“I have beautiful young eggs. Eggs that need a mum, or in this case a dad, to keep them warm during the winter. When the weather changes, the sun rises, you break the eggs and they are ready for life at the top level.” – Jose Mourinho, speaking this week about his young Chelsea FC players.
Is Jose Mourinho, who apparently likes to hatch more than plots, angling for a new nickname?
The man is becoming so obsessed with eggs that we may soon have to call him “The Speckled One”. Or perhaps “Jose Meringue-ho”.
This is the second time he has compared his players to eggs. The first was six years ago, towards the end of his previous spell at Chelsea.
“When the Class 1 eggs are in Waitrose [the upmarket British supermarket chain] and you cannot go there,” he said, “you have a problem.” Two days later, the yolk was on him as he was shown the egg-sit door.
Then Inter Milan shelled out for his services and he won them the European Coop.
Two references to eggs in six years may not sound like an obsession but it is two more than most football managers summon in their careers.
Apart from those who work as television pundits and comment that any player who seems even remotely sluggish during the Easter Monday fixtures has “obviously had too many chocolate eggs”.
But that is, one assumes, more a matter of contractual obligation than personal choice.
For a man who is rumoured to give a lot of thought to what he says, Meringue-ho seems remarkably ignorant about the hatching process.
I’d always assumed eggs were self-hatching but am willing to be put right. If he could tell me which creature waits for a sunny day before merrily hammering open its own eggs, I’ll be happy to publish a correction.
(Don’t hold your breath on this. Meringue-ho, remember, is the man who said of a veteran Benfica coach: “This could be the story of a donkey who worked for 30 years but never became a horse.” Again, I’d argue that this statement betrays a woeful ignorance of animal husbandry. Donkeys, regardless of how hard they work, do not metamorphose into horses.)
I mention this not to be a pedant – well, not solely – but also to question his credentials as a mother hen. Yes, his nest-feathering skills are second to none but let’s take a look at how his previous Chelsea “eggs” fared after his careful incubation.
Adrian Mutu: Cracked.
Arjen Robben: Poached (by Real Madrid).
Andriy Shevchenko: Flat pancake.
Michael Ballack: Left on shelf, went rotten.
Indeed, it was mainly the fully fledged chicks already pecking around Stamford Bridge when Mourinho arrived who went on to achieve greatness.
It was John Terry who grew up to become the proud, strutting and undisputed cock of the club. It was Frank Lampard who has now lain so many golden eggs that the club cannot bear to throw him in the pot. Even the free-ranging Joe Cole went on to become a little Red rooster (and is now a little Claret and Blue rooster).
So, a word of warning to Mourinho’s young players.
Yes, you have a charismatic and undoubtedly gifted man as your coach.
Some of you will thrive under him but success is not guaranteed. Many of you will be let go to supposedly inferior teams in lower leagues. Who knows, you might even end up, en masse, at the meagre Swiss outfit that turned you over on Wednesday night.
A phenomenon that the eggstroverted Meringue-ho might describe as “putting all my eggs in one Basel kit”.
SAY, ‘WHAT’S UP DOC?’ OVER ALL THIS FUSS
Rugby union star Manu Tuilagi sparked controversy this week when he made a “bunny ears” gesture behind the head of David Cameron, the British prime minister, during a photo call to celebrate the British and Irish Lions’ victorious tour of Australia.
The juvenile prank led to a predictable avalanche of media hand-wringing about cosseted professional athletes setting bad examples to impressionable young fans.
The usual old ground was raked over – including the notoriously boorish behaviour of some England cricketers in the prime minister’s garden after the 2005 Ashes victory.
But aren’t we looking at this “problem” the wrong way?
The issue here is not the childish behaviour of sportsmen, which was ever thus, but the grey area in which the politicians position themselves.
If a political leader wishes to soak up the reflected glory of a successful team, they must become truly part of that team.
Never mind the awkward “grip-and-grin” photo call, held weeks after the triumph at some ghastly, out-of-context garden party.
They should get themselves on the pitch – preferably in full kit, a la John Terry – as soon as the final whistle goes.
That way, they still get their glory but any pranks by “teammates” (which, remember, is how they express affection) are simply taken in the giddy spirit of the occasion.
Never mind bunny ears. If Mr Cameron had been on that pitch in Sydney, he could have been the first world leader to receive a televised Gatorade shower, pile-on and Vuvuzela blast down the lug hole – and still emerged with his dignity intact.