Mourinho plans a cull

Chelsea players would be well advised not to coast when they gather for pre-season training early next month. Jose Mourinho made clear on his first morning as manager at Stamford Bridge that he wants to cut the squad to 24 and feels he will need 15 days working with his team to decide whom he wants to keep.

Mourinho’s desire to build a group of 21 outfield players and three goalkeepers signals a major clear-out.
Chelsea’s official website lists a first-team squad of 32, not counting the keeper Petr Cech and winger Arjen Robben who join next season. 

With Mourinho certain to make signings of his own, at least a dozen departures are likely. Several will be low-key or predictable. Winston Bogarde, Emmanuel Petit and Mario Melchiot are out of contract and Juan Sebastian Veron, Mario Stanic and Jesper Gronkjaer are also expected to move. But there will be more notable casualties.

Mourinho will judge on attitude, ability and tactical suitability. The former Porto coach places high demands on players and will keep only those who fit into his ‘philosophy and model of play”.

He put across a clear message this week to his absent squad.

‘I love players who love to win and don’t just love to win in the 90 minutes but in every training session and every moment of their lives,” he said. ‘If some of them are at home or with their national teams watching this, then they can think: ‘I can put myself into this or I’m not the man to be with him.’”

Mourinho feels he will be able to make up his mind about a player’s suitability after little more than a fortnight’s training. Everyone is due back on July 5 but internationals still involved in Euro 2004 will come later.

‘I will be ready [to assess the squad] when I have worked with the players for 15 days,” he said.

Some are bound to leave sooner and Mourinho, who has signed a three-year contract, will want to waste little time in finalising a group that shares his ideals because he ‘hates” big squads.

‘The way I work, I need everyone to be concentrated,” he explained. ‘I need to work with small groups.”

The 41-year-old added that having a small squad heightens his focus on the youth team and provides greater motivation not only for players and coaches in the academy but for the first team.

‘I think in top clubs when every player is a top player the biggest question is about motivating people,” he said. ‘I cannot have a player in my squad who knows it is very difficult for him to play. When I have 30 players and three right-backs, the third right-back knows from the beginning that for him to play the first one has to be injured and the second to be suspended.

‘When you have a big box of oranges and one of the oranges is sick, one month later you have 10 oranges to send to the garbage. So I want everyone to have a strong motivation.”

Mourinho lacks neither motivation nor belief. He regards himself as a ‘top manager”, not just another up-and-coming young coach.

‘Please don’t call me arrogant because what I’m saying is true,” he said. ‘I’m European champion, so I’m not one of the bottle. I think I’m a special one.” 

He will demand special things immediately from his players. Clearly relishing battle with Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger, he will send scouts to watch Premiership teams in pre-season.

‘When you go to ‘war’ you must know your opponents, their strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

He is not cowed by suggestions that it would be a failure to end his first season without a trophy.

‘I’m not asking for time and limits,” he said. ‘We shouldn’t defend ourselves from the outside pressure, saying we are only waiting for success in my last year of contract.”

Later he stressed that a coach’s success cannot be determined by trophies alone, citing the example of Monaco’s Didier Deschamps, but said: ‘As a motivation I clap with both hands the idea that we have to win something.”

The contrast with Claudio Ranieri is plain and he dismissed suggestions by his predecessor that he had proved little because the Portuguese league is not the best. Having advised someone to remind Ranieri that Porto defeated teams from across Europe to win the Uefa and European cups, Mourinho said: ‘I could say other things, for example that he’s in football for 20 years and the only thing he has won is the Spanish Cup.”

In fact Ranieri has also won an Italian Cup but Mourinho had made his point.

His tendency to speak his mind promises to make life interesting and his tactics, too, will be out of the ordinary. No fan of 4-4-2, he likes players with the ‘dynamic creativity” to influence a game ‘between lines”.

Retaining possession and having solid organisation are other basics.

Mourinho’s task will extend beyond the first team, with Chelsea’s chief executive Peter Kenyon saying the manager will have responsibilities, including ‘re-establishing what is a woeful youth policy”. It is the big names, though, who have most to worry about. —

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