By March 2013, the murmurs and grumblings around Stamford Bridge had grown to a cacophony. Only a few months into his one-year contract, at Chelsea, Rafa Benitez had fans off-side with the benching of favourite-son Frank Lampard during the sides 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. With little affirmative action from owner Roman Abramovich, fans took the matter into their own hands, vowing to ‘increase the abuse’ during a fixture at West Brom with defamatory banners and anarchic chants unheard of since Lee Bowyer decided to attack his Newcastle teammate Kieron Dyer in 2008.
By the end of the season, Resilient Rafa had won over these same fans with some consolation silverware for the coffers, although knew he had little chance of retaining his job upon hearing rumours of ‘The Special One’ had been visiting real estate agents on Fulham Broadway.
These rumours turned out to be trumours, and in early June Mourinho confirmed his return to the big show, putting pen to paper at club HQ. The 50-year-old Portuguese wizard, who led Chelsea to unprecedented success between 2004 and 2007, is now that little bit older and little bit wiser, and faces a monumental task to wrestle the coveted Premier League trophy off incumbents Manchester United, who could possibly lack stamina without Sir Alex at the helm.
With the northerners – led by the evergreen Robin van Persie – making a clear statement of intent with their 4-1 victory in Round 1, Chelsea and Mourinho are acutely aware that any slip ups could be the difference between first and forgotten. However, the intense rivalry between the two clubs could soon escalate, with news emerging of Chelsea finalising a 40 million pound offer for the disgruntled Wayne Rooney. Whilst David Moyes is adamant the overpaid Chav will not be leaving, Mourinho sees him as ‘the last piece in his Chelsea puzzle’ and are courting him as a groom would his bride.
Chelsea, however, are never short of options, and should Rooney (or should we say Manchester United) decline their lucrative offer, Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski is waiting in the wings, along with World Cup star Samuel Eto’o.
Rooney or Rooneyless, Chelsea are still deservedly favourites to win this years title, and much of this comes down to the irresistible allure of Mourinho. With Lampard singing his managers praises, the fans in the Matthew Harding Stand will also be singing, although in the fickle world of the Premier League, no manager can rest on his laurels, not even the Special One.
CHELSEA’S FANTASY LEAGUE MUST HAVES –
- Frank Lampard
- Romelu Lukaku
- Juan Mata