Godfather Of Champions 597 This Is An Important Game
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He was once an interpreter for Robson, when he coached Barcelona, as well as for van Gaal. His coaching career officially began with the Portuguese domestic powerhouse club, Benfica. But after nine games, he resigned due to a disagreement with the board. Following that, he coached Portugal's underdog, União de Leiria, which he managed to advance to the fifth place in the league within half a season and set the best results in the club's history.
In January 2002, he became the manager of Porto, Portugal's other powerhouse club and helped the team get out of the bad state from the first half of the season to eventually obtaining the third place in the league.
Mourinho completed his first full season in 2003. He led the team to win the triple Primeira Liga, Taça de Portugal, and UEFA Cup t.i.tles in one shot and obtained a Treble.
2004 was a glorious year in Mourinho's coaching career. Not only did he help the team to defend its league t.i.tle, but he also won the UEFA Champions League t.i.tle with three goals over Monaco and led the team to the top of Europe.
After he joined Chelsea in 2005, he helped the team take its first league t.i.tle in half a century in his first season.
Chelsea defended its league t.i.tle in 2006.
However, the impressive and unbounded manager was now in big trouble.
Chelsea had a poor record in the league tournament and encountered the same problems as the Forest team in the Champions League group stage — the first two games in the group stage were a draw and a loss. Similarly, they won in the third game to save a "match point." The English media compared the two men, stating that both were very young, individualistic, and brilliant. However, the two young managers had both met a serious challenge in their coaching careers.
On the surface, that was how it was. Nottingham Forest and Chelsea had had erratic results recently, sometimes good and sometimes bad. However, if someone dug deeper, they would find that Twain was much happier than Mourinho. The owner of the Forest team trusted and supported Twain. The Forest team's problem lay in its compet.i.tive level, which was easy to solve. On the other hand, Chelsea's problems had nothing to do with its compet.i.tiveness and were related to Mourinho and Abramovich, both of whom were unyielding in nature. Since it had to do with character, the problem could not be resolved.
Since September 18th, when Chelsea was forced to a 1:1 draw by the underdog, Rosenborg BK in the first game of the Champions League group stage, rumors of Mourinho's dismissal were endless. There was a lot of news out there about the bad relations.h.i.+ps between Mourinho and Abramovich, Mourinho and Ballack, as well as Shevchenko, Mourinho and Grant, and so on.
There were so much negative news, but Mourinho continued to lead the team.
Twain usually did not care much about how Mourinho was since the media covered him anyway. He was able to get a rough idea when he occasionally skimmed the news. This time, he had to pay attention even if he did not want to, because Mourinho was at their doorstep.
On November 11th, Singles Day, Nottingham Forest would host Chelsea on its home ground.
As soon as the Champions League game was played, the media began to build up the league game between Chelsea and the Forest team while they hyped the Forest team's eight-goal ma.s.sacre of Beşiktaş. The game would not be the most attention-grabbing if it had been just been between two teams, but there was also a matchup between a.r.s.enal and Manchester United at the same time.
The compet.i.tion schedule made the media feel that there was a lot of value to build up.
Before Mourinho came to England and while Tony Twain still worked for the Forest youth team, the a.r.s.enal manager, Wenger, and Manchester United manager, Ferguson, were a special sight in the Premier League. The feud between them could be written into ten books, made into five films, and then become a video game. In China, the media once described the relations.h.i.+p between the two men as "codependently insulting," which was a good description to capture the complex relations.h.i.+p between the two. Even though they were sworn rivals, they understood each other the best. It was complicated, as it could not come down to a friend or enemy, and at the same, it was a case of "mutual appreciation of heroes." The inexplicable relations.h.i.+p was due to the two men's different positions and characters.
The two were the most famous and cla.s.sic enemies in the football world.
Their war of words accompanied the Premier League through almost ten years until Mourinho's arrival in 2004 broke the delicate relations.h.i.+p between the two people. After Mourinho came to Chelsea, he frequently launched psychological warfare on both Wenger and Ferguson, so the power struggle between the two heroes became tripart.i.te division of the Three Kingdoms.
Good things would not last forever. A year later, Nottingham Forest, led by Tony Twain, returned to the Premier League. The English Premier League's technical area was suddenly enlivened.
