The SIG Column - 20 September

20 Sep 2007

Many in the sport are mouring the departure of a true character in the wake of Jose Mourinho's sudden exit from his job at Chelsea. Drew Barrand, head of media at Sport Industry Group, predicts that it is not only on the pitch that the club will struggle to replicate the impact of the iconic manager...

So it’s goodbye to The Special One. After 3 years and countless media interviews, Jose Mourinho has left the building.

Given the Chelsea manager’s increasingly stormy relationship with his Russian billionaire boss Mr. Abramovich, Mourinho’s departure is not necessarily all that shocking. Although the swiftness with which it came about surprised most, the end result was not that difficult to predict.

It had become apparent to many that all that was needed was a handful of bad results and the colourful Mourinho would be on his way, albeit by ‘mutual consent’ as the official club statement tells us.

Speculation suggests that Chelsea will have to part with close to £25m to pay Mourinho off for the remaining two years left on his contract. But beyond this massive contractual obligation, the Stamford Bridge club is losing a much bigger financial asset.

Mourinho is a one-off. It could be argued that you’d have to go back as far as Brian Clough in the 1980s to find a top-flight manager in the UK with the same widespread appeal as the outgoing Chelsea boss.

There are some highly successful and proven managers in the Premiership – Ferguson, Wenger, Benitez – but none capture the imagination of the public and consequently the attention of the business world in the way Mourinho has managed.

In Clough’s era, football was nowhere near the commercial proposition it is today so from that standpoint it is reasonable to argue that Mourinho is the first ‘celebrity’ manager that British football has seen.

Sponsors have fallen over themselves to sign the Special One up to front their advertising campaigns – from Samsung through to the Portuguese government from whom he was the face of a marketing push to preserve the use of corks in the wine industry.

Mourinho has proven without doubt that it is not just the players who can leverage football’s commercial clout to their own gain.

In the same way that David Beckham has furrowed a commercial path down which many a modern day footballer has looked to tread, Mourinho has opened the door for managers to get a piece of the action.

For all this, Beckham remains unsurpassed by those who seek to follow his lead and it will prove similarly difficult to any manager to match Mourinho’s achievements in the marketing world.

Make no bones about it, Chelsea are losing a major commercial asset who could sell club merchandise with just a raise of his eyebrow. It is difficult to imagine the incoming, and distinctly less overt, Avram Grant commanding a similar level of clout.

Like him or loathe him, Mourinho has made a distinct impression. For all his showmanship and bravado that he brought to the English top-flight, the Special One will be a big miss to the Premiership. Although in the long run he may prove to be an even bigger miss to Chelsea’s bottom line.

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