Simply winning wasn’t enough for Abramovich last time so returning manager will build a side that does it with style, predicts Martin Lipton.
He built a team to fear. But winning wasn’t enough for Roman Abramovich.
So this time, Jose Mourinho knows it is about creating a team that enthralls as much as it conquers.
A team that has the “identity” Abramovich bemoaned the lack of when he first tried to bring in Carlo Ancelotti in 2008.
A team that has the stamp of the Special One, but also an ability to excite the man who pays their wages. Above all, a Chelsea team that matches Mourinho’s high standards and Abramovich’s higher demands.
There is no doubt that, as Mourinho insisted in his introductory sit-down with Chelsea’s in-house TV channel, the Portuguese has changed.
The man was wedded to 4-3-3 at Stamford Bridge, as he had been at Porto beforehand, but tweaked that approach in Italy and fully embraced 4-2-3-1 – the flavour of the month – at Real Madrid.
It means a team with defensive shape, midfield cover and plenty of alternatives up front – the area that, as we know, Abramovich is most interested in.
Too streetwise, in the opinion of the Russian six years ago, when Abramovich tired of watching his side grind out dour wins almost as much as he sickened of the internecine battles being waged.
Yet the Special One does believe in basic principles:
That cutting out errors leads to certainty and victory.
Of course, the Chelsea which Mourinho is rejoining is a very different beast to the one he left in September 2007, let alone the one he first entered in 2004.
Now it is a club with the right to wear the “gold star” of European champions. But still a club which expects, every season.
Mourinho, whose mastery of the fine details sets him apart, will have been studying this Chelsea for months, seeking to work out the alterations needed.
Initially, as you would expect, his public views are all positives.
He recognises the money spent since his departure, will not upbraid Abramovich and his hierarchy over those purchases which he may not be sold on.
“The profile of the younger players with long-term space for improvement and development, I like very much that kind of profile,” said Mourinho.
“I’ve come with a four-year contract so if I read the situation with the immediate age of Hazard, Oscar, Luiz and these boys, I think it will be good for me to work with them and good for them to work with me.
“Together we can improve and make a better team than we have now. It’s very important for this football club and very important for the balance of the squad, but it’s a young squad with a lot of talent and I think they need stability to reach a high point of their evolution and for their careers.”
Mourinho also spoke warmly about the survivors from his first era, describing Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Frank Lampard and the returning Michael Essien, who spent last season playing for him on loan at Real, as being “a part of the Chelsea soul”.
But Mourinho also recognises that time is the one opponent nobody can beat.
Lampard is 35 this month.
Essien has been beset by injuries.
Terry and Cole will both turn 33 before Christmas.
He also knows that Abramovich has huge faith in David Luiz, Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar and Fernando Torres.
While no manager is ever stronger than in his first few honeymoon weeks and he will have some leeway to do as he wishes, it will not be limitless.
There are some players, including at least three from Real, that he would doubtless love to bring with him.
The biggest of them all is, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo.
It’s an unlikely one, even if both Mourinho and his fellow Portuguese are represented by Jorge Mendes, but reports suggesting Ronaldo has rejected approaches over a new Bernabeu contract may raise some hopes in SW6.