'Mature' Mourinho makes friends in bid to influence people

Posted by Phil Lythell

The conference room at Stamford Bridge was packed with more than 250 journalists from the worlds of television, newspaper and online by the time Jose Mourinho sauntered back in to the Premier League limelight on Monday.

It was an impressive number considering the large amount of negative articles written by many of those same journalists about the Portuguese in the days since his re-instatement as Chelsea manager was confirmed last week. Some have have suggested that his return to West London was a backward step or, at the very least, a sideways one. Others have gone as far as claiming that he has been a failure and might have shot his bolt, a quite extraordinary assertion. Mourinho might have fallen a little short of expectations at Real Madrid but only because the benchmark he has set for himself is so ludicrously high.

-Mou promises calmer second spell
-Palmer: The Abramovich Years
-Brewin: Back at the Bridge
-Mourinho in quotes

Still, despite an hour in front of the cameras, nobody in attendance posited any of those opinions in any of the multitude of questions, suggesting that mischief-making, headline-grabbing and weblink-clicking had been the chief motivation behind such claims.

With little in the way of provocative interrogation, Mourinho was all sweetness and light, perhaps even a little boring. There were none of the verbal controversies that perpetually punctuated his time in Spain and scored several scars upon his rivals in his previous stint on these shores. Instead, he was keen to make friends, no doubt with the intent of influencing people a little later down the line.

There was talk of 'maturity' and of a manager who has evolved and grown wiser with the passage of time. It was this persona that Mourinho was keen to convey, a kind of youthful sage, a man who has experienced it all yet still has years ahead of him in this game. A man ready to conquer England for a second time, though one that was not going to brag about it ahead of time.

If 'maturity' was the image he wished to radiate, 'stability' was the message he wished to emit. It was mentioned on several occasions as he sought to persuade everyone that he was committed to the long-term prosperity of Chelsea Football Club. There were no bold promises, nothing that anyone could call him up on at a future date, whether by a journalist or his employers. Mourinho preferred to focus on immediate objectives and building a club that could be successful for years to come.

He didn't promise any trophies, and he didn't name a date upon which Chelsea might win the league. He merely stated his desire to progress and improve the players along with the team's results.

Of course, the ambition and ego that drives this man guarantees he will be seeking to win every single competition he enters, he was simply determined not to give anyone any rope that they could later use to hang him with. Proof, perhaps, of his stated maturity.

In addition to to managing expectations and massaging the attending journalists, Mourinho was also keen to get off on a good foot with his rivals. He had kind words to say about his former proteges Andre Villas-Boas, Steve Clarke and Brendan Rodgers, and even extended his civility to Arsene Wenger saying he was happy that the Frenchman was still in charge at Arsenal and praising the Gunners' board for sticking with him despite their recent lack of silverware.

While some might be scurrilous enough to interpret that as a sly dig at his old adversary, it actually appeared to be a subtle message toward his new employers for them to overcome their notorious impatience and invest in creating a solid foundation with Mourinho at the helm.

The only time the 'Happy One' -- a term he coined himself following the opening (and most predictable) question when asked about his 'special' status -- seemed to have his feathers ruffled was when he was quizzed about Andres Iniesta's claims that he had damaged Spanish football. Flashes of the familiar, brusque, abrasive Mourinho returned. Real Madrid had broken Barcelona's dominance, he said, and their players were hurting as a result. The antipathy with the Catalans clearly remains and should Chelsea meet them in the Champions League next season there are sure to be fireworks once more, though until then the suggestion is that he will be trying to keep his powder dry.

Roman Abramovich is understood to have grown weary of Mourinho's confrontational posture and the damage wrought on the club's positive image in his first spell, and this charm offensive could well have come at the request of the Russian owner. If so, he passed with flying colours, even if there were few of the trademark soundbites to which the watching world has become so accustomed.

It was controlled and understated, yet confident. It seems he will be letting his players do the talking for him on the pitch. Well, for the time being at least.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

ESPN Conversations