Chelsea and Jose Mourinho are just products of their environment 0

On Wednesday night, Chelsea tumbled out of the Champions League in less than glorious circumstances. In the days following, Jose Mourinho has been questioned less for his tactical approach and more for the exploitative, advantage-seeking behaviour that he and his players are accused of using.

‘Dark arts’…that’s a phrase that’s being used a lot and, increasingly, it’s a characterisation which is being used to forcefully dent Mourinho’s legacy.

Truthfully, Chelsea didn’t behave well in mid-week and some of their antics at Stamford Bridge were an unwelcome reminder of just how toxic football can be in 2015.  Is it really fair, though, to reduce Mourinho to an antagonistic rule-bender?

It’s worth remembering that none of this is new.  Nothing that happened on Wednesday was a first for football and nothing in Mourinho’s coaching repertoire is particularly original, he’s just the most modern version of something which has existed for us long as any of us can remember.

The difference here, it seems, is that this involves Mourinho and Chelsea and they, when unified, are just such an obvious villain.   They’re wealthy, they’re successful, and they represent all of what many consider to be the worst aspects of modern football.

Go to a game today - any one, from any division - and you will see the same behaviour.  Time will be wasted, referees will be surrounded, artificial advantages will be pursued at every turn.

As a consequence, it seems very selective to take a chisel to Mourinho’s reputation.  In fact, it’s bizarre to use Wednesday night as a reason to chisel away at his legacy when, without question, the El Clasico ugliness, in which he was the chief protagonist during his time at Real Madrid, was far, far worse.

If there’s a black mark against his name, surely it’s that?

In football, we like neat divisions.  We like our characters to be wholesome and good or treacherous and despicable.  That’s a simplification; the game is littered with cheating, rule-breaking and poor conduct and, commonly, what separates the characters we like from those we don’t is their level of success.

Does that render Mourinho innocent of all charges?  No, of course it doesn’t, but recognise that - more often than not - where there is extravagant success, there are questions over purity.

Pep Guardiola’s wonderful Barcelona side were incessantly - and sometimes justifiably - accused of simulation and referee manipulation.  Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United enjoyed a significant advantage because of their own hold over officials.  More recently and locally, last year’s Liverpool side - adored by the neutrals for their Cinderella season - were heavily reliant on a forward who is the very definition of an antihero.

That latter example is very pertinent, because a lot of the same writers and ex-players who are now castigating Mourinho were willing to overlook that ugliness for the sake of the greater good.  The message is clear: the ends justify the means - but just not with Mourinho.

We all have all fostered the culture of winning at all costs, so we can hardly complain when it’s not our own side who are getting the benefit of the doubt.

If wholesome, feel-good achievement is what you want, football isn’t really your sport.  It’s a highly-competitive, highly-pressurised environment which, due to a variety of reasons, is probably not as well-policed as it should be.  When that’s the case - when all that exists are varying degrees of regrettable behaviour - you don’t pick out the individuals who never face retribution for their antics, you take aim at the system which essentially encourages it.

Jose Mourinho and Chelsea aren’t polluting their environment, they’re products of it.

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