Jose’s performance stole another week that wasn’t his. And the English media spent a couple of days recalling special times.
They called it his Adele moment. Jose Mourinho cut short by ITV just as he appeared set to spill his soul to Gabriel Clarke about his future plans. Just as the channel once interrupted England’s emotion laureate as she accepted a Brit Award.
It would have worked pretty well as an Adele lyric, if only Clarke would have shuffled out of shot and made himself useful under the lid of a Steinway. “I love to be where people love me to be,” muttered Jose, giving it the eyes, like Ozil tried to do at the start of the night when he missed the big chance.
Jose’s sad eyes never miss. Has any man, never mind any woman, ever looked in Jose’s sad eyes before and not elected to linger a little longer? Just to see what might happen.
Until Clarkey. “We’ll take that as England. Gotta go.”
Adele flipped a finger when she was beaten by the ads. Jose’s sad eyes widened to confusion at a captive audience released into the wild.
Predictably, since it was ITV, there was outrage over the spurned scoop, even though many would consider the episode to be progress for a station more accustomed to taking its urgent ad breaks while goals are being scored.
Beyond that, you hoped it might have been a small sign the people who once hung on Jose’s every word and turned him into a megalomaniac would not be as keen to play his games and lap up his guff next time round.
But of course ITV ruined everything by more or less apologising for Clarke’s snub, making it clear they would have scrapped the night’s schedule for a prolonged audience, if only they’d had the time to organise it.
Heck, they’d probably have shelved Coronation Street for the week if needed, since they can’t have many cast members left anyway.
All of this after another gripping night of top-level football. When Dortmund had sandwiched a 70-minute masterclass between two 10-minute tutorials in disarray.
On Derby day that’s in it, you are reminded of Hunter Thompson’s line in his bourbon-soaked people-watching epic The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. “We didn’t give a hoot in hell what was happening on the track. We had come there to watch the real beasts perform.”
So Jose’s performance stole another week that wasn’t his. And the English media spent a couple of days recalling special times and preparing to rekindle its great lost love.
And it’s impossible not to be torn at the probability of his return to Chelsea. On one hand, Jose’s maddening ability to write himself into the title of every story will grate even before he inevitably invites his new charges to chuck their Europa League medals in the bin.
And then you consider other chancers like Di Canio, already talking the talk and sliding the slide, with none of the achievement to justify the bravado; Jose’s ego-mania almost plays as understatement. But perhaps dangerously for Chelsea, Jose has never turned up anywhere looking to be loved before.
At Porto he worked with the indignity of an outsider proving a point. First time in London, in a place without history, he needed only to win, at least at first. At Inter he could do what was required in a land where tactics are appreciated.
Madrid appeared to confuse him. Torn between his instincts and placating the people; at times his team sank in a mire of indiscipline, at others it hit the heights. But Jose never entirely convinced us he was in control of them.
Last week he couldn’t even organise them. This week, he was unable to energise his side in the way the arrival of the first goal belatedly did.
In truth, the eyes have begun to look a little tired. And if that spark has dulled, if the appetite for confrontation is sated, going back will be no guarantee of affection.
As Adele will tell him, sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.
Rivals better off spending time apart
Before we write Barcelona’s demise in stone, we might remember Kilkenny’s false dusk of three years ago.
Great champions who redefined a sport, wracked by injuries, shorn of the greatest ever player, made look weary and a little out of step by an arriving power. A margin of defeat swelled to embarrassment by momentum. But that changing of the guard was conducted in a revolving door. Less end of an era, more pause for breath.
So Barca might be back sooner than we think.
Meanwhile, Kilkenny’s modern rivalry with Tipperary enters that awkward phase when familiarity begins to turn punters off and turn players on to past grievances.
The great Tipp-Cork series of two decades ago — which produced some freewheeling epics for the ages — eventually petered out in its dourest struggle.
By 1992, the roots of a little rancour were just showing, with the odd wild stroke from years’ past not easily forgotten.
You fear we are in that place again now, with suggestions of lingering Kilkenny bitterness at the pull that hurt Michael Rice last August and clear evidence that day that Kilkenny’s physicality had occupied Tipperary minds more than proved healthy.
Perhaps the return of Eamon O’Shea to the mix has provided the reboot needed to freshen the dynamic. Though the March clash of the sides — which ended Kilkenny’s winning streak — contained a bite that matched the conditions.
Any residual toxicity is unlikely to be flushed entirely from the systems tomorrow. And since the game could do with new stories anyway, perhaps everyone would benefit if the pair’s paths now diverged for the summer. It would be a shame if a compelling rivalry spilled into a feud.
A golden chance poured down the drain
If the reputation of Spanish sport suffered a dent on the football pitch this week, it shipped an even heavier beating in court.
When Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria ruled the 200 blood bags seized in evidence against doping doc Eufemiano Fuentes should be destroyed, she spattered suspicion over a generation of her compatriots.
It’s easy to overlook that Dr Fuentes wasn’t convicted of any doping crime this week, despite testimony that he supplied a cocktail of EPO, cortisone, steroids, calves’ blood and dog medicine to clients. Clients from the worlds of tennis, football and athletics as well as cycling, according to Fuentes’s own testimony.
Fuentes’s offence was endangering public health, because in 2006, when the blood was seized, doping wasn’t illegal in Spain.
Spain has since made inroads into changing that, with stricter laws currently in parliament. But the Santamaria decision again raises the suspicion that there is no serious appetite to expose cheats.
From a footballing perspective, it’s notable too, that while WADA and Spanish anti-doping organisation AEA have talked about appealing the ruling, there appears to be little interest from the Spain FA, or indeed UEFA or FIFA.
If Spain thinks this blood won’t stain, it is barking up the wrong tree.
HEROES & VILLAINS
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
Kevin Krigger: Back to Kentucky, where Krigger today becomes just the second black man to ride the Derby in 92 years, a race once dominated by black jockeys. A reminder that stupid name-calling aside, the legacy of old segregation still infects many areas of sport.
Pádraig Harrington : Surely the great revival will come when he can find a way to hook up that belly putter to the luminous straitjacket.
TO HELL IN A HANDCART
The PFA: Booking a black man who tells jokes about racism sounds risky, in a climate where footballers appear to be easily confused about what they can and can’t say. Booking him, then telling him not to do the racism jokes seems idiotic.
The Lions: Absolutely stunned at wotshisname’s exclusion. This has tarnished the brand for me. Will be flying my Britain and Ireland flags at half-mast.
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