Chelsea team cannot be measured by tangible continental title successes, but rather by those intangibles that so often form the crucial basis in which great teams are built from.

It was under him that Chelsea rose to worldwide prominence and popularity as he swept through his first two seasons in the Premiership claiming back to back titles like he had coached in England for years.

It was under him that Chelsea made their first real strides in Europe's premier club competition by overcoming continental powerhouses Barcelona and Bayern Munich in 2004/2005 to instil belief in a team that lacked European pedigree.

It was under him that Chelsea learned the cruelties and injustices which often lie within the latter stages of  the Champions League as the Liverpool defeats attests to.

It is these nearly moments and experiences of heartache and suffering which cultivated Chelsea's obsession to win the Champions League.

It is those moments of pain and sorrow as well as pride and joy which have helped develop an astuteness and shrewdness on the continent which has replaced a naivety and complacency that is naturally associated with teams winning at home but lacking continental pedigree.

Legacy to sustain

These intangibles that so often aided Chelsea's miraculous run to European glory in 2012 where their backs to the wall performances were made possible due to past experiences and a street-smartness about its football which concealed the obvious lack of relative talent and quality in the squad at the time.

Chelsea won ugly but negotiated it's way through all sorts of different challenges because it had seen virtually every situation confronting it before. To win, was a moment to cherish forever for every blues fan but to win it with the commander in chief who had suffered and celebrated with them in Jose Mourinho, would have seen the script go right to plan. 

Those early years when Mourinho was building not just footballers but newly formed winners who would drive on in search of glory and retain that burning desire for the rest of their careers regardless of whether Mourinho was there, were unforgettable career defining times for many players.

Trusted core

John Terry was just 23 when he was given the armband and as a promising academy graduate he had the potential to be a top player but it was Mourinho who had transformed him into the inspiring warrior who would become a club icon for the next decade.

Frank Lampard arrived at Stamford Bridge for big money and with a big name to lug around which seemingly weighed him down for his first couple of years but it was Mourinho who challenged him to be the best he could be and would go on to be runner up to Ronaldinho for the 2005 Ballon d'or.

A pursuit of perfection channeled into him by Mourinho would allow Lampard to be considered among he's generations finest midfielders which could hardly be seen to be possible upon his arrival in 2001.

Petr Cech was a burgeoning talent at Sparta Prague and Stade Rennes but was nonetheless an unknown but, Mourinho preached patience and hard work and soon he would depose former number one goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini as the Czech would go on to break record after record in the Premier League as one of the finest keepers in the world in 2005.

Mourinho plucked a relatively unknown Ivorian from obscurity in Didier Drogba for a hefty sum of £24m and in 2006/2007 saw the birth of perhaps the most talented target man the world has ever seen. Twice a golden boot winner, 12 trophies and 157 goals later he would depart the club in 2012 as a bona fide legend of the club for his heroics in Munich.

Abramovich's millions wisely invested

They were and for some still are the spine of Chelsea with players such as Arjen Robben, Michael Essien and Joe Cole also enjoying significant transformations as the foundations were laid during Mourinho's first stint for the sustained success of a newly reformed football club.

People often wonder how it is possible for the club to continue to enjoy success despite the countless managerial changes that have occurred since Mourinho's departure in 2007, but it is easy to see the answer is Mourinho. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech are big names and big characters at the football club and have remained a constant throughout the ceaseless hiring and firing of managers.

They have been the pillars of success and stability as Mourinho instilled a love and passion for the club  in its core players to take on the responsibility of building a football club and engendering a unity and spirit that functioned in harmony to obtain titles. That sort of long lasting loyalty and service is not easy to instill into people especially those who have just arrived to a club with little affinity or connection with it. And its not as if clubs weren't circling either.

Premature exit

Drogba was distraught when Mourinho left and was on the verge of exiting to either Madrid or Milan but he grew a fondness for Chelsea during his time and remained. Lampard was strongly linked to Internazionale in 2009 but he remained because he knew as vice captain of the club he had a duty to stand firm for his club.

If the leaders of a club could be coaxed into joining another, it would be soul destroying for the image of the club and what it represented. Terry turned down a big money offer in the same off season to lead his club to the club's first double as he rejected the advances of Manchester City. The skipper knows Mourinho like no other and shares a special bond with him, but at 33 he knows he has to prove himself again and again and thats why the sight of Terry being the first player to enter current pre-season training all of his own accord, is such a powerful statement.

