Instead of re-inventing himself, Jose Mourinho could be descending into self-parody.
Too much of something eventually becomes too much. The natural course of things is to produce a cyclic motion that defines heights of excitement to depths of disenchantment.
It could be that this is the path Jose Mourinho is treading. The Portuguese manager has been one of a kind. In the 20th Century, he is the epitome of Bela Guttman --- the Hungarian manager who guided Benfica to two European Cups in the early sixties. Both managers’s career paths are defined by short termism and racking up trophies. As such, Mourinho is very much the nomadic manager that Guttman was. The fact that he has never managed at a club for more than three seasons is a similarity of Guttman’s three year rule. Mourinho does however have two European Cups, League titles in four different countries and countless domestic cups to his name.
But to sustain this has required immense pressure. The self-confidence Mourinho portrays signifies his belief that he is the Special One. No matter how special he is though, there is no denying that something seems wrong with Mourinho post Real Madrid.
It is almost as if the second coming to Chelsea was a mistake. That being said, and with all the talk of crisis, there is no denying that his Chelsea side is still within reach of the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Yet, there is a difference. It could be that the reason he left is the reason he is being held back. In 2007, Roman Abramovich decided that enough was enough and that despite the trophy haul, he wanted to see his side play with more enterprise. Mourinho could not provide that and so he had to go.
Since then, more fantasy has been added to the forceful empire Mourinho had created. While Frank Lampard still storms through from midfield and while John Obi Mikel continues to add steel, there is more imagination with the fancy feet of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar.
This is not what the Special One is used to. Hard work and determination has dominated his sides more than defence splitting passes ever have. He is in effect a reactionary manager. He studies the opponents and nullifies their threats. Never was this more evident than in the 2010 Champions League semi-final tie against his nemeses Barcelona.
And while that performance earned him the job at Barcelona’s arch-rivals Real Madrid, it could be that this is what has changed him.
Constant struggles and ranting, self-edifying charisma and the determination to turn an age old rivalry into a world war seemingly took a lot of his energy. It was also at Madrid where he had to bear the scrutiny of not just winning, but winning while playing an exhibitionist style. The fact that he was up against the best team this side of the century for most of that time did not help.
Thus, retreating to his home away from home seemed the logical decision. But while Mourinho needed a holiday, the Premier League is anything but.
He looks tired and the charisma seems gone. Maybe, just maybe, nobody can ever match the Mourinho of mid-2004 to mid-2007 --- not even Mourinho himself. It could be that while he drove Pep Guardiola mad, he also needed to emulate the Catalan manager by leaving the game for a year so as to recharge his batteries for a year.
The fatigue is clearly evident. This is not the Chelsea that grows in strength as the games wears on. One ability Mourinho’s sides had was that power and force to kill off the game in the second half. This season, the Blues have looked blunt as the game goes on, seemingly holding on rather than kicking on.
And there is the fact that for the biggest away games, Mourinho has set out to not concede rather than look to take the initiative and search for a win. At Old Trafford, Mourinho contently sat back, played Andre Shuerrler as the center forward supposingly to ensure Michael Carrick did not venture as far forward in midfield. At the Emirates, he looked to counter and when the Arsenal grew in confidence towards the end of the game, he took off Spanish striker Fernando Torres and replaced him with Brazilian defender David Luiz.
Even for Mourinho, this is pushing it too far. The reactionary tactic is being used with too much negation. The strategy may be not to lose but there is always the danger of succumbing to one momentary lapse of concentration or the fateful hand of ill luck.
Then again, this is the strategy that has made him so successful for such a short time in management. Maybe Mourinho is at that point where with the need for re-imagination he has descended into doing more of the same. Only that without the previous intensity, Mourinho has discarded re-invention and is pushing his ideal to the utmost extreme.