Mourinho Still Has Moments of the Old Magic in the Champions League

Nick MillerFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2014

Chelsea's manager Jose Mourinho watches his team play during the Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match between Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham).
Matt Dunham

Jose Mourinho has provided plenty of evidence in the last couple of seasons that he is perhaps not the manager he was in his first spell at Chelsea and with Internazionale.

There were stories of him losing the Real Madrid dressing room, for various reasons including but not limited to his treatment of Iker Casillas, as laid out in a new book called The Special One: The Dark Side Of Jose Mourinho, reported by the Daily Mail.

While not every word of Mourinho's can be taken at face value, his constant references to PSG spending money suggest that at the very least he has lost all sense of self-awareness, given the riches Chelsea have at their disposal. He was quoted by the Times on Tuesday as saying:

Eto’o didn't play the first game, and I’m not sure he plays the second game. Ramires is suspended. [Nemanja] Matic and [Mohamed] Salah can’t play in the Champions League. And we are not crying. You know? So the fact that a multimillionaire club that buys players and players, doesn't play one important player like Ibrahimovic I don’t think is a problem.

There is the sense that the extraordinary camaraderie that represented his first spell at Stamford Bridge, when the team would seemingly run through walls for him, certainly seems to be under some threat, especially with his continued and very public criticism of his strikers.

He was quoted by ESPN of saying, after the first-leg defeat to PSG, in which he played Andre Schurrle as a striker:

I'm not happy with my strikers' performances, so I have to try things.

With Andre at least I know we have one more player to have the ball, we have one more player to associate with the other players.

Football is also about scoring goals. That is for strikers, for real strikers. I had to try.

Yet, he can still produce moments of the old magic. Mourinho continued his consistent record in the Champions League by guiding Chelsea to a 2-0 second-leg win over PSG on Wednesday night, a scoreline that took the Londoners through on away goals.

It was, in many ways, a classic Mourinho performance—not a free-flowing classic, but one in which they somehow found a way to win from somewhere, conjuring a goal from one of the very strikers he so derided after the first leg, Demba Ba.

Of course it relied on a reasonable amount of luck—on another day Edinson Cavani would have taken one of the many chances that fell to him, and the way the ball fell to Ba for his goal, ricocheting off a number of players and into his path, was remarkably fortunate.

However, this is what Mourinho does. He finds a way to win, whether that's a lucky way, a scrappy way or a beautiful way, and plenty of that is because despite the public criticism, enough of his players still seem devoted to him.

Kirsty Wigglesworth

After Ba scored on Wednesday night and the Chelsea players ran to the corner in celebration, Mourinho joined them not to share in their joy, but to impart tactical instructions.

It was perhaps telling that Samuel Eto'o, the centre-forward who Mourinho deployed on the wing to great success in Inter's Champions League win in 2010, didn't join his team-mates in celebration, but instead waited beside the pile of players for his manager's commands. If a team wasn't fully behind their manager, we would not see that sort of respect and deference.

Mourinho said of the "celebrations," as quoted by the Independent:

It was to tell the players how we had to play the last minutes. I knew they wanted to celebrate, to think the game is over. They forget that they had three plus three or four other minutes to play, and the way we were playing we couldn't carry on winning 2-0. If the quarter-finals had eight fantastic teams, imagine the four that are going to reach the semi-finals.

Mourinho has guided yet another team into the last four of the Champions League. If Chelsea play as they did on Wednesday night, there are few reasons to think that they are not capable of winning the whole thing.