He is determined to kick on and remain a part of the clubs push for success. It's also pertinent to point out that Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole's departure's were not because of their own desire to leave, but the club's decision to look to the future. Cech is facing stern competition from Courtois to remain Chelsea's number one, and while he could easily decide to hand over the reigns to a hungry and competent keeper much like himself a decade earlier so that he could get one last bumper contract at a Monaco, PSG or Barcelona, he is determined to continue striving for success at Chelsea.

Drogba again could have moved to the middle east or the US for more money, but the lure of returning home and working with Mourinho for one last title push is the measure of a man who has learnt to love and treasure his club.         

Mourinho has spoken of his satisfaction to be back where his loved and of his intention to stay at Stamford Bridge for as long as possible. He is willing to be in it for the long haul and leave a long and lasting legacy at a club he will forever be fondly associated with. Chelsea have made big changes to the team since its last title triumph in 2010 and has won all there is to win. There are no more objectives or obsessions to be had with competitions.

There is now the need for a long term vision, a mandate of sorts to bring more trophies, revenue, supporters, sponsors and stability to a club that needs to move forward if it is to stay amongst the upper echelons of the sport. 

How does Mourinho compare?

Sir Alex Ferguson arrived at Manchester United vowing to 'knock Liverpool off their perch'. After 26 years and 38 trophies including 13 league titles and 2 European Cups you could say he has achieved that. Arsene Wenger is approaching 20 years of management at Arsenal and whilst no bold objectives were revealed, he has revolutionised football in England with his scientific methods on training and nutrition which helped immensely in turning players into conscientious professionals off the pitch.

On the pitch, he completely overhauled the clubs image from a dour and defensive team to one which assembled young talent from all across the globe to exhibit breathtakingly fluid and flowing football that has now come to characterise the 'Arsenal Way'. 

Jose Mourinho has plenty to ponder on the pitch and plenty off it as well as Chelsea's new stadium plans, financial fair play requirements, youth academy, recruitment and finances all being topics of interest.

Academy yet to prosper

Mourinho has spoken recently of how the signing of Luke Shaw on mammoth wages would have proven divisive in the dressing room thus Chelsea's hesitance as Mourinho looks to safeguard the harmony of his team and limit the extravagance in spending.

He has spoken of his belief of how promising youth team players such as Lewis Baker, Izzy Brown and Dom Solanke are all potential England players where he is prepared to integrate them into the first team. Mourinho has young talent at his disposal- Nathaniel Chalobah, Nathan Ake, Andreas Christensen, John Swift, Patrick Bamford, Oriol Romeu, Marco Van Ginkel, Kurt Zouma, Thomas Kalas etc.

How he goes about integrating the youngsters into the team will be crucial for the long term future of the club if it wants to become self sustaining and not reliant on its owner. 

Chelsea has come a long way since its resurgence throughout the late 90s where players such as Marcel Desailly, Didier, Deschamps, Ruud Gullit, Gianluca Vialli, Gianfronco Zola, Frank Leboeuf and Mark Hughes are just some of the household names that graced Stamford Bridge in the blue of Chelsea. World Cup winners, Champions league winners and Ballon d'or winners and whilst these players were largely over the hill players upon their arrival, there is no denying the calibre and pedigree of these players who contributed to bring trophies back to Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea transformed from top to bottom

Now, some 15 years on, Chelsea have gone to another level having cemented itself as one of the world's finest clubs with its Champions league victory cementing its place in history. But where to from now? Chelsea having been around for 109 years yet have claimed a paltry 4 league titles. That simply is not good enough for a club of this stature.

Jose Mourinho must set a vision to improve that figure. Five titles in the next decade? Ten titles by 2030? What about Europe? Real Madrid have won the European Cup 10 times. Milan 7 times. Bayern Munich 5 times. Liverpool who have returned to the Champions league have won it 5 times. Where do Chelsea's ambitions lie? Are they happy to be among the winners list? Striving to challenge for trophies is what every top club sets out to achieve.

However, a long term vision to challenge a team to win a certain amount within a certain timeframe inspires and motivates as the successes of every passing season become a distant memory and complacency diminishes.

Under huge pressure

For however long he is here, Mourinho is the man entrusted with discovering the next John Terry's, Didier Drogba's and Frank Lampard's and integrating domestic talent into an increasingly foreign flavoured team.

He must build the club on and off the pitch because he shares the same love and passion for the club as his contemporaries have shown for Manchester United and Arsenal who have created stable environments for their respective teams to flourish. The same long term vision must be shown by the 'special one' if Chelsea are to truly realise its potential. 


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