Saturday, 22 September 2007

Randy Stags

Chelsea too small for these randy stags- Just what exactly went wrong between Jose Mourinho and Roman Abramovich
By Russell Brand

Jetlagged and delirious, I'm trying to make sense of the events that adorn the front and back pages of the English newspapers. Jose Mourinho and Chelsea have parted company "by mutual consent" due to a "breakdown in their relationship". This doesn't seem to me to be the typical language of the boardroom but the brittle nomenclature of damaged emotions. When I recall the numerous occasions on which I've been, in my case deservedly, sacked, my incensed employers seldom said things like "It's not you - it's me" or "I just feel we should spend some time apart". It was usually "Get out you thief" or "You smell of gin".

I'm not suggesting that Mourinho and Roman Abramovich were having a big, saucy, gay love affair that has ended in recrimination and unfulfilled potential but the fact that it would be impossible to allocate who would be passive and who the aggressor in such a tryst is perhaps central to this saga. Whilst I acknowledge that most homosexuals chuckle at the antiquated, heterosexual assumption that gay relationships have a "man" and "wife" dynamic, partnerships the world over are defined by status, and the inability of these powerful men to find professional harmony, to me, resembles two randy stags, nostrils flared, bristling, with angry erections locking horns over which one is going to bite on a branch and be Bambi's mummy.

Ultimately Chelsea are Abramovich's club and there could be only one winner but as a result we, the English nation, the Premier League and the media, have lost an intriguing and charismatic figure.

Like most people I became aware of Mourinho when he darted down the touchline arms aloft in that coat, at Old Trafford, having engineered Porto's victory over United. "What a twit," I remember thinking. The fact that the coat became independently famous is a testimony to the unique place he attained in the firmament of top-flight bosses. What other garments have secured such cachet? Brian Clough's green sweatshirt? Arsène Wenger's specs? Fergie's gum? Unless Roy Keane starts turning up to matches in cowboy boots it'll be a while until personal style makes such an impression from the dugout.

His departure is significant enough to prompt comment from figures as diverse as Gordon Brown and my mum - "He made a huge impact in such a short time" and "That dishy manager" respectively. Neither of them cared when Alan Pardew left West Ham.

We can glean from this momentous event several things: Abramovich will be satisfied with nothing less than immediate success in Europe, he wants attractive football and he wants to stick his oar in whenever he fancies and put his mates in the team. One of the difficulties is that most of the great footballing dynasties have achieved success with practical, as opposed to flamboyant, football. Milan, Juventus and recent Real Madrid sides have prioritised winning over all else whereas teams like Barcelona or Arsenal always have moments of vulnerability and but two European Cup wins between them.

Personally, I'm sad about it. I've mentioned in this column before that Mourinho's presence at Chelsea prevented me from harbouring the hatred expected of a West Ham fan for our rivals across the capital because he provoked in me a kind of neutered lust. I enjoyed his aloof, snooty, manipulative interviews and eccentric outbursts; calling dear Wenger a voyeur and Frank Rijkaard a pervert. What about when he fled from police with his unquarantined lapdog? That's berserk, I can't imagine any other manager embarking on such a daft quest.

Sam Allardyce would not try to sneak his cat into a disco, David Moyes would never ride a cow to work and Alex Ferguson wouldn't squabble with cider tycoons over the ownership of a gee-gee. Actually he would because he too is a genius in the business of football management and in exchange for that bedazzling gift we'll tolerate his refusal to talk to the BBC, his hurling of boots at national treasures and his insistence on absolute authority at his club. But Abramovich wouldn't tolerate that, which is why when Chelsea visit Sir Alex's Manchester United tomorrow it'll be under the stewardship of Avram Grant, of whom I know little but suspect if Abramovich demanded his yacht play in goal and his wife on the wing would offer little resistance.

Like many a spurned lover before him Mourinho said he was going to take time off to unwind and wait for the phone to ring. I don't imagine he'll have long to wait till he gets optimistic tinklings from north and possibly east London and whatever he chooses to do I don't suppose it'll be long before he's back at the Bridge with a new paramour and then I suspect it'll be Abramovich who ends up heartbroken.

Guardian column

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