While the majority of the football universe amassed in front of Jim White and his lovable gang of busty misfits last Monday, a certain overcoat-toting Portuguese man uncharacteristically decided to keep out of the headlines, and for good reason. Jose Mourinho is not known for his apathy, and after a ‘13/14 campaign that saw his Chelsea side finish in a solid-if-not-disappointing third place and lose a Champions League semi-final to former rival Atletico, many expected fireworks this summer. However, instead we have seen the astute, innovative side of Mourinho. Whisper it softly, but Chelsea are stronger than ever.
The transition began early last year when rumours that Chelsea stalwarts Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole would not be returning to the club started to gain traction. Legacy players like ‘Cashley’ and ‘Lamps’ are wildly popular with fans, they evoke memories of Premier League and Champions League dominance. However, the club would not budge, sticking to their ideals and realising the need to progress. Soon, it became clear that PSG would pay whatever it took to take maverick centre back David Luiz, and the embers of a revolution began to flourish.
With John Terry still able to produce for at least another year, young project Kurt Zouma waiting in the wings and Branislav Ivanovic able to move inside if required, money did not need to be invested in the centre of defence (at least not yet). Instead, Mourinho snapped up 2 of the men that ended his European hopes last year – long term target Diego Costa and full back Filipe Luis.
Next came the lynchpin, the Lampard-but-not-Lamaprd. With Oscar providing the brunt of the creativity from the middle, Mourinho gazed on his trio of Matic, Ramires and Mikel and decided that he needed more than just energy and ball winning. In stepped a misguided, misused Cesc Fabregas:
“For Barça he was the fake nine, the number ten and winger but I know and he knows what is his best position so he is giving exactly what we need. Quick thinking in midfield.”
– Jose Mourinho
Fabregas entered the side as a guaranteed starter destined to be paired with defence-first brute in Nemanja Matic, who can cover if he roams or comes deep to get the ball, and a snip at £30 million. That’s Ander Herrera plus ~1 million for a player who totalled 0.72 Goals + Assists/90mins. What a bargain.
Soon, the spectre of Romelu Lukaku emerged again, requesting more first team football or a move elsewhere. While he could no doubt have been an effective player in Mourinho’s NuChelsea, Jose had his new talisman in Costa, and so off the giant Belgian phenom went to Everton for a princely £28 million. Not to worry, disgruntled Loic Remy was plundered for depth and the familiar Didier Drogba returned to appease the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ crowd, who were still reeling from the lack of Lampard on the back of the shirts for the first time since 2001.
Just like that, the decaying legacy of Chelsea past had been replaced with a fresh energy and a youthful-yet-accomplished vibe. Factor in the replacement of Petr Cech with the best young keeper in the world (who just happened to be also on the books), and this team is not only arguably the best in the league as it stands, but could be for the next 5-7 years.
It’s only when you look at the 26 loan players that Chelsea have allowed to leave to gain first team experience – the likes of Piazon, Atsu, Moses, Delac, Van Ginkel, Romeu, Kalas, Eden’s little brother Thorgan, Chalobah and Kakuta –that you realise the future doesn’t just look bright, it looks downright scary. Oh, and don’t forget Fernando Torres, who ….. actually, just forget Fernando Torres.
So we go back to Monday night, and Jose nursing his vintage red in classic Bond villain style. He see’s United struggling to offload it’s spare parts and buying players they can ill-afford and don’t really need, and a Man City side fresh off the heels from loss at home against a poor Stoke side. He see’s Liverpool as a team on the rise, but with their heart and soul on the decline, investing money in striker’s who could just as easily go to jail as score 30 goals in a season. Jose isn’t building his army any more, it’s already built, and there’s nothing anybody can do to stop him.
Chris Nash (@SergioNashquets) is an independent blogger and creator of www.dotherabona.com. He enjoys defeating Twitter trolls, two footed lunges, and Remy Cabella’s hairstyle