There is something ironic about a man who was playing non-league football four years ago being the proverbial last straw that broke Jose Mourinho’s back.
Jamie Vardy was working as a technician and finding time to follow his passion for football when Mourinho had won two Champions League titles, with FC Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010.
Goals from Vardy and Riyad Mahrez took Leicester City to a 2-1 win over The Blues this week and sealed Mourinho’s fate at Chelsea where he remains the 110-year-old club’s most successful manager. It was perhaps because of his record that the self-acclaimed ‘Special One’ was persisted with this long into the season where reigning champions Chelsea have lost nine of their 16 games in the Premiership and are a point above the drop zone.
The fall was spectacular and it is worth pondering over whether Mourinho had lost the dressing room by the time the Leicester City game happened. His post-match comments about feeling betrayed and having applied his ‘special’ touch to take players beyond their level last season, a level they couldn’t sustain, would seem to suggest so. It could also have been an outburst of a man who is not used to such poor results but even then, he wouldn’t have got the mega-rich players’ backing after such a tirade. Something, therefore, had to give and someone had to go. When that happens in football in mid-season, it is almost always the coach that goes.
Mourinho’s comments, the way he conducts himself on the touchline and his interactions with the media --- often sarcasm-laced --- shows him to be a man as charismatic as confident. Having started as Bobby Robson’s translator to winning everything football in England had to offer and besting Europe, he has every reason to be. But it also is a pointer perhaps to why Manchester United didn’t sign him when Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down.
It was the old chestnut about the institution being bigger than the individual. “I would consider going to Manchester United but United have to consider if they want me to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson. If they do, then of course,” he had then said.
That attitude may also have been why Real Madrid got rid of him. By the time he left, Mourinho’s relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo was tetchy and that with Real’s homegrown goalie and Spain captain Iker Casillas had broken down. About Ronaldo, Mourinho had said: “Maybe thinks that he knows everything and that the coach cannot improve him anymore.” The outburst after the Leicester City loss, therefore, is not without precedent.
Finally, it is also worth considering whether these players were with Mourinho for far too long. Mourinho has had a meltdown every three seasons and coincidentally was in his third at Chelsea this time.