Jose Mourinho and Didier Drogba, shown here at Chelsea back in 2007, share a mutual admiration for each other.
When Hurricane José hit Stamford Bridge two weeks ago, the ensuing winds of speculation were so strong they almost blew down London Bridge as Chelsea fans from Cobham to Pluto visualized life with a new-look Blues team next season after interim manager Rafael Benítez likely heads out the door and on his merry way.
And with a storlyine somewhat reminiscent of a James Bond film—complete with alleged gifts like a Bentley and an expensive watch, disguises, secret meetings and provisional agreements—most Blues fans couldn’t help but be sucked into the gossip muck and hope the rumors The Special One is returning are true.
But wait a minute, brother. As usual, no rumor at Stamford Bridge would be complete without some yang in your yin, celery breath, and Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Southampton at the Stadium of Light provided just that yin, as Chelsea slipped back into fourth place in the English Premier League table while the other six top teams in top seven in the table were all victorious.
Now just two points ahead of fifth-place Arsenal in the standings (55-53), the Blues and their legions of rabid fans suddenly seemed to realize their theoretical harpooning of Moby Dick hit a big snag as if Chelsea doesn’t secure a top-four finish and a spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League, Mourinho might not want any part of the current European champions.
But what good is reality, or for that matter fiction, without a little bit of drama?
So who knows what lies on the royal blue horizon, brother—besides more speculation and rumors of course—but if the 50-year-old Portuguese mastermind does decide to return to Chelsea, what should he do to shake things up to try to turn this schizophrenic club around?
Here are five fairly logical things the current Real Madrid manager could do if the rumors end up being true and Mourinho does return to the Blues, whom he managed from 2004 to 2007:
Fernando Torres may be as happy to leave Stamford Bridge this summer as some Chelsea fans will be to see him go.
Whether it be by trade, by sale or just by simple release, there seems to be an awful lot of dead weight Chelsea and Mourinho could part with to improve its current roster.
Last year at that point in time when the season was over, the Blues released legend Didier Drogba, fellow Ivory Coast countryman Salomon Kalou, José Bosingwa, Rhys Taylor and Marko Mitrović in an effort to clear up some space for what ended up being a massive summer spending spree by club owner Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea also parted ways with midfielder Raul Meireles, who was sold to Fenerbahçe in Turkey’s Süper Lig for £8 million.
This summer, players like Yossi Benayoun, Michael Essien (currently on loan at Real Madrid), Florent Malouda, Ross Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira and possibly even Marko Marin or Ryan Bertrand and a couple of others may now be candidates to depart one way or another.
One guy who would probably be better off elsewhere is Gaël Kakuta, who said he is unhappy with the club in a recent story in The Sun.
"Chelsea have far too many players,” the 21-year-old French winger said. “At my age I need to play regularly but if I go back, I’ll just get 10 minutes a month and I don’t want that."
Kakuta—who has just one start for Chelsea since his controversial 2007 move from Lens—is currently on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands’ Eredivisie, where he has one goal in six starts for the Vitas.
And with guys like Marin, Lucas Piazón and Victor Moses—among others—ahead of him on the depth chart, and his unhappiness with the Blues having now gone public, Kakuta would probably be best off being sold or used as a bargaining chip in a future deal.
The biggest name player likely to be leaving Stamford Bridge and one Mourinho would likely have absolutely no problem seeing go is much-maligned striker Fernando Torres who has suffered nothing but fear and loathing since coming to West London in January 2011 for a then British transfer-record of £50 million.
It seems that even if the 29-year old Spaniard were to somehow end this season with bang, his days with the Blues are most likely numbered.
Virtesse Arnhem's Wilifried Bony would be a phenomenal player for Chelsea to sign over the summer transfer window and could be a big part in helping Jose Mourinho and the Blues get back to the place they want to be.
After dumping some dead wood and making a little room for some improvements, Mourinho would more than likely go out to and try to fill some needs for the Blues by obtaining some seasoned players.
They would play at positions that will likely need to be a little deeper in the future to compete with Manchester United and Manchester City in England’s top flight, as well as the other European clubs in either Champions League or Europa League play.