Tony Twain had an eccentric temper and character. His sharp wit and words were not inferior to those of his seniors, and his presence thrilled the British tabloids. Some people likened him to a mad dog. He would bite whenever he saw someone, and as long as that someone was an opponent, that person could not escape.
"The Three Kingdoms" became the "Four Heavenly Kings." Other people preferred to separate the four men into two pairs. Ferguson and Wenger represented the last decade of the Premier League, while Mourinho and Twain represented the next decade of the Premier League. The readers and fans in England would never have to worry about loneliness after Ferguson retired, and the tabloid reporters did not have to worry about the lack of interesting sidelights off the field to report.
In the past, the encounters of Wenger and Ferguson would attract the most attention, but this time, their limelight was overshadowed by the two young men.
There were many reasons for the game to receive such attention.
"Madman Versus Madman"
"Mourinho's embarra.s.sing record — the record of never beating Tony Twain"
"Mourinho and Tony Twain's ultimate showdown?" The last headline, used by a London media outlet, was not an exaggeration. There were plenty of signs that the game was likely to be the last encounter between Mourinho and Tony Twain in the Premier League.
Mourinho's hair had gotten a lot grayer, and his beard had unknowingly grown fuller. His eyes were still sharp and formidable. When he pursed his lips, his expression looked like a Greek marble sculpture, angular and sharp. It gave off a sense of "a hero strove to make a strong stand at the end of the road."
The man who had initially taken over the helm at Stamford Bridge with the honor and aura of a "Champions League champion" was now in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. The team's locker room was divided into two factions with him at the heart of one group and the other dominated by Abramovich. Before, he used to worry about how to deal with his opponents on the pitch, but now he had to worry about how to win in a game of tug of war with the club chairman, even if it were to happen in stages.
In early November, London was covered by hazy drizzle. The nickname "London Fog" was born out of the industrial emissions from factory chimneys in the inner city of London in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Now, London no longer had chimneys standing in great numbers or industrial waste covering the entire sky, but London was currently still the "London Fog"— hazy from the misty rain.
Stamford Bridge was empty, as it was a game day. There was no one there except for some tourists and staff.
There was a black spot in the blue grandstand. He was the only person in the stadium.
José Mourinho sat alone right in the middle of Stamford Bridge's "Matthew Harding" stand. It was the North Stand of Stamford Bridge and currently the home fans' stand. Opposite him was the famous South Stand, once the "Shed End stand," the hardcore Blues fans' favorite place.
The Portuguese, clad in his famous Armani windbreaker, sat motionless in the stands amidst the drizzle. His interlocked fingers supported his chin, as if he were "The Thinker" statue.
He had been sitting there for ten minutes.
An hour ago, he had a private discussion with the club's owner, Abramovich. No one knew about it and he had no intention of telling anyone.
Abramovich's face looked terrible, apparently due to the team's poor record. Generally speaking, when a team did not perform well, the first person responsible was the manager. No matter how many brilliant results the manager had obtained before, those honors could only represent the past. That was an unwavering truth in professional football.
Unfortunately, Mourinho had now experienced that cruel truth firsthand.
Abramovich was dissatisfied that he did not fulfill his promise of the Champions League t.i.tle, since he had led the team for four years. In the fourth game of the Champions League group stage that had just concluded, Chelsea was unable to breach Schalke 04's goal in the away game, and Abramovich's favorite Shevchenko sat on the bench for ninety minutes.
During the discussion, Abramovich asked Mourinho why he did not consider sending Shevchenko up to play when the team could not break open the goal.
Mourinho replied in a hard tone, "the Ukrainian felt some muscle soreness when he warmed up before the game, Mr. Chairman." Any fool would know that it was an excuse, and Abramovich was angry was that Mourinho took him for a fool. However, he controlled his fury and asked about the league tournament, especially since they were about to face an opponent that caused embarra.s.sment for Chelsea. The only team that Chelsea had not won against when they swept through England was Nottingham Forest.
The record made all Chelsea people uncomfortable, Mourinho as well. He was a haughty man who could not accept the reality that he had been unable to beat a man like Twain for three years.
"I promise to win this game, Mr. Chairman." His answer this time was what Abramovich liked to hear.
It did not matter even if he did not guarantee. If he lost to Twain again, there would be hard times ahead.
