Making history, Not reliving it (August 2004)
With Claudio Ranieri departing Stamford Bridge after almost four seasons in the hot-seat, the search was on for a replacement who would match the club’s ambition. Rumours surfaced that Sven Goran Eriksson was being courted by the Chelsea hierarchy to move from his post as England manager, but while Eriksson talked, another somewhat more charismatic character came creeping up along the outside to put himself into contention for the post.
José Mourinho first came to the attention of the British public when his Porto side beat Celtic in May 2003 to win the Uefa Cup. The following season he led his unfancied club to the Final of the Champions League, knocking out Manchester United en route, where they comfortably swept aside Chelsea’s semi-final conquerors, AS Monaco, in a one-side match. Mourinho, whose antics had amused many in the wake of Porto’s last minute clincher at Old Trafford, was clearly a man with a big future in the game. And now that he was a Champions League winner, he became the prime candidate for the job at the helm of the most ambitious club in world football. Blues CEO Peter Kenyon, having declared that he wanted Chelsea to become the biggest club in the world, wasted no time in appointing him.
The day after he took charge at Stamford Bridge in a press conference held on the 2nd June, José Mourinho said, “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one,” which resulted in the media dubbing him “The Special One”. Mourinho became the ‘darling’ of the media, holding court with an awestruck audience of journalists at every press conference who hung on to every word spoken by the Portuguese.
Mourinho, aware of the history of the club, appointed the popular former defender Steve Clarke as his assistant, the Scot having gained valuable experience in the role after he left Chelsea in 1998 to take up a position working with Ruud Gullit who was then manager of Newcastle Utd.
One of his first games in charge was a friendly at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea hosting Real Zaragoza in a match arranged as a testimonial for Gianfranco Zola on August 8th. As well as a certain Didier Drogba making his first appearance in a Chelsea shirt at Stamford Bridge, John Terry, a product of the youth system, was appointed captain of the side. Following the match, a dinner was held in honour of Zola in the West Stand of Stamford Bridge and those attending included Roman Abramovich, José Mourinho, John Terry and Frank Lampard, as well as former Chelsea players such as Super Dan Petrescu, Dennis Wise and Frank Sinclair.
Over the course of the summer, the ‘Bring Back The Badge’ campaign which had begun in the previous season gained more support and the number backing it grew week by week. At the Zola tribute dinner and in a conversation with one of the stalwarts of the cfcukfanzine, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said, “the club has been inundated with forms backing the petition – I think there is a good chance that the old badge will be reinstated next season.” By the end of the season, in excess of 20,000 signatures had been collected by those affiliated to the fanzine, with other parties sending completed forms direct to the club.
If the previous summer’s transfer business had been unprecedented, Chelsea showed that they were in no mood to rest on their laurels. With Marcel Desailly, Jesper Gronkjaer, Mario Melchiot, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Mario Stanic, Winston Bogarde, Emmanuel Petit, Boudewijn Zenden and Neil Sullivan all leaving the club that summer, Abramovich reached for the chequebook again to add further substance to the Harlem Globetrotters-style squad that had begun to form twelve months earlier. From his previous club, Porto, he brought in defenders Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho, while their compatriot Tiago joined from Benfica. Dutch winger Arjen Robben and Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech, both recommended by Ranieri, also signed, with free-scoring Serbian Mateja Kezman and £24m club record signing Didier Drogba being recruited to add their weight to an attack that was shorn of Hernan Crespo. The Argentinian had struggled to settle in London and had opted for a year on loan with AC Milan, while his international team-mate Juan Sebastian Veron would spend the season playing for Milan’s neighbours Inter.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Liverpool – with new manager Rafael Benitez recruited to replace Gerard Houllier – signed two further Spaniards, Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia, for a combined sum of £17m, and recouped a chunk of their outlay when Michael Owen moved to Real Madrid. Joining Owen in the Bernebau was Newcastle defender Jonathan Woodgate, who was sold for £13.4m. Replacing Owen on Merseyside was charismatic French striker Djibril Cisse, who moved to Anfield from Auxerre for £14m. Nicky Butt left Manchester United for Newcastle, while Mark Viduka arrived in the North East when he joined Middlesbrough for £4.5m from Leeds. West Bromwich Albion paid Ferencvaros of Hungary £1.5m for their midfielder Zoltan Gera, but they lost the services of striker Lee Hughes when the Baggies terminated his contract following the player’s conviction and subsequent jailing for causing death by drink driving. And in north London, as Arsenal embarked on a new season as current champions and unbeaten now in the league for more than a year under the management of Arsene Wenger, Tottenham brought in a Frenchman of their own, Jacques Santini, as they sought to finally mount a challenge to the superiority of their bitter rivals.
Making history, Not reliving it . A brand new book from Gate 17 publications.