LONDON – Jose Mourinho wants to be where people love him.
“In England I am loved by the fans and the media, fairly criticized or credited when I deserve,” he said after Real Madrid’s Champions League knockout by Borussia Dortmund.
How quickly he forgets. So do the Mourinho fan club among the English press who can’t wait for his return. In March 2007, while he was Chelsea manager, he was so upset with the English media he stopped talking to them. He was furious at what he regarded as deliberately misleading reporting after he admitted to a Spanish journalist that “it would be an honor” to manage Real Madrid.
He said: “Until further notice I will not be available to the press except for TV and radio commitments around our matches.” Mourinho also refused to speak to Premier League paymaster Sky Sports for several weeks because it repeatedly showed a bad tackle by Michael Essien on its news bulletins.
Mourinho may be loved by most Chelsea fans, but the feelgood factor is far from unanimous for the man called “an enemy of football” by UEFA in 2005 after his unfounded allegations that Anders Frisk visited the Barcelona dressing room at halftime in a Champions League tie that led to the Swedish referee’s premature retirement.
The South Central Ambulance Service certainly doesn’t love the person it would not call the “Special One.” In October 2006, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech suffered a severe head injury against Reading. The paramedics treated Cech with their usual swift professionalism, but Mourinho claimed that Cech was “30 minutes in the dressing room waiting for an ambulance . . . if my goalkeeper dies in that dressing room, it is something English football has to think about.”
Mourinho should think about getting his facts right. Records showed the ambulance had arrived within seven minutes and Cech was in the hospital just 19 minutes later. The ambulance service is still waiting for an apology, which is taking far longer to arrive than its paramedics did.
Nor should we forget his abuse of Arsene Wenger: “I think he is one of these, how do you call it in English, voyeurs? He is someone who likes to watch other people.”
Mourinho’s CV is full of disciplinary excesses, even accepting a police caution for a quarantine irregularity concerning his dog. It cannot be denied Mourinho has proved himself a hugely successful coach, but he is rarely far away from controversy. He leaves clubs with not so much baggage but excess baggage.
In March 2010 he said: “It is a simple situation, I am happy at Inter, but unhappy with Italian football. I do not like it (Italian football) because it doesn’t like me.” More recently he said the Spanish media “hate me.”
Does he ever ask himself why this could be? Why he becomes so unpopular? Is it always them, not him? After Real’s European exit this week he used his press conference as a platform for self-promotion and what was seen as a public application to return to Chelsea, where Roman Abramovich has sacked so many managers he’s having to start again.
It would cost the Russian £12 million ($18.6 million) in compensation to bring Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge — £6 million less than the £18 million compensation the Portuguese received when he was sacked six years ago. So firing and rehiring would cost Abramovich £30 million. A special price, indeed.
Mourinho’s return would be like trying again after a divorce. All the problems that caused the split initially would inevitably remain. Last time around, there was in-fighting, internal politicking, both men still have huge egos, both crave absolute control, while Abramovich wants sexy, successful football — in Mourinho’s last year Chelsea’s football was neither sexy nor successful.
As he is not wanted in Madrid, Mourinho needs a job, and with Rafa Benitez leaving at the end of the season, Chelsea need a manager. Before any flags are waved, rose-tinted glasses should be taken off and a glass of reality drunk.
AFTER 45 games it comes down to 90 minutes on Saturday, maybe even the final 10 seconds, to decide the Championship’s winners and losers. Thirteen clubs are involved in games with automatic promotion, playoffs or relegation at stake. There will be pain and pleasure, cheers and tears as the season draws to a frantic finale. Fans will be listening to radios, waiting — praying — for a text or tweet that their rivals have hopefully conceded a goal. Emotions will sway, but at around 2.40 p.m. fates will be settled, the reality of success or failure slowly starting to sink in.
For either Hull or Watford, a potential prize of around £130 million ($200 million) awaits the winner of automatic promotion to the Premier League along with champion Cardiff. For fallen and still-falling giants Wolves, the seemingly inevitable confirmation that a club which played at Old Trafford last season will soon be heading for Gillingham in League One.
Only three clubs are assured of their up-or-down fate. Cardiff is promoted as champion, Brighton is certain to finish fourth while Bristol City is relegated. Apart from the second automatic promotion place, three playoff positions and two relegation spots are up for grabs.
Six clubs will battle it out at the top: Second or third: Hull/Watford. Fourth: Brighton, 72 points. Then: Crystal Palace, 69, Bolton, 67, Nottingham Forest, 67, and Leicester, 65.
Hull knows that a win will guarantee it automatic promotion with Saturday’s visitor to the KC Stadium, Cardiff, though a draw or even a defeat will be enough depending on how Watford fares against Leeds. Hull lost at home to Watford when a win would have all but guaranteed it promotion. Since that defeat, Hull has stuttered, winning only two of its next five matches and none of the last three. Watford went three games without a win after that victory, but has regained form with two successive wins.
While Brighton is assured of a place in the playoffs, Palace will join it if it defeats Peterborough. If Bolton beats local rival Blackpool, only a mathematical improbability will prevent it from securing a playoff berth.
The most intriguing fixture is the East Midlands derby between Forest and Leicester, where no love will be lost. After a 100 percent record in January, Leicester has slipped and to reach the playoffs it must beat Forest and hope other results go its way.
At the other end of the table, seven clubs could still be relegated, though Blackburn is realistically, if not mathematically, safe.
Wolves have to win at Brighton and hope for a sequence of results as likely as a lottery win while Blackburn is all but safe while Millwall will stay up if it wins at Derby. However, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday, Peterborough, Barnsley and Wolves all need points (in Wolves’ case a miracle, too) and must hope other results go their way.
In the final reckoning, goal-difference may be decisive, perhaps even one goal being the difference between survival and relegation which would guarantee a summer of thinking back to that missed easy chance or when the ball slipped through the goalkeeper’s hands.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.