Luke Shaw’s wages would have “killed Chelsea” exclaims Jose Mourinho. That’s right, the manager of the club that are still paying ex-striker Fernando Torres’s wages, that signed ageing mercenary Samuel Eto’o for a season-long sojourn, that just got a king’s ransom for professional silly-man David Luiz, is saying that Roman Abramovich’s personal money-shredder would have been raised to the ground by the young left back’s wage demands. Is that right, Jose? It doesn’t need saying, but … oh well, out with it anyway, this is obviously just Jose Mourinho stirring the pot again. After cracking wise about Cesc Fabregas’s alleged non-interest in returning to Arsenal, the Special One is at it again, this time at the expense of recent Champions League non-competitors Manchester United. Apart from giving
everyone himself a good tickling with his latest jibe, the comment also highlighted the fact that Jose Mourinho seems to have a lot of time to be English football’s jokey-joke maker.
Why is that? Well, a large part of it is because, alongside Manchester City, Chelsea have the best and deepest squad in the league, so the transfer period is generally less of a frantic scramble for Mourinho than it is for other gaffers. But a more significant reason is that Chelsea have done some very tidy business already, sewing up the holes in their squad left by departing players, and strengthening the key areas that let them down last season. Really, of all the top clubs in England (especially when you look at the troubles Liverpool and United are having filling their own gaping holes, as well as City’s issues with foreign players and FFP restrictions) Chelsea and Mourinho have set an example this off-season: they have signed some quality players with relatively little fuss and more than a little diligence.
The point of the Luke Shaw comment was as much to reassure one of those new players, Felipe Luis, as it was to unsettle United and their new defender. Signed from Atletico Madrid for a reported £20 million, the Brazilian was an integral member of the La Liga winning Atletico side last season. Though not enough to earn a World Cup squad place for Brazil (in hindsight, a unspeakably merciful act by Phil Scolari) Luis was an effective and reliable performer. After the departure of Ashley Cole, Mourinho was in dire need of another consistent left back, as good as Cesar Azpilicueta’s efforts in the position were last season. He went and got one, a good one, after Shaw opted for United. One problem solved, onto the next.
When Frank Lampard announced he was leaving the London club at the end of the season, Mourinho was set to lose one of his chief lieutenants. Lampard and Mourinho had written a remarkable story of success together and, even though Lampard’s influence on matches had waned, Mourinho was about to lose a big chunk of creativity and goal-scoring from his midfield. Not helping things was the fact that, with only Ramires, Matic, John Obi and van Ginkel as alternatives to Lampard, central creativity was already in short supply. So, as Mourinho made clear to Arsene Wenger, it looked like a very good manoeuvre when he convinced Cesc Fabregas to fill the void. It hasn’t been all peaches and cream between the two either, particularly during the period when Mourinho was at Madrid and Cesc was at Barcelona. Still, you have to admire the speediness and suitability of the signing; Chelsea needed a player just like Fabregas and they went and got him. Ok, that’s another one dealt with, what next?
What was the factor that plagued Chelsea’s season the most last term? They had a superb defence, an outstanding attacking midfield, but no one to finish the play. Countless swirling Hazard slaloms, and perfect Schurrle crosses ended in torturous anticlimax because Fernando Torres was given the job of applying the finish. The Spaniard is a spent force, with so many infuriating false dawns, so many open goals missed while in blue. Eto’o was a stop gap who, besides being able to con a few goals over the season, didn’t really work. Demba Ba also proved inconsistent. They may well have won the league with a firing striker so, with that in mind, they bought a striker this transfer period that was the most coveted in Europe. Diego Costa was in white-hot form for Atleti last season, scoring 36 times in 52 appearances and becoming the figurehead for the second biggest club in Madrid in their best ever season. Exactly the type of player that Mourinho like, he’s a fiery character who’s not afraid to be every other team’s most hated opponent, just like Jose. Although suffering through a horrible World Cup with adopted nation Spain, the Brazilian-born striker will be relishing the opportunity to make a splash in England under Mourinho’s stewardship. If he can be anywhere near as effective next season as he was the season just passed, £32 million will look a snip. And if recent reports today are true, there’s always Didier Drogba to chip in as well. *Slow, envious clap*
Three holes in the side, three purchases, most problems largely solved, while all around him City, United and Liverpool rush around madly trying to lure tasty talent into their own buildings. On the transfers front, Mourinho has earned a relaxed pre-season. I’m sure that the rest of the English Premier League are just wishing that he’d devote less of it to thinking up zingers.