Jose Mourinho, Chelsea part ways: Five turning points of his second tenure
Jose Mourinho and Chelsea "parted company by mutual consent" on Thursday, but where did it all go wrong? Here are five turning points for the Portuguese's second tenure at Stamford Bridge.
Jan. 1: Losing 5-3 at Tottenham
In retrospect, the blueprint of Mourinho's downfall was set out as early as New Year's Day. Chelsea eventually won the 2014-15 Premier League title by eight points, but much of what would snowball later was present on the evening that Harry Kane scored twice to tear them apart.
Nemanja Matic looked leaden in midfield and was isolated against Kane's incisive runs down the inside-left channel, while behind the Serb, Chelsea defended disastrously, the central defensive combination of John Terry and Gary Cahill, and right-back Branislav Ivanovic, showing off the type of vulnerability that would become habitual once the 2015-16 season started.
Mourinho's postmatch utterances prefaced much of his demeanour for the rest of his tenure. Referee Phil Dowd was derided as being "too slow," while Chelsea's manager, in front of a media room kept in the dark by his evasiveness, rattled on about two penalty decisions that should have gone his team's way but refused to describe what had actually happened.
By this point, he had already alleged a "campaign" against his team, having drawn 1-1 in the previous match with Southampton. By the end of the month, he would be declaring war on Sky Sports for pinpointing Diego Costa's "crimes" during a League Cup semifinal with Liverpool. And despite a number of misconduct charges and investigations, he never let up on referees and officialdom.
Aug. 8: Chelsea 2, Swansea City 2
In preseason, Mourinho regularly cut a dash of dissatisfaction. Winning that league title appeared to have exhausted his enthusiasm. There were public grumbles about his team's touring schedule while he freely admitted his players would not be at full match fitness until after the first international break in September.
Formerly the most dapper man in football, an unshaven Mourinho took to wearing a tracksuit during the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal and at the Premier League's launch event in South London. It indicated someone no longer willing to conform to formality.
Once competitive action resumed, the mounting tension blazed to the fore. On opening day against Swansea, Chelsea were held to a 2-2 draw and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was sent off. Brimming with rage, Mourinho took out his frustrations on club doctor Eva Carneiro and physio Jon Fearn for rushing to Eden Hazard's aid in injury time, his curses caught on camera.
When both were banished from first-team duties, it reflected an unhappy camp and Chelsea are still dealing with the fallout from Carneiro's subsequent decision to leave the club, amid accusations of sexism and now a case for constructive dismissal.
Sept. 2: Disappointment with summer transfer business
"In some moments of the market, under certain circumstances are moments where you have to trust or not the people that you work with," Mourinho said on Sept. 11. He was referring to defender Papy Djilobodji, signed from Nantes for £2.7 million, and at 26 years old is hardly one for the distant future.
"The same person that told me that Djilobodji can be a good squad player for us, was the same person who told me [about Kurt] Zouma," he continued, in clear reference to technical director Michael Emenalo. Like Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool and Tim Sherwood at Aston Villa, Mourinho found himself with players he did not want. Djilobodji has not made a Premier League appearance and was not even registered for the Champions League.
Similar doubts about Baba Rahman, signed for £14 million from Augsburg, have been made implicit by a similar lack of opportunity. Neither of these players, or Pedro, lately disappeared from view, were Everton's John Stones, who Mourinho definitely wanted and Emenalo & Co. failed to land despite multiple bids.
"They know they have someone waiting," Mourinho had said of Chelsea's deal makers in May when looking ahead to next season's challenge as he basked in the glory of his third Premier League title. "I need that to support my way of working." By September, his deep disgruntlement with Chelsea's transfer business was an open secret.
Oct. 3: Chelsea 1-3 Southampton
Here is where the downward spiral truly began. Once a manager begins challenging his paymaster to sack him, then the date of his departure is just waiting to be decided.
Chelsea, devoid of creativity in attack and similarly bereft in defence, had been soundly beaten, losing a fourth in eight games. Languishing in 16th, the nine-minute Mourinho monologue that followed a single question from Sky Sports' flash interviewer veered in several directions, but owner Roman Abramovich's ears must have burned red-hot.
"I want to make it clear: One, I don't run away; two, if the club wants to sack me, they have to sack me because I am not running away from my responsibility," Mourinho ranted. "If the club sacks me, they sack the best manager this club had."
The self-assessment was boastful yet truthful, but throwing such a gauntlet down could only risk the breakdown of relations with someone hardly known for resisting a change of manager, and with whom there had been a fragile relationship after the reunion that followed their previous fallout in 2007.
Dec. 14: Betrayal of a legend
Following that outburst, Abramovich made a rare public maneuver in issuing a vote of confidence for his manager. "As Jose has said himself, results have not been good enough and the team's performances must improve," read a short but pointed statement on Oct. 5. "We believe that we have the right manager to turn this season around and that he has the squad with which to do it."
A collision course had been set. More defeats followed, with stars like Hazard and Cesc Fabregas still failing to perform to anywhere near an acceptable level as Mourinho's Chelsea continued to fade. They won just two matches of their next nine in the Premier League after Southampton; calm descended only during November's international break and in the Champions League, where Chelsea qualified for the last 16 by winning their group.
Yet on either side of beating Porto 2-0 to reach the knockout rounds, Chelsea lost 1-0 at home to Bournemouth and then 2-1 at Leicester, leaving them a single point above the relegation zone having lost nine matches of 16 -- as many league defeats as they'd suffered in the previous two seasons combined.
It was deeply ironic that the critical blow came from Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri, who was sacked by Abramovich to make way for Mourinho's first tenure in 2004. Yet that revenge tale was overshadowed by the conduct of the beaten manager. Sensing his fate, Mourinho attempted to salvage his own reputation by taking others down with him in a postmatch TV interview.
While also hinting that Hazard had not been as injured as he claimed when leaving the field after 30 minutes at King Power Stadium, Mourinho made it known where he believed the problems lay.
"One of my best qualities is to read the game for my players and I feel like my work was betrayed," Mourinho told a bemused news conference. This was extreme, even for him.
"One possibility is that I did an amazing job last season and brought the players to a level that is not their level and now they can't maintain it."
The former master of "parking the bus" had thrown his players under the same vehicle. There was no way back for the bond he and his squad previously held, and Abramovich severed ties for a second time.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.