However, the discussion caused Mourinho's recent bad mood to get gloomier, just like the weather in London. He knew what kind of person his immediate superior was, because he was that kind of person himself. The fatal problem was that people of that sort of character simply could not work together for too long. Otherwise, there would be a lot of contradictions, big and small, acc.u.mulating until it finally became the beginning of a meltdown.
Furthermore, he had already heard the sound of rubble falling down the bedrock.
Splitting and cracking, splitting and cracking...
Mourinho looked up at the roof of the stadium above his eyes. The rain hit it with a dense sound. Only then did he notice that the rain had gotten heavier.
A man in a yellow raincoat appeared under the stands, and he realized that there was another person in the originally empty stand. He stared for a bit before he discovered that it was the team's manager. He hurriedly waved and shouted, "sir! Mr. Mourinho! Why are you here?"
Mourinho got up from his seat and walked to the railing, covered in rain. "Ah, I suddenly wanted to take a walk, so I came here. Am I interrupting your work?"
The other man waved his hand. "No, not at all. I'm just here to check things out too." He saw the rain drenched Mourinho's hair and jacket, and pointed to the sky. "It's raining, sir."
Mourinho looked up at the sky and the cold rain hit his face, but he did not avoid it. He just squinted.
"Thank you, the rain is not very heavy... In that case, I'm leaving. Goodbye..." He glanced at the face of the other man shaded under his raincoat. "...Mr. Scott Lawrence."
The other man obviously did not expect that as an ordinary turf maintenance worker, the famous manager, José Mourinho, would know his name. He stood rooted to the ground in excitement. By the time he reacted, Mourinho was long gone.
Scott Lawrence looked around the stands and did not see Mourinho's black figure anywhere. The sounds of their conversation was gone, and Stamford Bridge became quiet again, with no other sounds except for the rain.
The ordinary stadium turf maintenance worker was a member of the entire club, but he was also one of the most common and ordinary members. The work they did was the most important, but no one mentioned their names anywhere. He did not expect José Mourinho, a manager he had never been in contact with before, to be able to address him by his name.
He recalled what Mourinho looked like when he saw him. Wrapped in the black Armani windbreaker, he sat alone in the vast stands. The black spot looked tiny in the middle of the vast expanse of blue.
Lawrence remembered all the recent rumors.
This man's days at Stamford Bridge seemed to be numbered. Abramovich was his boss and paid his salary, but he was a Chelsea fan. If he had to choose, he would rather Abramovich left.
But what could he do? He was just an ordinary stadium turf maintenance worker. He had no say in the club's decision, nor could he play football to help the team win to get the manager out of the crisis of confidence.
He could only hope. Good luck, Mr. Mourinho.
When Mourinho led Chelsea to Nottingham the next day, the media flocked around him and many questions about what everyone was concerned about were thrown at him.
"Is it true, Mr. Mourinho, about the news of your impending dismissal?"
"I don't want to answer questions about the future. Right now, I'm the manager of this team."
"Mr. Mourinho, rumor has it that you and Abramovich have deep contradictions..."
"We work happily together, there's no contradiction at all. Of course, he is the chairman of the club and he has the right to express his thoughts about his team."
"You can ask him the questions to do with him."
"Let's talk about the game against the Forest team, Mr. Mourinho. Will Shevchenko play? And you haven't beaten Tony Twain yet..."
Mourinho stopped in his tracks as he made his way through the crowd. He looked at the reporter who asked the question. He had a faint impression of him. He appeared to be a sports reporter for a local newspaper in Nottingham.
"He may or may not play. As to I've never won Tony Twain? That's all going to become history," he added. "Tomorrow night."
With that, he stopped answering any questions and broke through the reporters' siege as he entered the hotel with the team.
The reporters were still not willing to let go. They raised their cameras and frenziedly took pictures of Mourinho's back.
The back of the black Armani windbreaker was the only focus under the clicking flashlights. Whenever a flashbulb lit up, he was the most dazzling character. But when the light went out, he blended in with the dark background.
In the end, the creator of the Chelsea's miraculous empire walked into the darkness where the flashbulbs could no longer s.h.i.+ne upon.
Godfather Of Champions 597 This Is An Important Game
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Godfather Of Champions 597 This Is An Important Game summary
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