Cesar Azpilicueta is going to have to get used to seeing his former boss in charge of a rival, but he still wished Jose Mourinho well after the 56-year-old was named Tottenham Hotspur manager on Wednesday.
Azpilicueta played for Mourinho during the latter's second spell in charge of Chelsea from 2013 to 2015. He's still part of the Blues first team, but Azpilicueta isn't against the idea of Mourinho succeeding with a London rival, per Dan Sansom of Sky Sports:
"Obviously when we play against each other we both want to win for our teams—but this is football. I wish him well. He's a great manager and obviously it's great for the Premier League to welcome back one of the most successful managers of the past 15 years, so obviously we wish him well."
Sending well wishes to Mourinho is a magnanimous gesture from Azpilicueta given how Spurs are regular challengers to Chelsea's top-four hopes. However, the Blues have the upper hand, with Tottenham 14th in the Premier League after 12 matches—12 points behind Chelsea and 11 points adrift of the qualification places for next season's UEFA Champions League.
It's one reason why Mourinho has replaced Mauricio Pochettino in the dugout, with chairman Daniel Levy talking up his ability to "inspire teams," per an announcement on the club's official website.
In the club's statement on Pochettino's departure, Levy also outlined the main reason the highly regarded manager was sent through the exit door: "Regrettably domestic results at the end of last season and beginning of this season have been extremely disappointing."
Mourinho is a good bet to turn around those results based on his successful track record at the top level. He has won trophies throughout his career, including the Premier League title and League Cup with Azpilicueta at Chelsea in 2015.
Things weren't as successful for Spurs with Pochettino at the helm, but there are plenty who believe the Argentinian was hard done by:
Joe Prince-Wright @JPW_NBCSports
Mauricio Pochettino rebuilt Tottenham over the last 5 years. He created an exciting, young team which finished in the top 4 time and time again and reached major cup finals. He navigated the thrifty nature of Daniel Levy and a delayed stadium. He deserved more patience from #THFC https://t.co/da3kYXidTq
Pochettino's time in the dugout was defined by how he dealt with restricted spending working alongside Levy. A new stadium that cost more than £1 billion that Spurs moved into earlier this year, along with the resulting debt, has further affected the Lilywhites' ability to be a credible player in the transfer market.
Levy's notorious frugality has also been seen as a sticking point for Pochettino:
It's curious to consider whether Mourinho's arrival signals a shift in policy from Levy. Mourinho has traditionally spent big at his various clubs, including both Chelsea and Manchester United.
If he can't do the same at Tottenham, getting more from the incumbent squad will be key. Winning over key players may not be easy considering how many of them still hold Pochettino in high regard.
Star striker Harry Kane and gifted attacking midfielder Dele Alli have been among those to praise and thank their departed chief:
Harry Kane @HKane
Gaffer. I’ll be forever thankful to you for helping me achieve my dreams. We’ve had some amazing moments in the last 5 and a half years that I will never forget. You were my manager but my friend as well and I thank you for that relationship. Good luck with your next chapter! 💙 https://t.co/u64RXV7wd4
Pochettino will be a tough act to follow, but Mourinho's knack for winning silverware could end a drought stretching back to 2008. His main focus will be getting Spurs back into the Champions League after Tottenham lost to Liverpool in last season's final.
Games against rivals will be key, with a reunion against Chelsea taking place in north London on December 22. The return at Stamford Bridge is set for February 22.
Azpilicueta will no doubt be hoping some of the Mourinho magic wears off for those games.