For a man so moulded in his own character he often verges on self-parody, there’s now something distinctly different about Jose Mourinho. Just two games into the new season, Mourinho - the ordinarily mercurial, irrepressible Special One - is all of a sudden not so excitable or irrepressible, and definitely not so special.
There’s now a certain detachment to the Chelsea manager’s temperament, as if he no longer cares. And Mourinho’s most distinctive trait is that he always cares. So what has happened over the summer - since the Portuguese coach clinched his third Premier League title as boss of the Stamford Bridge club?
Defeat to Manchester City on Sunday left Chelsea with just a single point from their first two league fixtures, marking their worst start to a campaign since 1998. However, Mourinho’s recent exasperation would appear to have been prompted by more than just poor results. Something - not obviously apparent on the pitch - is bothering the Blues boss.
September is only just coming into sight, and Portuguese has already thrown barbs in the direction of Rafael Benitez, Roberto Martinez, Arsene Wenger, Rafael Benitez’s wife, Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro and even women’s rights groups. Mourinho might be afforded a degree of tolerance if results remain good, but they haven’t - and his off-the-field may well be having an effect on it.
Such a dismal and tumultuous opening to Chelsea’s season has come as a surprise, but there is precedent for this kind of behaviour from Mourinho. In fact, it would be something of an exception were the Portuguese coach not to suffer a demise this season. Mourinho’s third season meltdown - on the face of it - has begun.
As European football’s go-to-guy for instant success, Mourinho comes with a cost. He has won league titles with every one of his last five clubs - in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain - but more often than not, Mourinho leaves behind an almighty mess. At Chelsea (in his first spell there), at Inter Milan and at Real Madrid too, his success has ended as quickly as it begun.
Mourinho has frequently spoken about settling for the long haul at Stamford Bridge this time around - underlining that he feels at home in the Premier League. But the fact remains that over the course of his illustrious and storied career, the Portuguese has never lasted more than three seasons at the same club.
And so by that pattern, Mourinho doesn’t have much longer left at Chelsea. Whether it’s restlessness or something else, the Portuguese has a very clear shelf-life and he might have already passed that date in his second spell at Stamford Bridge. There is certainly a similarity in how he has started this season in comparison to those that have marked his demise at other clubs.
Ahead of his third season at Real Madrid, Mourinho signed a new four-year deal - just as he has with Chelsea this summer - to keep him in charge of the club until 2016. However, he lasted not one season more - with the Spanish side terminating his contract after a campaign of dressing room unrest, boardroom fallout and failure to make progress on the pitch.
There is no suggestion of an impending mutiny at Chelsea as things stand, but Mourinho made John Terry something of a scapegoat for his side’s recent struggles by hooking his captain at half-time of the defeat to Man City. It was the first time in over 170 games that Mourinho has substituted Terry, and cast the mind back to the way in which the Portuguese isolated and shunned senior players Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas at Real Madrid.
Alternatively, Mourinho might have been making a point to club owner Roman Abramovich over a lack of signings this summer - a move that resulted in the coach’s departure from Stamford Bridge in his first spell there. If the 52-year-old is once again plotting a battle of wits with one of the most ruthless owners in European football, then there would appear to be only one possible outcome.
Mourinho’s relationship with the English media has also soured - just two years after he cited them as one of the reasons he was looking forward to a Premier League return - with the Chelsea boss threatening to storm out of Friday’s press conference amid questions over his treatment of ostracized club doctor Carneiro. The Spanish press were a major factor in forcing Mourinho out of Real Madrid two years ago - so could their English counterparts now have a similar influence at Chelsea?
Whatever the cause of his demise, it is apparently looming for Mourinho. The Chelsea boss spoke of building a dynasty for himself upon his Premier League second coming, but once again he appears to be manufacturing his own downfall. He can’t stop himself.