LONDON – When Jose Mourinho was introduced to English football he announced he was a “special one.”
Eleven years later his record still justifies his self-claim. At the same time, we also know Mourinho is a rude one, a boorish one, an ungrateful one, a confrontational one, a disrespectful one, a spiteful one and an insulting one, none of which bothers the petulant Portuguese because all that matters to him is that he is a successful one.
Yet even Chelsea fans, who have backed their manager in the wake of multiple disciplinary charges and excesses, agree Mourinho’s demoting of Eva Carneiro, the team doctor, was inexplicable, unjustifiable and wrong.
The publicity has been damaging to Chelsea even by Mourinho’s standards, and while he is seemingly in a minority of one to believe he was right — owner Roman Abramovich has backed his manager, but is said to be annoyed he criticized a member of staff through the media — there is little chance he will back down. Mourinho doesn’t do apologies.
Last Saturday, Dr. Carneiro had followed General Medical Council protocol when she was waved on to the pitch with physiotherapist Jon Fearn by referee Michael Oliver to treat the apparently injured Eden Hazard. Nobody can enter the field of play without the referee’s permission so Dr. Carneiro did not act on her instincts.
Because Hazard had received treatment the midfielder had to leave the pitch for a short while. As goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had been sent off, this reduced Chelsea to nine men for maybe 15 seconds during stoppage time in the 2-2 draw with Swansea. Chelsea made a hash of the free kick awarded for the foul on Hazard by Gylfi Sigurdsson and the Footballer of the Year was waved back on to the pitch by Oliver and helped to stop a Swansea counterattack.
“I wasn’t happy with my medical staff because even if you are a medical doctor or secretary on the bench, you have to understand the game,” said Mourinho, proving a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. “If you go to the pitch to assist a player, then you must be sure that a player has a serious problem. I was sure that Eden didn’t have a serious problem. He had a knock and was very tired.”
If anyone was at fault, it was Hazard for convincing Oliver that he was injured, not tired and trying to waste valuable time. Ignoring the request by the referee to come on would have put Dr. Carneiro in breach of one of the GMC’s first tenets under the “safety and quality” responsibilities. In effect, she had no option, whatever Mourinho’s misplaced feelings.
His reaction was to downgrade Dr. Carneiro’s position to training ground duties only. Fearn appears to have escaped any punishment which has inevitably left Mourinho open to claims of sexism as well as ignorance of a doctor’s role during a match.
Dr. Carneiro’s mistake was to thank people for their support on her Facebook page. She should know Mourinho well enough to realize how he would react to this and it was in a spiteful, revengeful if unsurprising way.
Should Dr. Carneiro wish, she would appear to have a cast iron case for constructive dismissal, but given the millions of pounds in compensation Abramovich has paid sacked managers this would not cause the Russian a sleepless minute let alone night.
Mourinho thrives on confrontation and the way he has attacked Dr. Carneiro appears to be a build-up of frustration during the summer. He was unhappy the club (i.e. Abramovich) sold Petr Cech to Arsenal; he was angry he lost his unbeaten record against Arsene Wenger in the Community Shield after the inevitable pre-match barbs toward the Frenchman; he has bad-mouthed Manuel Pellegrini, Rafa Benitez and Roberto Martinez; he accused other clubs of trying to buy the title, ignoring the fact his squad cost £373 million to assemble.
Chelsea travels to the Etihad to play Manchester City on Sunday and there is every chance that after two games the champions will have only one point. Heaven knows who will be Mourinho’s target then.
Chelsea struggled against a lively, organized Swansea which was good value for its point. In contrast, City’s display in winning 3-0 at West Bromwich was one of the most complete performances by a Premier League side in recent years. David Silva was unstoppable, Raheem Sterling made an impressive debut while Yaya Toure, after an indifferent season last time around, was back to his majestic best.
“I am sure we are going to see the same Yaya we saw two seasons ago,” said Pellegrini. “Last season was a strange one for him with the death of his brother and other things. I don’t think he was properly focused and we have spoken about that. But I don’t think he deserved the amount of criticism he received. Maybe it wasn’t his best season but he’s still an important player here.”
Toure is the heart of City, the driving force in midfield, a box-to-box player who, at his best, is probably the finest in this role in the world.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.