Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Absent Mourinho Will Keep the Upper Hand

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Absent Mourinho Will Keep the Upper Hand

Article excerpt


JOSE MOURINHO is the kind of bloke who would snub his own birthday party. The Chelsea head coach has surprisingly decided to stay away from tonight's Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich, opting to watch his team on the television and perhaps count the money from his fantastic new contract extension.

Sky Sports, if no one else, will be thrilled to have captured one more viewer.

Although he undoubtedly savours the spotlight what Mourinho prizes above all else is his capacity to surprise, possessing an impish desire to keep people guessing.

This, after all, is the man who walked away from his finest hour, removing the Champions League winner's medal from his neck and retreating to the tunnel after FC Porto had beaten Monaco last May.

When he gets around to writing his autobiography the sharks and the underworld will battle for supremacy in a great tale of the unexpected. And what a gripping read it will be.

On the one previous occasion he experienced a UEFA touchline ban he was driven to tears - "I cried because I couldn't be in the war with my men," he said - but his stomach for this particular battle appears to have diminished.

Whereas he used an elaborate communications device to speak to his Porto players in Lazio's Roman auditorium two years ago he will not even be present at Chelsea's own Coliseum, preferring instead to watch the match with friends at home or in a restaurant.

While conspiracy theorists will no doubt link Mourinho's decision to stay away from the director's box with his deteriorating relationship with the club's hierarchy, in reality it represents an attempt to instill confidence in his players.

Absence does not always make the heart grow fonder but Mourinho will hope that his players beat faster, with self-belief pumping through their veins.

Rather than relying on their manager they will have the faith to back themselves.

Mourinho's decision is not entirely psychological, though, and there is also a practical side to his unexpected absence. Since that famous meeting with Lazio in which Andre Villas Boas texted his instructions to Baltemar Brito on the bench, UEFA have tightened up their regulations, making it clear that all contact is forbidden between manager and players from the moment they arrive at the stadium. …

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