How ‘leader of men’ Jose Mourinho won the Premier League title 15 years ago today

Marilyn Dubinski Chelsea FC

April 30, 2005. Chelsea have just become champions for the first time in 50 years and two-goal hero Frank Lampard is asked about the impact of manager Jose Mourinho.

‘He has worked on spirit. He has worked on the confidence of the lads. He is always positive,’ explained Lampard after the final whistle at Bolton. ‘He makes every player feel important. A real leader of men.’

The description may confuse younger readers who only know Mourinho as an unhappy and divisive figure at his most recent clubs Manchester United and Tottenham.

Jose Mourinho lifts the Premier League trophy after leading Chelsea to glory in 2004-05

Jose Mourinho lifts the Premier League trophy after leading Chelsea to glory in 2004-05

Jose Mourinho lifts the Premier League trophy after leading Chelsea to glory in 2004-05

The Portuguese takes off after watching Frank Lampard score a title-clinching goal at Bolton

The Portuguese takes off after watching Frank Lampard score a title-clinching goal at Bolton

The Portuguese takes off after watching Frank Lampard score a title-clinching goal at Bolton

CHELSEA IN 2004-05 

PREMIER LEAGUE

Position: Winners

Games won: 29

Games drawn: 8

Games lost: 1 

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Semi-finalists

FA CUP 

Fifth round

LEAGUE CUP

Winners

But things were very different in 2005 when his tactical genius and personal charisma broke Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger’s domination in English football.

‘All great teams need a great manager and this guy is absolutely fantastic. He is the real deal,’ said eight-time Liverpool title winner Alan Hansen on that night’s Match of the Day.

Mourinho had breezed into Stamford Bridge the previous June having just won the Champions League with Porto. ‘I’m not one of the bottle. I think I am a special one,’ he told the world’s media before proving he could also walk the walk.

His personality was complex even then but 15 years ago, the negatives were outweighed by the good stuff. His humour was sharp like his suits, players loved him and he seemed three steps ahead of his managerial rivals.

Previous club Porto were unhappy he’d met with Chelsea and missed their Champions League homecoming parade. But Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who would later sack Mourinho twice, didn’t care at the time. He wanted trophies for huge investment and the new kid from Portugal was the safest bet on the planet.

Mourinho poses at Stamford Bridge for the first time after being unveiled as Chelsea's boss

Mourinho poses at Stamford Bridge for the first time after being unveiled as Chelsea's boss

Mourinho poses at Stamford Bridge for the first time after being unveiled as Chelsea’s boss

The self-proclaimed 'Special One' leads a training session at Cobham shortly after arriving

The self-proclaimed 'Special One' leads a training session at Cobham shortly after arriving

The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ leads a training session at Cobham shortly after arriving

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Chelsea gave Mourinho plenty of talent to work with. John Terry, Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard were already at the club, Arjen Robben and Petr Cech were signed in advance of his arrival and later that summer Didier Drogba, Ricardo Carvalho and Paolo Ferreira arrived. The total outlay of £70million in one summer was unprecedented at the time.

The heavy spending and managerial arrogance turned outsiders against Chelsea but that added to the siege mentality Mourinho wanted to build. He was unashamed in promoting win-at-all costs with a team primarily intent on keeping clean sheets.

Chelsea often played with only one striker, Drogba or Eidur Gudjohnsen, which was considered heresy at the time. Makelele became the first midfielder whose sole interest was to protect the back-four,  arole now dubbed ‘the Makelele position’.

Mourinho didn’t care. Chelsea won their first three matches 1-0, starting with Gudjohnsen’s goal against Manchester United, and conceded only once in their first eight games.

They did lose their ninth match 1-0 at Manchester City to fall five points behind reigning champions Arsenal but then went undefeated for the rest of the Premier League campaign.

As wingers Robben, Damien Duff and Joe Cole gradually added flair from wide positions, Chelsea did score goals. Four against Charlton, Newcastle, Blackburn Fulham, West Brom and Norwich.

