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Chelsea’s Mourinho doomed – because he is not Guardiola?

With Guardiola’s contract at Bayern Munich expiring at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, Abramovich might already be weighing up a move for his golden goos

Graham Ruthven

Published: Updated:

So intertwined is Jose Mourinho with Chelsea in its modern form, that it can be difficult to separate the club’s personality from that of their manager. Without the Portuguese coach, Stamford Bridge would be a very different place, and its trophy cabinet somewhat emptier. However, as owner Roman Abramovich sees it, another man embodies the desired direction of the London club.

Pep Guardiola might be Mourinho’s greatest adversary, but the Russian oligarch has long been an admirer of the former over the latter. With Guardiola’s contract at Bayern Munich expiring at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, Abramovich might already be weighing up a move for his golden goose.

The Chelsea owner missed out on the former Barcelona coach last time he was on the market, with Guardiola opting for Bavaria two years ago. Mourinho was appointed instead, leaving an uneasy undertone that has only just bubbled to the surface this season. Mourinho was not the man Abramovich wanted in charge of his club.

Fall from grace

Mourinho’s second coming at Stamford Bridge was heralded with the fanfare of a papal visit, but the truth about his Premier League return is that he needed Chelsea more than Chelsea needed him. Not much has changed since then.

While the Portuguese coach was once considered European football’s go-to guy for instant success, he no longer commands such a reputation. Having burned so many bridges in Italy, Spain and now England, Mourinho is now without an escape route from Chelsea. That is why he has not yet handed in his notice as Blues boss this season (that and the £30 million payout he would miss out on).

Should this season’s tailspin culminate in his dismissal, Mourinho might struggle to find another job at the top level of the game. What club would take him, given what he has proven time and again about his long-term capacity as a football coach? He is an antidote that ultimately comes with deadly side-effects, as Chelsea have discovered once more this season.

Even if he can find a way to reverse the club’s dismal run, Mourinho is doomed at Chelsea simply because he is not Guardiola. He does not possess the skill set Abramovich wants from his manager, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. The only thing less likely than a leopard to change its spots is Mourinho.

Abramovich grew tired of his attritional ways last time around, dismissing the most successful manager in Chelsea’s recent history after a disappointing start to the 2007/08 season. That cycle is close to repeating itself once more, with the Premier League champions thus far putting up a feeble defense to their title.

Style

Results aside, Mourinho’s stodgy style has long grated with Abramovich, with the Russian instead holding Guardiola and the dynamic, attractive style of play that comes with his stewardship in the highest esteem. That probably does not sit too well with the Chelsea boss, and it would be a grave indignity if he were to be replaced by his fiercest foe.

If Mourinho is to salvage his job at Stamford Bridge, he must change his ways, as unlikely as that may seem. This season is not just a crisis of results, but an existential one for the Portuguese coach too.
The Special One no longer seems so special. The sparkle is gone, and the charm that once made him the darling of the English media has been replaced by a toxic melancholy that has dragged down everyone associated with Chelsea. Optimism is infectious, but Mourinho has proved the same to be true of defeatist cynicism.

Whether Abramovich will ditch Mourinho is the domain of press conjecture at present - with Carlo Ancelotti another name linked with the Chelsea hot seat - but the Russian could have an even tougher decision come the end of the season. Even if Mourinho rediscovers his sparkle, Guardiola might prove a shinier prospect.