Although many have pegged Bertrand as the eventual replacement to left-back Ashley Cole and constantly deem him as Cole’s “understudy,” Bertrand’s play has been pretty average this season and getting a guy like one of Mourinho’s current options at the position at Santiago Bernabéu—Fábio Coentrão—would likely serve Chelsea much better down the line.
Like Mourinho, the versatile Coentrão—who is rated at £18 million—hails from Portugal and according to a report in the Daily Express, he is also presently being sought after by Liverpool. But The Special One’s penchant for wing-backs and his past and current relationship with the 25-year-old would likely give the Blues a leg up in potential negotiations.
One extremely talented left-back many Blues fans and other clubs seem to be drooling over is Southampton’s Luke Shaw, but a recent report in The Guardian says the 17-year-old wunderkind will be signing a five-year contract in July and will be staying with the Saints for at least the immediate future.
The position Chelsea probably needs to shore up more than anything is the central/defensive midfield and probably the best talent Mourinho, Abramovich and the board can get into the mix is Everton’s Marouane Fellaini.
He leads the Toffees—now just four points back of the Blues in sixth place and still in the hunt for a top-four finish themselves—in scoring this with 11 goals in the Premier League.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 24-year-old Fellaini would be an incredible pickup for Chelsea and the Belgian is great in the air on headers, is as a fantastic box-to-box guy, would improve the Blues scoring attack and is extremely familiar with fellow Red Devils national teammates Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Atlético Madrid loanee and future Petr Čech replacement, Thibaut Courtois.
And Fellaini, who has expressed a desire to play Champions League football, told The Sun in February he is open to a deal which would see him take his talents to Stamford Bridge.
“If Chelsea want to sign me, then they need to come forward with a bid for me,” said the £30 million-rated [The] Simpsons Sideshow Bob-lookalike. “I have heard about Chelsea’s interest but I’ve honestly not spoken to them.”
Another player who would fit in well at center-back or in the central midfield is QPR’s Stephane Mbia, a 26-year-old Cameroonian who has been linked with both Chelsea and Fulham (via Daily Express). His versatility and grittiness would be a welcome addition and would help provide defensive depth for the future.
Although fairly deep in the advanced midfield with Juan Mata, Hazard, Oscar and Moses, among others, the Blues could use another scorer and the Daily Express reported last week the club is interested in Ajax’s Christian Eriksen, a 21-year-old Dane who has six goals for the league-leading lancers.
A nice option and probably a player who could help Mourinho and fit in with Chelsea immediately is Málaga’s Isco who, according to a January Daily Mail report, could be headed to West London over the summer if the strings can be pulled on a cash-plus-player deal.
That deal could see fellow attacking midfielder Piazón headed to Los Boquerones for the £19 million-rated, 20-year-old Spaniard who has a team-leading eight goals in La Liga.
Isco is also being sought after by a number of other clubs, including Arsenal.
As far as adding an immediate scoring threat at either the forward or striker position, the Blues have been linked in the press with a number of big-name talents, including Napoli’s Edinson Cavani, Bayer Leverkusen’s André Schürrle—who Chelsea is rumored to be set to make a fourth bid to land—Santos’ Neymar and even Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who would allegedly be sought after by Mourinho should he return to manage the Blues.
But after last year’s Hulk hype and all of the other rumors through the years, most erudite fans know that a healthy majority of these reports end up being more gossip and wishful thinking than truth.
Two strikers who seem like perfect fits for Chelsea and whose rumors seem closer to actually possibly happening this summer than the above four are Vitesse standout Wilfried Bony and Atlético Madrid star Radamel Falcao.
According to a report in The Sun last week, Bony’s agent Francis Kacou was at Stamford Bridge a week ago to propose a transfer for the £12 million-rated Ivorian, who has an extremely impressive league-leading 27 goals in 28 games for the surprising third-place Vitas in Eredivisie play.
The story says Bony, a 24-year-old—who possesses a style similar to Drogba’s—is thrilled about the idea of playing for the Blues and that the club is in a “pole position” to sign him to a four-year contract worth £80,000 a week.
Vitesse, who the report says is resigned to losing the striker and who is also in the hunt for a Champions League spot, has had seven young players from Chelsea play for them over the past two seasons on loan, so a solid relationship between the two has definitely been forged.
