Chelsea Focus - Could Guardiola’s Bayern move pave the way for Mourinho return?
This week has not been the best week in the memory of most Chelsea fans. When interim manager Rafael Benitez was appointed at the helm of Stamford Bridge until the end of the season, the Blues faithful were not exactly introverted in voicing their disapproval. However, on Wednesday morning, Pep Guardiola’s revelation that he would relish a chance to manage in the Premier League offered hope that perhaps, just perhaps, the wait in the meantime might be worth it. The end might well justify the means after all.
However, barely hours later, the former Barcelona coach was unveiled as Bayern Munich’s new manager for next season, and the news has left those on the Stamford Bridge terraces wondering where their beloved club will turn next.
Benitez still does not appear to have the support of a large portion of the club’s followers, despite recent media rumblings that he may, indeed, be offered a deal to stay on beyond the current season. The news that Guardiola will not be arriving at the Bridge in the near future may appear to strengthen Benitez’s case, but former Blues winger Pat Nevin does not believe this to ring completely true.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Nevin speculated that the news could, in fact, clear the path for Jose Mourinho to make a sensational return to the club. The fans adored Mourinho throughout his three-year reign, as he led them to their first top flight title in 49 years when the Blues won the crown in 2004.
With veterans such as Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole seeming almost certain to leave the club when their respective contracts expire this summer, news of such an appointment could give Chelsea and company a much needed sense of optimism. Recent bad form at home has seen current incumbent Benitez pick up just two wins from the seven league games for which he has been in the dugout.
These two wins were arguably impressive results, with a 3-1 win at Sunderland and an 8-0 demolition of struggling Aston Villa, a result which equaled their biggest win in the top flight of English football, but two wins in seven is not enough for a club with Champions League aspirations.
The 52-year-old Spaniard has never truly been forgiven in the terraces for comments made during his time at Liverpool which were perceived to be thinly veiled digs at the Blues crowd, and recent form since his appointment does not appear to scream that he is the man for the job in the long term.
Benitez’s lack of connection with the fans has created an audible sense of unrest, and though Roman Abramovich does not have the best track record of taking the fans’ opinions into account, it remains unlikely that he would happily and willingly go directly against their calls for another name to enter the fray.
With Roberto Di Matteo’s sacking proving disputably even more unpopular than Benitez’s resulting appointment, club legend Lampard seemingly moving on in the summer and other key players either leaving or entering the twilight of their careers, there is a palpable sense of voyaging into the unknown, with a real transition period approaching.
It is clear that Abramovich must act fast in order to restore some comfort and security in SW6. The appointment of a returning fan favourite such as Mourinho, or even a new name who has proven himself to be a popular, model manager, could well give the fans the sense of satisfaction that is not currently present - and has not been present at the Bridge for some time.
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