The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Mourinho cashes in, strengthens squad in bid to avoid another season without trohpy at Chelsea
LONDON - Perhaps only Jose Mourinho could survive as Chelsea manager following a trophyless season. Surely another year of failure would stretch the patience of owner Roman Abramovich again.
When his six years in exile from Stamford Bridge ended last year, Mourinho could reasonably claim that time was required to rebuild the squad he inherited from the years of chaotic management.
Still, finishing just four points behind Manchester City in the title race showed that Chelsea was far from being a spent force. Unexpected setbacks against lower-ranking sides denied Mourinho a third Premier League success to add to the 2005 and 2006 titles, with an envied 78-match unbeaten league run at Stamford Bridge ending.
A more clinical strike force was necessary. Diego Costa signed from Spanish champion Atletico Madrid — the Spaniard's inability to score at the World Cup overlooked by Mourinho — and 36-year-old Didier Drogba re-joined two years after clinching the Champions League for Chelsea.
"Didier's still the same. He's been a nightmare to play against in training," Chelsea captain John Terry said. "He's still physically strong, sharp and hungry as well."
Spain striker Fernando Torres has survived at Chelsea despite more than three years or inconsistency and contributing just five league goals last season. But Romelu Lukaku was allowed to make his loan to Everton permanent despite confirming his goal scoring prowess with 15 in the last league campaign.
It would have been hard to turn down the $47 million on offer from Everton for the Belgium striker who could never convince Mourinho of his worth on the pitch. With $66 million also banked from offloading out-of-favour David Luiz to Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea has demonstrated a shrewd ability to work the transfer market to comply with UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations.
At the same time, two well-paid members of the old guard have been allowed to leave in their 30s: left back Ashley Cole to Roma and record-scorer Frank Lampard to New York City FC, via a loan spell at Manchester City.
Cole was replaced with another addition from Atletico, Filipe Luis, while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been recalled from a three-year loan at the Spanish capital club to challenge Petr Cech for the No. 1 jersey.
Drogba wasn't the only crowd-pleasing addition to the squad as former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas was convinced to join Chelsea from Barcelona.
"The club are evolving. One day we'll all be gone," Terry said. "It's time for these players to continue to keep winning trophies for this club and keep the fans and owner happy."
And Mourinho, who called his team "little horses" and complained about the lack of "killer" striker last season, seems satisfied for now.
"We got exactly what we need and what we want," Mourinho said preparing for his second season of a four-year contract. "The squad is one which I like very much and I look forward to starting the season."
In: Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Mario Pasalic (Hajduk Split), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Didier Drogba.
Players out: David Luiz (Paris Saint-Germain), Ashley Cole (Roma), Demba Ba (Besiktas), Samuel Eto'o, Henrique Hilario, Frank Lampard (all released).
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