By Greg Stobart
Success and control. While Jose Mourinho is an almost cast-iron guarantee of the former, the Chelsea manager returned to west London in the summer knowing the latter would be far harder to achieve.
The Portuguese has skilfully manoeuvred a squad, similar to the one that finished a mammoth 13 points behind the eventual champions last season, to within striking distance of leaders Arsenal ahead of Manchester United’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Terry, Lampard & Cole at Chelsea
Games: 566, Goals: 51, Assists: 25
Games: 607, Goals: 205, Assists: 152
Games: 331, Goals: 7, Assists: 38
Upon his return to the club at which he earned his reputation as the Special One, one of Mourinho's key considerations was how much influence he would have over the football operations at the club.
After all, Roman Abramovich has always called the shots at Stamford Bridge, hiring and firing managers on a whim and signing players - most notably Andrei Shevchenko and Fernando Torres – with little consideration for the coach.
Even Mourinho, the most successful manager in the club's history, was not immune. After all, Abramovich’s interference caused the end of the successful coach’s first spell in charge of the Blues in 2007.
This time, Mourinho wanted the first and last say on the make-up of the squad.
And while he is on board with the club’s desire, in the financial fair play era, to build a competitive team built on the best young talents in world football, he also sees the value in experienced players and proven winners, Englishmen who identify with the club and the fans at Stamford Bridge.
That is why Mourinho wants John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole to extend their contracts when their existing deals expire at the end of the season.
Cole is the most likely of the three to depart at the end of the season, unless the England left-back is willing to accept a significant pay cut having often found himself out of favour this season.
|25/2||Chelsea are 25/2 with Betway to beat Manchester United 3-1|
While the futures of Cole and Lampard could yet lie away from Stamford Bridge, it appears Mourinho has won a major battle where Terry is concerned, not least given Goal’s understanding that the Chelsea hierarchy were ready to let the centre-back leave this summer.
Terry looked on his last legs last season but the 33-year-old has been a fundamental part of the Chelsea side this season, playing in all 21 Premier League games so far with the Londoners just two points behind table-topping Arsenal.
The 19 league goals Chelsea have conceded this season is the joint-fewest in the division and has been built around the captain’s commanding presence, dominance in the air and ability to read the game.
His close relationship with Mourinho has brought the best out of the former England captain, with calls growing for his return to the national team ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Mourinho’s presence seems to have grounded Terry somewhat. There was certainly a feeling within the club’s Cobham training ground that the one-club man had too much power and undermined a succession of managers, most notably Andre Villas-Boas.
As the dressing room leader on and off the pitch, Terry has been in a position where he was able to make personal contact with Abramovich to air grievances, although they very rarely speak these days.
His respect for Mourinho means that Terry is no longer trying to act as the club’s de facto manager and has been happy to fall in line with the rest of the squad and accept the boss’ methods and judgement. The results have shown on the pitch.
He signed his current £150,000-a-week contract in 2009 after flirting with a lucrative move to Manchester City and is unlikely to accept a salary drop. Mourinho will have to convince Chelsea to make an offer on par with the defender’s considerable sense of self-worth.
Mourinho would be loath to lose all three legends, who could walk away for nothing and agree lucrative deals with other clubs with huge signing-on fees. Retaining any of the illustrious trio would represent a significant feather in his cap.