Mourinho puts his arm around Arjen Robben

Mourinho puts his arm around Arjen Robben

Claude Makelele gets a hug from Mourinho late in the season

Claude Makelele gets a hug from Mourinho late in the season

Mourinho embraces Arjen Robben (left) and Claude Makelele (right) during his first season

The former Porto boss gets a hug as Chelsea's players and staff prepare to celebrate the title

The former Porto boss gets a hug as Chelsea's players and staff prepare to celebrate the title

The former Porto boss gets a hug as Chelsea’s players and staff prepare to celebrate the title

They first topped the table in November with a win against Everton and didn’t look back. They ended up winning the league 12 points ahead of Arsenal. Their record of conceding only 15 goals in 38 matches hasn’t been bettered to this day.

Being Mourinho and Chelsea, success on the pitch was also accompanied by plenty of drama off it, though not all of it his fault.

Striker Adrian Mutu was sacked after testing positive for cocaine. Mourinho, Chelsea and Ashley Cole were all fined when they met up in a hotel to discuss a move to Stamford Bridge whilst the England defender was under contract with Arsenal.

Throughout the season, Mourinho was massive box office, shooting from the hip in a way not seen since Brian Clough, with whom he was regularly compared.

He claimed Luis Garcia’s Champions League winner – the ‘ghost goal’ for Liverpool against Chelsea – hadn’t crossed the line. ‘Maybe you should say the linesman scored,’ he wrapped.

He criticised Tottenham for defensive tactics. ‘They brought the bus and they left the bus in front of the goal.’

Darkest of all, he hinted at an officiating conspiracy after a Champions League tie against Barcelona. ‘When I saw Frank Rijkaard (Barcelona coach) entering the referee’s dressing room I couldn’t believe it. When Didier Drogba was sent off (after half-time) I wasn’t surprised.’

Mourinho comforts Frank Lampard and John Terry after a controversial defeat by Liverpool

Mourinho comforts Frank Lampard and John Terry after a controversial defeat by Liverpool

Mourinho comforts Frank Lampard and John Terry after a controversial defeat by Liverpool 

Mourinho watches Didier Drogba trudge off the pitch after being sent off against Barcelona

Mourinho watches Didier Drogba trudge off the pitch after being sent off against Barcelona

Mourinho watches Didier Drogba trudge off the pitch after being sent off against Barcelona 

While all that griping sounds like a broken record now, there was an element of showbiz freshness to Mourinho then. His good looks made him a pin-up and his outbursts were often interspersed with a bright smile. 

At 41, he was young enough to push the players to their maximum. Later in his career, his tough love on big names like Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba disn’t work as well.

There were some key games on the way to winning the Premier League title, having also claimed the League Cup. Arguably the most dramatic was a 2-2 draw away to Arsenal which stopped Mourinho’s main rivals from closing the gap.

Arsenal led twice through Thierry Henry, but Chelsea rallied to level from John Terry and Gudjohnsen. After that Chelsea won their next eight without conceding and were out of sight.

Mourinho puts the Premier League trophy on his head as he celebrates with Lampard and Terry at Stamford Bridge

Mourinho puts the Premier League trophy on his head as he celebrates with Lampard and Terry at Stamford Bridge

Mourinho puts the Premier League trophy on his head as he celebrates with Lampard and Terry at Stamford Bridge

Thousands of Blues fans travelled to Bolton to see them seal the deal with three games to spare. Lampard scored twice in the second half, the first after an hour when Cech’s long clearance had twice been flicked on, the late second following a swift break.

Mourinho, with slightly unkempt longer hair, greeted the decisive goal with a touchline dart reminiscent of his celebration for Porto at Old Trafford the previous season.

At the final whistle, while his players hollered their joy on the pitch, he created his own photo opportunity by sitting on a plastic seat and fielding a call on his mobile phone, big grin planted on his face.

Later in the dressing-room, someone threw a bucket of water over his head as he celebrated with players and staff.

Mourinho went on to win more league titles at Chelsea in two separate spells that bookended successful sojourns to Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

Now in his mid-fifties, his incredible career is at the crossroads as he finds himself trying to inspire Tanguy Ndombele rather than Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 

It’s a long way from Chelsea in 2005. Back then, Mourinho was the man.

Mourinho is all smiles as he poses with Chelsea chief Peter Kenyon during his unveiling

Mourinho is all smiles as he poses with Chelsea chief Peter Kenyon during his unveiling

Mourinho is all smiles as he poses with Chelsea chief Peter Kenyon during his unveiling

 

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