José Mourinho has been dismissed as Chelsea manager a mere seven months after lifting the Premiership trophy with his triumphant team at Stamford Bridge. And it's a good thing. A very good thing indeed.
Over the last 24 hours, I have listened to a lot of sports journalists, pundits and former players weigh in with their theories on why things went so catastrophically pear-shaped for the Special One and his talented squad. I've never played the game and I'm not a sports journalist. In fact this is the first time I've written about football since I was a columnist for Hammers Magazine in 2001. I don't claim to know exactly what happened in the dressing room and then the boardroom but from this nonpartisan position, one clear motive for José Mourinho's dramatic fall from grace seems to be his very public criticism and demotion of Eva Carneiro, Chelsea's first team doctor.
On the first day of the season, Chelsea were drawing 2-2 with Swansea. Towards the end of the match, Eden Hazard - arguably Chelsea's key player in their championship-winning run and Premier League Player of the Season - went down with an injury. Eva Carneiro and colleague Jon Fearn were signalled to come onto the pitch by referee Michael Oliver. As Carneiro jogged past Mourinho to tend to Hazard's injury, the Chelsea manager exploded with rage. He looked like a volcano in an Armani suit. With Hazard having to come off temporarily and his keeper already red carded earlier in the game, Mourinho knew he would have nine men on the field and could be in danger of losing all three points at home.
As Carneiro walked back towards the touchline, Mourinho snapped and snarled at her like a Doberman on a chain, the hue of his face a battleground between Mediterranean olive and lose-your-shit red. He criticised the medical team afterwards but was not charged by the FA for his vitriolic outburst directed at Carneiro despite the fact it was obvious he wasn't asking her if she saw Bake-Off last week.
Rather than cooling off and offering an apology to his medical staff for barking at them and vilifying them in post-match interviews for following the rules of the game, Mourinho instead perpetuated his image (which clearly means so much to him) as the man in charge, the figure of superiority who thinks a volte-face is a sign of weakness. His single-minded attitude towards this matter exposed his true nature. Fans of football have accepted to a certain degree the theatrical villainous role he played in the Premiership's narrative because he's a good manager. He's a winner. But if you continue to be arrogant despite the tide turning against you, you end up looking stubborn and petulant, like a three year-old who refuses to put his shoes on.
Mourinho demoted Carneiro from her position as on-field doctor and essentially made her feel as wanted at the club as a vomiting bug. This has resulted in Carneiro issuing notice of a claim of constructive dismissal against Chelsea. Now when you're on the medical team at a football club, it's accepted that you have to establish a harmonious relationship with the players. For many, a visit to the medical staff is an important daily communication and if they don't develop some kind of bond with the doctor, it could be detrimental to their progress. Eva Carneiro had been at Chelsea Football Club for six years. It's fair to say that she must have had the trust of the players.
When Mourinho rubbished the team's doctor so openly, who do you think would have been the first to voice their objection, albeit out of the range of a journalist's mic? The players have remained silent publicly but their performances this season have told the story. They lost their doc and they lost respect for the man who made it happen. When Mourinho cast a furious, animated shadow on the pitch of Stamford Bridge in the August sunshine, his fate was sealed, along with the ever-diminishing, out-dated attitudes of some men towards women in football.
I'm not suggesting Mourinho secretly harbours opinions of a Richard Keysian nature though I would say that belittling a woman in the manner he did, in front of the world's media, didn't serve to negate the opinion that women still have to deal with prejudice in the modern game. And perhaps I'm being a little romantic here given the inexhaustible supply of tabloid stories about unscrupulous footballers but I like to think that the Chelsea squad, being a postmodern, post-Beckham, cosmopolitan bunch, never defined Eva Carneiro by her gender but by her position as the club's doctor. And that's the only way forward for the modern game.
Eva Carneiro might be coming back to Chelsea now that José has gone so a word of advice if you own Gail's Artisan Bakery on Fulham Road: Don't be surprised to find Eden Hazard on the other end of the phone this week with a big order.