Even If Carlo Wins the Double, Count Jose Will Still Haunt Him; Ancelotti Stands on Verge of History, Yet Roman Abramovich's Thirst for Success in Europe with Chelsea Means the Spectre of Mourinho Hangs over Stamford Bridge

The Evening Standard (London, England), May 7, 2010 | Go to article overview

Even If Carlo Wins the Double, Count Jose Will Still Haunt Him; Ancelotti Stands on Verge of History, Yet Roman Abramovich's Thirst for Success in Europe with Chelsea Means the Spectre of Mourinho Hangs over Stamford Bridge


Byline: Dan Jones

HYPOTHESIS: Jose Mourinho is the vampire of Stamford Bridge. Forget True Blood and R-Patz. I mean the old-school vamps. The nasty 18th Century ones from Serbian peasant folklore. The ones you thought were safely dead and forgotten, when all of a sudden they dug themselves up and came to plague you in your bed, with soil in their hair and a bulge in their underpants. The type who has no purpose in his afterlife but to freak you out.

That, surely, is the role that Mourinho is destined eternally to occupy towards Chelsea. He haunts the club. He taunts the club. He probably appears in the dead of night, stands at the end of chairman Bruce Buck's bed and hisses at him. No matter how successful Chelsea are, his creepy shadow still hangs over them.

Why is that? If we compare Mourinho's first season to Carlo Ancelotti's -- assuming that Wigan roll over on Sunday, and Portsmouth do likewise in the FA Cup Final on 15 May -- there's not a wild amount of difference.

A Premier League well won. A major domestic trophy in the cupboard.

The knockout stages of the Champions League. A team built around a strong blend of English players and robust foreigners.

A loveus-or-leave-us mentality which pits the club against the world and bonds the team and fans.

If anything, in fact, Ancelotti's achievement should rank on paper as more impressive that Mourinho's. His Double, should he win it, will be the 'proper' Double, not the second-tier one which includes the Carling Cup.

Furthermore, it will have been won with a team that were inherited, not constructed bespoke. Mourinho spent more than [pounds sterling]70million playing fantasy football whereas Ancelotti merely bought Yuri Zhirkov.

As a team to watch, Ancelotti's Chelsea are certainly more entertaining. The manager himself might not be given to such amusing mugging from the sidelines but the fact is that they have scored seven goals three times at home this season. A far cry from Mourinho's rather more reserved -- even dour -- tactical inclination.

Yet still, Ancelotti is not loved like Mourinho once was. I propped up the bar in my local (The Lighthouse in Battersea -- or south Chelsea, as we have the brass neck to call it round here) following the 7-0 trousering of Stoke last month and asked a few of the Blues supporters in there what they made of Chelsea this season.

Good, was the answer. Not brilliant, not a joy to watch, but 'good'. And before long came the refrain: "worst mistake we ever made was letting [youknow-who] leave". They may be winning the Premier League title this weekend but my pub panel are plagued. They are spooked. They get the heebie-jeebies whenever they see a salt-and-pepper hairdo.

Case in point: they still consider the spine of the team Ancelotti has deployed so effectively this year -- Petr Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba -- to be somehow proprietorially Mourinho's. That's strange on a number of levels.

For a start, the only one of that quartet whom Mourinho actually bought was Drogba.

The rest -- although he forged tight working relationships with them all -- he inherited. Then let's compare these four to their 2004-06 selves.

Cech and Terry are probably lesser versions under Ancelotti. But Drogba is stronger than ever. If he scores another goal this season (he has 33 now) it will be the most prolific year of his career, with a far better goal-to-game ratio than he ever achieved under Mourinho. And Lampard is now a sensational player in the form of his life. He is certainly the best English midfielder going, however deep a furrow that might bring to Steven Gerrard's brow.

So again, why does Count Jose continue to spread his eerie undead stench over the Fulham Broadway area? The answer is simple: Europe.

If Mourinho had hung around for more than his 2.5 seasons, the Champions League would now have been won. …

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