Two of Jose Mourinho’s protégés have expressed full confidence in the ability of The Special One to turn Chelsea around after the Premier champions’ worst start to a season in 27 years.
Speculation has developed that Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge could come to a sudden halt if the Blues lose at home to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on Saturday.
But, with the perspective of distance and personal knowledge, Galatasaray midfielder Wesley Sneijder and Fenerbahce coach Vitor Pereira – whose clubs shared a 1-1 draw in the Istanbul derby last weekend – have a different view.
Holland midfielder Sneijder played for Mourinho in 2009-10 at Internazionale when the Italian club the treble of Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia; Pereira was a youth coach, watching and learning from Mourinho when the latter was building his initial successful regime at Porto.
Sneijder, who has won 19 titles at club level and won 119 caps for Holland over the past 12 years, considers Mourinho the finest coach he has ever worked with.
He said: “Mourinho is Mourinho. He will always come back. Everybody can have a difficult period as a coach or as a player. It seems as if, at Chelsea now, they are all having this sort of period together but he will get out of it. I know it for sure. People who love Chelsea don’t need be worried.
“He is the best manager in Europe because a coach does not to be only good in coaching but good as an all-round manager of all the parts of a team. He always comes up with a very good strategy for action when it comes to analysing games and opponents.
“Also, on an individual basis, he makes players improve. Even if you are a good player then he makes you a better player.
“When you can only pick 11 players for the start of a game it is difficult to keep all the player satisfied but he always finds a way to support all his players and give them a good feeling about the work they are doing.
“In my career I’ve worked with a lot of good coaches but he is a complete guy. He’s the one who has everything.”
Mourinho has been the subject of growing speculation that he is suffering a third-season syndrome after some inconsistent team selections, eratic substitutions erratic – witness Nemanja Matic brought on against Southampton and then replaced – and all his favoured players losing form at the same time.
But Mourinho always makes his changes with a purpose and with ultimate success, according to Pereira.
He said: “I was coaching the under-19s when Mourinho came for his first season at Porto. He was a young coach with a lot of older players and at first he spoke very well about them. But after a little while he realised 10 or 11 had to be moved out.
“He was quite ready to do that and he was proved right because they won the league and the cup and the UEFA Cup.
“He could achieve all that and continue to achieve so much wherever he works because he is, first of all, a fantastic coach. Of course he has a very strong personality. He has always been the same way. Sometimes he provokes conflict to create results.
“But whatever else has changed in his career how you see him now it the same way he always been.”
The “way he has always been” has included his demotion of club doctor Eva Carneiro – for obeying medical ethics as well the referee’s order to attend to injured Hazard – was disrespectful and misjudged. A swift apology for reaction in the heat of the moment would have disarmed the situation. Instead everything appeared to disintegrate from that point.
This month he has been fined £50,000 and handed a suspended one-match stadium ban for comments about a referee after a 3-1 defeat at Southampton – currently the subject of appeal – and been charged over his behaviour during last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by West Ham when he was sent to the stands for invading the referee’s room at half-time.
Three weeks ago Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich gave Mourinho a vote of confidence, something never granted the likes of Roberto Di Matteo, Andre Villas-Boas, Carlo Ancelotti and Luiz Felipe Scolari. Yet their results were never as poor as this, with Chelsea having taken 11 points from their first 10 league games.
The Russian oligarch is reluctant to part company with the Portuguese for a second time for several reasons.
Firstly, Mourinho’s return has brought stability back to a club which ran through 10 managers in 10 years; secondly, he retains the confidence of the fans; thirdly, he has only recently signed a new four-year contract and would likely insist on it being paid up in full; and, fourthly, Chelsea would have to chase down yet another caretaker manager.
Like Manchester City’s Emirati owners, Abramovich has long held ambitions to bring Pep Guardiola to the Premier League. But the Catalan remains a mirage.
For the moment Mourinho is the man and – Sneijder and Pereira believe – he is also the man to turn Chelsea’s season around.