Let’s play a game.
We’ll call the game ‘What if?” We’ll pretend that certain things will happen. Then we’ll ask you a question.
What If #1
What if Carlo Ancelotti leaves Chelsea at the end of the season?
Football rumors are, as the Americans say, a dime a dozen. Cheap. Easily found. But rarely true.
That’s how I feel about the Carlo Ancelotti to Roma rumor. It doesn’t make sense. Roma is in the process of being sold. Companies don’t usually make new hires when ownership is changing hands. The Italians who own Roma are in severe debt. So it’s hard to imagine them committing money to Carlo. He doesn’t come cheap.
The American who seems likely to be the new owner isn’t well-versed in football. He may not know Carlo Ancelotti from Fernando Alonso. Why, when he has so much on his plate, would he be courting Ancelotti when the current season isn’t over and he doesn’t have the keys?
And yet. In the world of football rumors, isolated stories come and go like farts at a bean feast. But when a rumor has legs, when it keeps getting repeated, there’s often some sort of substance behind it.
The Ancelotti story has legs. In the past three weeks we’ve heard two stories coming out of Italy. And now Sports illustrated is reporting that Ancelotti and Roman Abramovich have come to an arrangement. That Carlo will step down at the end of the season.
This has an air of plausibility to it. Abramovich has allowed two other men to quit before they were fired, Peter Kenyon and Frank Arnesen. It may be that he has the same respect for Ancelotti as he does the other two men, and is willing to to let him quit rather than fire him.
So despite my wish that it weren’t true, I’m starting to get the feeling that with all this smoke, there might be a fire burning under Ancelotti’s ass.
What If #2
What If Jose Mourinho leaves Madrid at the end of the season?
Since the turn of the century Real Madrid has had 12 managers. That’s more than one a year for the last decade! It’s the exception, not the rule, for Real Madrid to keep the same manager for two consecutive seasons.
Jose Mourinho hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the club. He’s had a running battle with club General Director Jorge Valdano over personnel. Ominously, President Florentino Perez hasn’t publicly backed his manager. Mourinho is winning, but he’s not winning enough to keep up with Barca. In November he was humiliated 5-0 (the worst loss of his career) to the only opponent Madrid fans care about.
He may also be starting to alienate Real’s fans. It’s interesting that Mourinho did not become a sympathetic figure when someone stabbed one of his security guards at La Coruna. Instead the papers wondered whether his non-stop inflammatory talk was responsible. In other words, was he to blame?
It has to be said that with Madrid still alive in two cups and with a second match against Barcelona upcoming, there’s plenty of opportunity for Mourinho to salvage things.
But these are not good trends at a club that has the impulse control of a serial killer when it comes to its managers.
If Ancelotti leaves and if Mourinho is canned, would you want Mourinho back at Chelsea?
I guess some Chelsea fans will think this is a trick question. Why wouldn’t they want him back? In 2005 it had been 50 years since Chelsea had won its one and only League title. Mourinho did it in a single season. Then he did it again the next year. Add a FA Cup, two League Cups and a Charity Shield and Mourinho had brought Chelsea the greatest run of success in club history.
So it’s a no brainer, right?
Maybe not. Mourinho is celebrated because he brought Chelsea success it had never had before. But we’ve since discovered that he’s not the only one who can brings trophies to Stamford Bridge. Carlo Ancelotti proved that.
Mourinho prefers a style of football that most people find boring. The secret to his success is a strong defense and what he calls “transition.” Mourinho believes that the opponent is most vulnerable at the moment possession changes. That’s why his teams score so many goals on breakaways and long balls. He doesn’t value time of possession. He values quick strikes. His Chelsea teams had big target men upfront. But never a classic midfield creative play-maker — he didn’t need one.
It can be argued that once Abramovich insisted on more attractive football, Mourinho quit because he couldn’t deliver it. Trying to change his style, he had a stuttering start to both the Premier League season and the Champions League when he abruptly quit in September 2007. Yes, there were power issues involved. But usually unmentioned is Mourinho’s inability to successfully deliver what Roman wanted on the pitch.
Mourinho is a selfish man. He puts his own interests above everything else. It’s a myth that he always stands by his players. He’s worried about his own image first and foremost. Here’s what he said in January of 2007.
“In a remarkable and wide-ranging attack on his own team after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Fulham, Mourinho identified Andrei Shevchenko, Salomon Kalou and Shaun Wright-Phillips as three who “cannot perform at a high level”.”
How about this, in December of 2006?
“…maybe the players are not such good players. What can you do with Paulo (Ferreira), with Geremi? Nothing. The players have no qualities adapted to the game opponents are playing against us.”
Last week, former Mourinho stalwart Claude Makelele put the spotlight on Mourinho’s selfish nature.
“He is calculated, cruel and ambitious. He used to keep players away from the spotlight so he could take all the fame…. He forgot about the players and he just took all the credit for himself. No-one was allowed to be more famous than him.”
Strong words. But with the ring of truth.
And even if he came back, how long could Chelsea count on having Mourinho? He changes clubs like Imelda Marcos changes shoes. He wants to be at the richest clubs with the greatest histories. He’s been making goo-goo eyes at Alex Ferguson’s job for four years. You do the math. The day Ferguson retires, Mourinho be at Manchester United’s door. At dawn.