And the biggest name everyone has been talking about trying to sign over the coming summer transfer market is Falcao who leads Los Rojiblancos with 22 goals and is the third-leading scorer in La Liga behind the world’s two best players, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (43) and Real Madrid’s Ronaldo (28).
The Daily Mirror reported in February of a possible Falcao deal for Torres, which would return El Niño to his former club Atlético, while The Daily Star reported last week that the Blues crept ahead of Real Madrid and Manchester City in the bid to land the £40 million-rated Colombian, who picked apart Chelsea with a hat trick in the UEFA Super Cup last August.
The 26-year-old has a £46 million release clause in his contract but one huge factor in the Blues' favor is should Mourinho indeed sign with Chelsea, he and Falcao share the same agent, Jorge Mendes so it might be in the club’s interest to do everything possible to keep Mr. Mendes extremely happy at this particular point in time.
Last summer, Chelsea brought in Marin, Hazard, Oscar, Moses and César Azpilicueta in an £80 million spending spree which saw Uncle Roman part with a fair chunk of his Russian oil money on his favorite hobby.
Striker Romelu Lukaku has been a very pleasant surprise for West Bromwich Albion this season as he has been out on loan from Chelsea.
Another quick and much easier way for Mourinho to increase his talent pool at Stamford Bridge would be to bring back some of the talented loanees currently plying their wares across the continent.
With goalkeeper Courtois staying at Atlético for at least another year, Piazón still pretty young (19)—and rumored in the aforementioned Isco swap—and Tomás Kalas and Patrick van Aanholt—both on loan at Vitesse—still pretty green, three players seem to stick out as candidates to return to West London this summer.
Romelu Lukaku (West Bromwich Albion), Kevin de Bruyne (Werder Bremen) and Josh McEachran (Middlesbrough) all appear to be ready to contribute and could likely fit in pretty well in a new Mourinho project.
Striker Lukaku leads the Baggies with 13 goals and has been spectacular even though playing in somewhat limited action while winger de Bruyne leads Die Werderaner with eight assists, is third on the team with six goals and actually outplayed Hazard and his other Belgian teammates from Chelsea over the recent international break.
De Bruyne, like Lukaku has expressed his interest in playing first-team football for Chelsea but with a glut of current talent in the advanced midfield, a Piazón and or Marin departure would probably have to take place to get the 21-year-old on the first team next season.
Left-footed midfielder McEachran hasn’t scored in 32 starts for Championship side Middlesbrough but with John Obi Mikel, Ramires and Frank Lampard not quite as creative offensively as the 20-year-old Englishman in the central midfield, McEachran may fit into Mourinho’s possible plans. Although, he is still fairly young and may also be a candidate for a future trade or a sale.
Whatever happens, Chelsea has an incredible number of talented players out on loan who could help the club get back to where it wants to be next season should The Special One decide to return to Londontown.
Chelsea's Nathanial Chalobah, shown here against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Youth Cup Final's second leg on May 9, 2012, is one of the top prospects in Chelsea's youth system.
Despite spending so much time, effort and money in developing its youth clubs, Chelsea has done a pretty poor job of actually fostering an environment where players in its academy can climb the ranks and get a chance to play with the big boys, and Mourinho could do a lot to rectify that situation if he were to be hired and make it a priority.
The Independent’s Sam Wallace wrote a wonderful column about just that reality on Sunday.
“Unfortunately, for those young Chelsea players, it seems however much hard work they put into shaping their destiny, other factors beyond their control influence the outcome,” wrote Wallace who also pointed out that Bertrand is the only current Blues player groomed in the academy on the first team.
“The next manager this summer will be expected to achieve great things in precious little time and if he is going to take a kid from the academy, then that kid had better be good,” he added.
Between Piazón and the aforementioned Vitesse loanees Kalas, Kakuta and van Aanholt, Chelsea is absolutely loaded with promising prospects who should be given a shot including Nathaniel Chalobah, Nathan Aké, Islam Feruz, Todd Kane, Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick Bamford, Thorgan Hazard, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Lewis Baker, Jérémie Boga and John Swift, among others.
The Blues also recently signed 18-year-old Brazilian right-back Wallace, who currently is playing for Fluminense in Brazil’s Série A and will move to Stamford Bridge at the start of the 2013-2014 season.
