Mourinho continues to steal show
Don’t chant for me any more, Jose Mourinho beseeched the Chelsea fans after his rapturous welcome back to Stamford Bridge before, during and after the opening victory over Hull City -- chant for the team. Yet Mourinho seems still to be stealing every show.
As we move into a Premier League weekend that culminates in a mouthwatering Monday game, as Mourinho’s team take on Manchester United at Old Trafford, attention should really be focused on David Moyes’s first confrontation with a title rival (Swansea City are good, but not quite in that category yet). Instead column inches are devoted to the Special One and what Tottenham Hotspur would see as his mischief in hijacking their bid to sign the much-coveted Willian.
Up to this point, the frustrated ones have been Liverpool, whose pursuit of the Brazilian was called off when the American owners felt the fee demanded by Anzhi Makhachkala had been driven too high -- to $45 million -- by Spurs’ determination to sign him.
Now Spurs could have their plans to replace the Madrid-bound Gareth Bale upset by Mourinho’s offer of nearly $50 million for Willian, who might well be swayed by Chelsea’s presence in the Champions League while Spurs are in the Europa League.
Not that this latest drama will detract from Mourinho’s long-running quest to sign Wayne Rooney from United. Despite his insistence that a third bid from Chelsea will be respectfully delayed until after the teams clash in Manchester, both Rooney and Mourinho want this to happen, so in these terms it will be an uncomfortable sub-plot to the match for Moyes.
Should he even pick Rooney, who was a lively substitute in the 4-1 win at Swansea, to face the club -- or, to be more accurate, coach -- he yearns to join? It is a big decision and, if he gets it right, he’ll be instantly hailed as the new Sir Alex Ferguson. On the other hand ...
Mourinho’s most piquant selection problem concerns the man most likely to be affected by a Rooney switch to the Bridge. Fernando Torres featured in the Hull game but gave way to Demba Ba for the Wednesday fixture against Aston Villa, which was inserted in the schedule because Chelsea must travel to Prague on the final Premier League weekend of the month to meet Bayern Munich in the European Super Cup.
Torres is likely to return for the big one and what a chance this would represent for the Spaniard, once rated the most exciting center-forward in the world, to show that he can still change games at the highest level. If Mourinho can’t bring the best out of Torres, I suspect, the best may never be seen again, and the anxiety to bring Rooney to Chelsea is not encouraging for the former Liverpool striker.
Moyes, meanwhile, is concentrating his transfer efforts on his former club Everton, annoying them with almost impudently low bids for the midfielder Marouane Fellaini and left-back Leighton Baines. A joint $42 million was offered; in today’s market they are worth upwards of $60 million. But new Everton coach Roberto Martinez doesn’t want to sell at all and who can blame him? Especially so close to the September 2 closure of this ridiculous transfer window, which an increasing number of coaches believe should be slammed shut before the season begins.
Martinez has hit out not at Moyes, but United’s new chief executive Ed Woodward, the successor to David Gill, who is now concentrating on his work with UEFA. "I have never seen Manchester United working in this manner before," he said. "When you want a player, you just do the business quietly. I don’t know if this is a new way of working. I don’t expect a new bid. We’re not in that position."
What is upsetting Martinez -- and may have upset Moyes -- is speculation surrounding the future of contracted players. I don’t blame them. It’s very tiresome and, when it intrudes on the build-up to a game of such true magnitude as Monday’s, there’s a need for the administrators to reform the system.
Uncertainty also permeates Liverpool as Brendan Rodgers prepares for a tricky visit to Villa, who won 3-1 at Arsenal on opening day and were unlucky to lose 2-1 to Chelsea in a game dramatically enhanced by confrontations between Villa coach Paul Lambert and that man Mourinho.
Liverpool expect Real Madrid, pondering an Arsenal move for Karim Benzema as they prepare to welcome Bale, to make one final bid to wrest the suspended Luis Suarez from Anfield. It will be resisted. Principal owner John W. Henry has stood firm throughout a fevered summer, insisting that Suarez stay and the original valuation of Willian be respected. Let’s hope he doesn’t come to regret it.