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By ESPN Staff

Trophies not enough to save Mourinho

Shocked? It's certainly the most interesting thing to have happened in the world of football recently, but can it be seen as the biggest surprise?

The most under-pressure manager in English football has left Chelsea by 'mutual consent' and there are those that will claim Jose Mourinho jumped before he was pushed.

With their worst start in the Premier League since 2001 behind them, having lost 2-0 to Aston Villa and drawn with Blackburn last weekend, the rumours had already begun to circle over the managerial position at Stamford Bridge.

Compounded by a poor performance in midweek, billionaire owner Roman Abramovich had been seen in the stands laughing when Rosenborg took a shock lead on Tuesday night. Whether this was because a woeful 24,793 turned up to see the match, their lowest attendance since the Champions League tie against Slovakian side Zilina in 2003, or because he knew something others didn't, remains to be seen.

What's certain is that the Russian had the knives out for Mourinho since he failed to deliver the Premiership title or Champions League trophy last season.

Back in May, there was speculation over who would take over the reigns from Mourinho if he did leave, but after three years in the job, the colourful Portuguese delivered a fairly sizeable haul of trophies for Abramovich. Just not the ones he wanted.

Premiership titles in 2004/05 and 2005/06, a double League Cup win and one FA Cup with victory over Manchester United last season, Mourinho was also voted Premier League Manager of the Year twice and took Chelsea to an incredible run of 66 matches unbeaten at home.

However, the Champions League prize eluded him. Tactically out-thought by Liverpool's Rafa Benitez, Mourinho struggled to impress in Europe and Abramovich was evidently keen that his £180million investment in players under Mourinho should bring about the biggest prize in European club football. After all, Mourinho had collected the prize with Porto in 2003/04 without any financial backing.

With only one game gone in this season's competition however, the disappointing draw against lowly Norwegian side Rosenborg seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back. While failure to deliver the Champions League may have been one of the main reasons behind his departure, Mourinho's relationship with the chairman has certainly played its part in events.

Clashes between the two became public knowledge with the signing of Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko. A cheque for £30.1million was cashed by AC Milan, and one of the world's top strikers arrived. Although it was clear that Mourinho had been forced to buy a player who was a close personal friend of the Chelsea owner, and not someone the manager thought would link well with the players already at the club.

This hunch proved to be correct and after a disappointing first season with the club Mourinho chose to alienate Shevchenko, incurring the wrath of the powerful Russian. With two immensely strong characters going head-to-head, there were behind-the-scenes scuffles last season, but the pair patched up their differences (with a reported meeting after the draw at Watford) and Mourinho held onto his job.

It would seem that the Portuguese had backed down in the row, but this season brought about a whole new dimension to their relationship.

Abramovich made it clear that he expected to see attacking football of the kind Chelsea had shown in their steamrollering of the Premiership in 2004/05. A summer of free-transfer arrivals, including Steven Sidwell, Alex and Tal Ben Haim, suggested that the Russian was no longer willing to bankroll such huge signings, only splashing out £13.5million on the arrival of Lyon's Florent Malouda.

Mourinho had complained about not being able to buy defenders while John Terry was out last Christmas, so there was obviously tension surrounding new acquisitions, yet he found himself in a strange situation. Having spent £200million in three seasons, to suddenly be deprived of funds must have come as a shock, although some of his signings have not helped his cause.

The likes of Khalid Boulahrouz, Asier Del Horno, Tiago and Mateja Kezman all cost a lot for what they brought to the club; but it was Shevchenko and the signing of German midfielder Michael Ballack that caused the most friction.

With Mourinho failing to get the best out of two of the world's best players, too much relied on John Terry and Frank Lampard to perform and host of injuries cost the club dearly. As with all Premier League manager's though, the finger of blame did not fall on the players themselves but on the manager.

With Manchester United to come this Sunday, the timing of Chelsea's decision to release their manager could not be worse. With the club in turmoil for the foreseeable future, whoever takes over the hot-seat is fully aware of the pressure that comes with the job.

Where Mourinho ends up next will be much more interesting.

  • Any comments? Email Jon Carter