Jose Mourinho, the man with the Midas touch, has yet again reinforced his status as the greatest club manager in world football.
His Inter Milan side enjoyed a well deserved victory over Chelsea, the club who disposed of him three years ago. Mourinho exposed Chelsea as a shadow of the side he built, a side whose development has stalled under subsequent management.
Mourinho’s trademark of building teams around a powerful midfield and defensive core meant that Chelsea were effectively undone by a superior version of themselves. Mourinho gave his former employers a masterclass in defensive play and attitude.
The importance of the missing Michael Essien was highlighted yet again, but with Balotelli left at home, Inter were also not at full strength. Chelsea lacked width; the width that a Bosingwa or a Cole would have provided, the width that a Ribery would have provided.
With the sublime Sneijder pulling the strings, Chelsea lacked creativity just as much as Inter oozed it, and the aggregate scoreline of 3-1 was a fair reflection over two legs. Drogba was marshaled by Lucio expertly, disarming Chelsea’s main threat with the ease that only the world’s best defender can do.
Inter were spot on, but for Chelsea, there may be bigger problems on the horizon.
Abramovich’s investment in his short-term ideal has backfired. Despite the consecutive Premier League titles under Mourinho, this Chelsea side have seen its best days.
What Chelsea needed tonight was a 21-year-old with energy and verve who could come on and unlock Inter’s concrete defence. The player they brought on, Joe Cole, was anonymous, and looked miles away from a World Cup placing.
Chelsea’s lack of a medium-term plan is bordering on a crisis for Abramovich.
The great sides of the past have changed their teams while at the top, not on the way down. And Chelsea, who has only won one FA Cup since Mourinho's departure in 2007, has waited too long to invest in its second wave of success.
Chelsea could easily go on to do the double, but even if it does behind Abramovich’s smile, he will rue tonight’s result. He may one day concede that letting Jose Mourinho leave the club is the biggest mistake Chelsea will ever make.