It seems unnecessary to say it, but Jose Mourinho will undoubtedly be missed. He brought so much to football in this country, and our native football journalism will be all the poorer for his abrupt departure.

But it is the football journalists, rather than the fans, who will miss him the most. A lot of fans tired of his ungracious moaning and shameless referee-baiting a long time ago, but when you read the testimonies of journalists who have spoken to him face-to-face, you get an impression of a warm, charming and immensely generous individual who couldn’t be any further removed from the endlessly parodied cardboard cut-out ‘Special One’ so readily paraded before us at pre-match press conferences and post-match interviews.

Mourinho certainly did a great deal for English football. Tactically, he introduced a counter-attacking 4-3-3 formation that – in his first season at least – was breath-takingly efficient, and which has since been aped by managers the length and breadth of the country.

He developed promising young English players like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole into the genuinely – OK, occasionally – world-class performers they are today, gave Eidur Gudjohnsen the chance to prove himself a midfield artisan of the highest quality and placed sufficient faith in Didier Drogba to enable him to become one of the most complete centre forwards in the world.

Likewise, he reminded us that, behind every media-peddled stock image of a manager – Ferguson the Firebrand, Wenger the Scholar – is a man, with a family and concerns of his own that have absolutely nothing to do with the over-hyped, endlessly self-publicising Premiership.

But, for all this, we must be careful not to overstate his achievements. He certainly produced a tremendously successful team at Chelsea – galvanised by a team spirit that, for all the rather stage-managed training ground joshing appears to be real and lasting – but he was nonetheless able to do so thanks to a quite simply incredible budget that is unprecedented in English football.

Yes, he brought the Premiership trophy to Stamford Bridge – twice – but he inherited a team already brimming with international talent that had finished second in the league (behind Arsenal’s 2003-2004 Invincibles) and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.

He produced a trophy-winning team capable of playing brutally effective football, but how many top European managers would be confident of achieving similar results if given a budget of hundreds of millions of pounds?

And for all the success that players like Drogba, Michael Essien and Petr Cech achieved, let’s not forget the turkeys. Over £57 million were spent on Paulo Ferreira, Mateja Kezman, Asier del Horno and Andriy Shevchenko, not to mention free transfer Michael Ballack. Mourinho may have lamented how his team struggled without John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba in the side, but with the resources at his disposal it’s hard to feel genuinely sympathetic.

The less palatable elements of Mourinho’s managerial style must not be overlooked either. For all his great soundbites and mischievous charm, he remained a terribly ungracious loser, and was partly responsible for hounding Anders Frisk – one of the best referees of the last 10 years – into retirement in 2005.

Mourinho was – and is – a truly gifted manager. He brought a style both on and off the pitch which had never been seen before on these shores, and he achieved notable success. But he was also, at times, deeply unpleasant, and for all his love him-hate him popularity, his most impressive achievement to date remains the Champions League trophy he won with Porto in 2004. That was a team he can genuinely claim to have crafted himself.

The record books will show that Chelsea were an ambitious, underachieving club who suddenly won everything there was to win in the domestic game following the arrival of a Russian billionaire. The sad thing for Mourinho is that he wasn’t given the time to intertwine his own story with Chelsea’s more irrevocably, and for that the blame must lie squarely with Roman Abramovich and Peter Kenyon and a Stamford Bridge hierarchy that expected too much too soon.

If they want to know what the future holds for Chelsea Football Club now, it might be an idea to cast their minds back to the summer of the 2003, and the departure from Real Madrid of a certain Vincente Del Bosque…


Ryan Giggs - destined to be remembered as the second best Welsh footballer behind John CharlesRyan Giggs is to retire from international football after Saturday’s game against the Czech Republic in Cardiff. The timing of the announcement may create a sense of shock, but it’s not really that big a surprise.

It is now unfortunately the norm for players seeking to prolong their careers to announce their retirement from international football, even though they seem fully capable of representing their country.

Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes are two recent examples, and while Shearer’s departure left a void in England’s front line that has still not been filled, Scholes’s performances for Man United this season suggest he is still England’s most effective attacking midfielder.

Gary Speed is still one of the Premiership’s most consistent performers, but Wales have been without his services since 2004, and now Giggs is set to join him.

As a Welshman, it is a tremendous disappointment. Since bursting onto the international scene as a 17 year-old, Giggs’s Wales career has been dogged by accusations that he elected to miss seemingly insignificant friendlies by claiming to be injured when he was fit enough to play for his club. But still the hope persisted that only with Giggs to the fore could Wales hope to qualify for a major tournament.

Only since John Toshack handed him the captain’s armband has he appeared consistently for his country, and now he decides to retire.

Toshack has received a lot of flak for his policy of blooding very young players for the national side and persisting with a slightly antiquated 5-3-2 formation, but although the current qualifying campaign has been something of a let-down, in players like Gareth Bale, Chris Gunter, Lewin Nyatanga and Jason Koumas there is real hope for the future.

Toshack needs Giggs to help the youngsters on. Since the end of the Hughes/Rush/Southall era, he has been Wales’s only world class player. Lose Giggs, and Wales lose not only a significant force on the pitch but a huge chunk of credibility – and marketing appeal – off it.

The current Wales team is a disjointed side. New players are still bedding in. The young players will want to look to Giggs for guidance ahead of the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign (which has long been Toshack’s stated objective), but he has turned his back. The fact he couldn’t even see out the rest of the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign seems to represent a damning indictment of the supposed potential in the team.

His recent commitment to the Welsh cause has allowed some Welsh fans to forgive his previous reluctance to play, but the decision now to turn his back on this young, developing side in favour of his club is unlikely to be forgotten.