It’s not often Jose Mourinho admits his shortcomings.
“I am sorry that I didn't make [Juan Mata] a stronger player […] I gave him nothing to be honest, and I feel sorry with that,” Mourinho told Sky Sports this weekend after the completion of Mata’s sale to Manchester United.
It wasn’t an open admission of blame on Mourinho’s part, but nonetheless, it was a significant acknowledgement that he partly played a big role in with the Spaniard’s departure.
Mata’s replacement, Mohamed Salah, will hope it proves different for him. And he has every reason to be confident it will.
Salah is a Mourinho player in the way Mata never was. Chelsea’s former No. 10 is a phenomenal talent, but his ability and preference to drift between the lines and float was at the odds with the more industrial, powerful nature Mourinho finds appealing in his players.
Such qualities allow his teams to achieve so much more, defending from the front and proving just as frustrating for the opposition when they’re attacking in defence when Chelsea come forward.
Mourinho's teams have never played with the eye-catching verve of a Barcelona or Arsenal. But while they may not prove as appealing to so-called purists, his track record as a coach says it all as to how effective his teams have been over the years.
We saw it with Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, while the personnel at his disposal as Real Madrid's coach gave Mourinho license to be a little more adventurous than he has ever been throughout his managerial career.
Record goal hauls and points tallies with Real—breaking up Barcelona’s La Liga dominance in the process—outlined that, and we’re seeing something similar develop with Chelsea.
He hasn’t abandoned his core beliefs—make no mistake, Chelsea circa 2014 is very much a Mourinho team. It just has an evolved persona.
The Egyptian looks like a promising capture from FC Basel. He has scored in his last four games against the Blues—twice in the Europa League last term and twice in the Champions League in 2013-14.
At just 21 years old, though, he is a raw talent, one that needs to be nurtured and moulded into an efficient, deadly threat on the flanks.
He may not have the profile of his new teammate Eden Hazard just yet, but Salah finds himself at a similar stage of his career to the Belgian when he first joined Chelsea.
A rising star of the European game, he was in much demand, but we knew little of what he could do. Hazard was hype and potential, not much else. In the 18 months since he arrived in West London, however, he’s lived up to his billing.
We know Hazard can make good on his talents. He already is.
Hazard’s six months as a Mourinho player have made his rise up the charts all the more rapid. As Chelsea’s leading goalscorer in 2013-14, the Chelsea manager has put the 22-year-old on the right path. He’s becoming prolific, disciplined and an even greater asset than the one the Blues paid £32 million to obtain.
We can see on matchdays what Mourinho brings to his players—demanding focus from the sidelines, keeping them switched on and motivated.
It’s what he has done with Hazard this season, transforming him into a player capable of bringing the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge. With will and desire, the same will happen for Salah at Chelsea.
Despite the opportunity of playing with a club whose profile far outweighs that of Liverpool these days, the option of working under Mourinho over Brendan Rodgers would have been a contributing factor to the Egyptian snubbing the Reds’ advances.
Damien Duff, Arjen Robben, Joe Cole—the list of players who have progressed with Mourinho’s guidance is one as long as it is impressive by the world-class stars who complete it. By joining Chelsea, Salah has shown the ambition to join them.
It’s not just about his manager, either. Mourinho has changed the direction this Chelsea team is taking, altering the path to one that suits him more. With that, however, it’s one more suited to the players he has at his command.
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes
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