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So where does the manager formerly known as the Special One go from here?

Twice sacked by Chelsea, Jose Mourinho also left Inter Milan and Real Madrid under a cloud. A brilliant and successful coach, Mourinho is running out of options for his next job.

Assuming he will not want to manage a middle-class club, Europe’s heavyweights will be wary of the baggage the Portuguese brings. Trophies may be guaranteed within the first two years, but his history shows the third year is as likely to bring unrest, a divided dressing room and a controversial departure.

If you were a club president or owner, would you risk Mourinho?

His second departure from Chelsea was no surprise. Apart from the internal damage Mourinho had caused this season, starting with his public humiliation of Dr. Eva Carneiro, which is now the subject of litigation, the corporate image of Chelsea is of battered goods. Roman Abramovich had remained supportive, but Mourinho’s clock was ticking after nine defeats in 16 Premier League games and accusing the players of “betraying” him.

Mourinho’s statements after Monday’s 2-1 defeat at Leicester City were almost as if he was trying to get himself sacked. If this was the case, it became a reality on Thursday. Few tears were shed apart from the most one-eyed of Chelsea fans.

Wherever his next step may be, Mourinho seems to have some sort of death wish, a self-destruct on a hair-trigger and will be remembered for his excesses rather than his triumphs. The titles and Champions Leagues won with FC Porto, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea will take second place to his addictive criticism of match officials, ambulance services, ball boys . . . you name it, Mourinho has blamed them.

Mourinho is the master of “I won” but “they lost.” The “we” factor rarely features with him. He has the skin of an armadillo and an ego that means as he reflects on his latest departure from Stamford Bridge it will be everyone’s fault but his own. A man who fell in love with himself early in life, he has never been unfaithful. So bad, Chelsea sacked the manager called the enemy of football by UEFA twice.

Roman Abramovich has overseen nine managerial dismissals in 12 years, Mourinho’s latest compensation package of around £30 million making it £45 million he has received from Chelsea/Abramovich for his two sackings. This should ensure a reasonably happy Christmas.

Managers are usually wary of criticizing players in public, but Mourinho not only gave his team both barrels, he delivered the entire artillery following the loss against Leicester City. Even by the Portuguese’s standards it was an astonishing, though carefully planned, outburst.

The team had obviously stopped playing for Mourinho. Yes, the players are employed and handsomely paid by Chelsea FC, but it is the manager who dictates the mood and the tempo and the atmosphere in the dressing room had become toxic. The bond between Mourinho and his players was broken beyond repair — you cannot sack eight or nine players so the manager pays the price.

One can only wonder what Abramovich and the squad thought when “amazing” Mourinho praised himself — no change there then — for raising the standard of his title-winning players last season last Monday.

“I did phenomenal work,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself thinking that last season I did such an amazing job I brought players to a level that is not their level and, if this is true, I brought them to such a level where this season they couldn’t keep the super motivation to be leaders and champions.”

So now we know. Mourinho won the title, not the players.

As The Japan Times went to press, Guus Hiddink, who was Chelsea’s interim manager in 2009 when he led the club to F.A. Cup success, was the favorite to succeed Mourinho until a permanent manager can be appointed next summer.

The Chelsea supporters who have remained loyal to Mourinho will no doubt make their feelings known at Saturday’s match against Sunderland, inevitably tagged a relegation six-pointer.

However, two managers who will be privately if not publicly raising a metaphorical celebratory glass are Arsene Wenger and Claudio Ranieri.

Mourinho called Wenger “a specialist in failure” and said of Ranieri, his predecessor at Chelsea and who inflicted the defeat on the Portuguese that proved decisive: “He’s old and he hasn’t won anything.”

Gunning for glory: This season represents Arsenal’s best chance of winning its first Premier League title since 2004.

It is the most open, most competitive season in years. It may also be the poorest in terms of quality of the challengers — Leicester City, who were 2,000:1 to be champions and among the favorites to be relegated, is setting the pace with Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United in pursuit.

None of the usual suspects are as strong as in recent seasons and Arsene Wenger knows he must take advantage of this collective lapse. Chelsea is in the mire, the Manchester rivals blow hot and cold and though Arsenal can be a Jekyll and Hyde team (one point from matches against West Bromwich and Norwich) there is something about the Gunners that gives the impression that they are genuine contenders rather than a constant work in progress.

The long-term injuries concerns are Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin and Danny Welbeck, who are unlikely to play again until the spring. Jack Wilshere should be back in three weeks, but the player Wenger must pray avoids injury is Mesut Ozil.

The Germany midfielder’s total of assists this season is 13 and he epitomizes team play above individualism with his unselfish style, always happy to lay the ball off to someone in a better position than try for glory himself. He is a superstar without the usual trappings.

There are still some who criticise Ozil, who cost a club-record £42 million from Real Madrid, possibly because he does not catch the eye as goalscorers do.

“I’m the sort of player who likes to create goals,” Ozil said after joining Arsenal. “My team-mates know me as a player who is not selfish.”

Wenger knows Ozil’s value to the team. He said: “I think, deeply, he is a very, very collective player. If you tell him to do that, he will do it for you. His talent is exceptional, fantastic. He sacrifices himself for the team. Sometimes he releases the ball when you want him to, sometimes he will do it when you don’t want him to do it.”

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.

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