So the cupboards are completely stocked should Mourinho choose to promote from within and decide to give the kids a chance if he is hired.
And that would be a very welcome change to Chelsea’s current modus operandi.
Frank Lampard and Jose Mourinho could provide leadership for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for years to come.
With an embarrassing and somewhat debilitating revolving door which has seen Chelsea hire eight managers or interim managers since Mourinho’s departure in 2007—Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Ray Wilkins, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, André Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo and Benítez—the Blues have made it extremely difficult for themselves as well as the academy players and the fans to have a sense of security.
And that has to be laid on the feet of owner Abramovich.
If Mourinho does eventually come and stay for at least three years and develop the squad, the club could start to feel a little bit better about who is leading them and who to turn to for direction.
And although many Chelsea fans hated the idea of hiring a former Liverpool manager who openly trashed the club, interim manager Benítez seems to be getting a lot of displaced anger from some because of this revolving-door mentality and the sudden and shocking midseason firing of the beloved Di Matteo.
Remember, Benítez did not hire himself—the board and crazy Uncle Roman went out and got him. As the kids say these days, don’t get it twisted, brother.
Another great thing Mourinho could do for the club if he comes is groom club legend Lampard to be a future Blues manager, something the 34-year-old Englishman and team vice-captain said he is seriously considering in a recent Daily Mail article.
And in another Daily Mail piece, a source close to the team’s second-leading all-time goal scorer (200) said, “Frank’s future at the club is still uncertain, but he has always said he wants to remain at Chelsea. Frank would love [for] Mourinho to return, not only to rekindle the glory days but it could also seal the deal in terms of his own future.
“He has said he would love to stay on at Chelsea in a coaching role once his playing days come to an end.”
So what a great chance for Chelsea to kill like three birds with one stone: Prevent Lampard from leaving this summer to a team like the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS, who have expressed interest in him and retain his services on the pitch for at least another year; keep his knowledge and experience with the team with a path toward a future managerial gig; and give The Great One a chance to show much of a tutor he can really be.
And like the wise ancient Greek philosopher Socrates mentoring Plato or the fictional blind martial arts expert Master Po teaching Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine in the Seventies television show Kung Fu, Mourinho would be the perfect tutor for Student Frank.
So, “Will you walk with me, Grasshopper?”
Like everything in ChelseaWorld these days, the answer to that question will ultimately come down to the whims and patience of Mr. Abramovich. So, for the sake of us all, nurse, please keep giving the wily old Russian his pills. We’re begging you here.
Should Jose Mourinho not end up being Chelsea's next manager, Everton's David Moyes would be a wonderful option to helping to try to restore some sanity at Stamford Bridge next season.
Constantly imagining how much better its beloved club could seems like a pretty big fabric in the being of Chelsea fans and Blues backers seem to buzz to the latest rumors like some worker bee to the queen in the hive.
All these suggested changes could probably be carried out by any new, incoming manager, but it just seems the Mourinho mystique and his demand for excellence is a perfect fit at Stamford Bridge and the best prescription to try to deal with the upper-echelon clubs in the future in the rugged Premier League.
It’s so sad but at the same time understandable that Mourinho’s return may be contingent on Chelsea earning a Champions League berth next season but also a bit scary to consider that studs like Falcao or Fellaini and others may pass on a move to West London should the Blues finish in fifth place or worse.
A report in this past weekend’s Daily Mail said Abramovich will be paying a trip to the Blues training ground in Cobham next week to finalize a short list of managerial candidates which is said to be topped by Mourinho and Everton’s David Moyes..
Should Chelsea not qualify for Champions League and Mourinho decide against returning this summer—you can almost hear the fickle fans now turning on The Great One in June if you listen very closely—Moyes would be an ideal choice, as the wonders he’s worked for the Toffees with limited resources has been nothing short of spectacular.
But it’s quite obvious from this distance that a majority of Celery Nation want Mourinho to come in, play Jesus and quickly heal the maniacal club’s wounds.
So will Ahab be able to land Moby Dick?
Stay tuned brother. These next six weeks will go a long way to providing an answer to that question as well as many significant others over at the recent circus that has become Stamford Bridge.
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