Jose Mourinho will face his former club Real Madrid in Miami on Wednesday having guided his Chelsea side to five wins from five preseason games. Although the successes of preseason do not always translate to competitive matches, things seem to be running smoothly for The Special One.
Many commentators are expecting him to emulate the triumphs of his first term almost immediately, but the Mourinho in the Stamford Bridge dugout today is working from a new blueprint. When he arrived in London in 2004 as a fresh-faced 41-year-old in 2004, the mandate was to win everything immediately, whatever the cost.
Things are different now.
The wider footballing world has woken up to the chasm in competition that is caused by super rich owners throwing billions of pounds at their club. UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules will prevent Mourinho from spending anywhere near the £225.7 million he was allowed to splurge between 2005-07. This would cause a problem for any other manager, but Mourinho is in a very fortunate position this time around.
He is taking charge of a team of champions rather than wannabes, which will make it easier to spur them on to further success. Alongside the veterans from his first spell in charge, the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Oscar will develop into the stars of the future under his guidance.
There is no doubt that Mourinho had plenty to prove in 2004. Having won the Champions League with Porto, it was important that he showed his critics that he was no mere flash in the pan, and having won domestic titles in England, Italy and Spain in the intervening nine years, he has achieved exactly that. Although his time at Real Madrid ended bitterly, there can be no doubt that he helped to break Barcelona’s dominance of La Liga in his first two years at the Bernebeu, and he delivered the first ever treble in Italian football during his time at Inter Milan.
These achievements would have made a lesser manager more arrogant, but they appear to have had the opposite effect on Mourinho.
While the English media waited with baited breath for his first press conference following his return to Chelsea, they would have been slightly disappointed by the more demure figure who eventually appeared. Far from anointing himself as The Special One and making bold predictions about his future successes, Mourinho appeared to be calmer, more chilled out, if you will.
It is unlikely that you will hear him winding up other managers and insulting referees quite so frequently, as he will hope to let his players do the talking for him on the pitch. That is not to say that the dramatic soundbites will dry up, only that they will be more diplomatic than in previous years.
Now that he has completed his European tour, Mourinho is looking to prove the detractors who claim that he is a nomad, unable to settle at one club for the long term, wrong. He envisions a “long and happy marriage” between himself and Chelsea FC and his aim this time around is to create a legacy to rival Sir Alex Ferguson’s at Manchester United.
He has a squad with a low enough median age to achieve this aim and he is already outlining his plans for the development of the academy, something he has been accused of neglecting in the past.
Chelsea are a different club now, and Mourinho is a different man, but there is one thing which has remained consistent between the two parties: the desire, and ability, to win. That is one thing that time will never change.