Brendan Rodgers sits at home, at peace. He knows that Liverpool made a mistake. After all, he’s the greatest manager not just of his time, but any time.
He looks at his phone and sees no messages from anyone, which is surprising. During his Liverpool tenure, whenever a manager was sacked, he had no hesitation in inviting them to Melwood, to spend some time. To stay in the game and learn something, obviously. Continuing education is important, even at the highest level. After all, who could fail not to be revolutionized by simply observing how Rodgers educated—not trained, never trained—his players.
They would see him reinvent Emre Can by moving him into the back three, having studiously observed that he had already played in a back three in Germany. They would see Mamadou Sakho, deserving of a new contract. Martin Skrtel, the defensive veteran. Simon Mignolet, once hapless but educated back into competence. They would see all of this and know that if Rodgers had conquered his fear of dealing with difficulties in defense, then surely they might be able to at least reflect that magnificence elsewhere, even if they couldn’t manage it themselves.
That was barely even the half of it, but it explained why now, as he sorts out his life as an unemployed manager, his phone isn’t ringing or full of supportive messages.
But it makes some sense. Other managers are likely beset by insecurity now. They couldn’t invite him in to their lives, least of all those who had seem him work at first hand. It would be inviting trouble. Sedition, and at worst, maybe they’d lose their own jobs. Players would take one look at Rodgers, see the proper tracksuit, and go, “You’re not fooling anyone.” They’d know he was rock and roll through and through.
Rodgers would barely have to say a word. He’d merely suggest that a player would be better served by playing that reverse seven-and-a-half-role, tucked in on the left but slightly around the corner. He’s make that famous sign with his hands, demonstrating the vast tactical differences between a holding midfield and two shuttlers, or a double pivot with an attacking midfielder ahead of them. Lateral, vertical, horizontal. He’d seen, and done, it all. It would inspire players and terrify his peers. They couldn’t offer him support now, they’d be risking their own livelihood.
He knew, after all, that it was already having an effect on Jose Mourinho. It didn’t matter that Rodgers was sacked after Mourinho made his seven-minute television interview speech. Things like Twitter timelines and facts were just getting in the way of the essential truth: Mourinho knew that if Rodgers was going to be let go, his position would come under pressure. If Liverpool had already made a move to replace him, Mourinho would already have been aware for a week at least.
Mourinho had given his answer to Sky after yet another defeat. He had brought back Nemanja Matic for a full 28 minutes and John Terry from the start. He expected a better performance from his side, given they collapsed abominably, and could have lost by more. Southampton, well off the pace compared to their heights achieved last season, were nevertheless better across the pitch.
Chelsea were slow in defense; Southampton were organized and ready to contribute to the attack. Chelsea were slow in midfield; Southampton linked attack and defense intelligently and with quick thought and feet. Chelsea were slow in attack, and Southampton had Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle, strong, fleet-footed, and confident. Asmir Begovic, failing Terry, Cesc Fabregas and Radamel Falcao, are the spine of a new side that Mourinho is using to cement his legacy. It’s not going to work, it seems, and Mourinho looks especially disconsolate. He rambled about the players, referees, people behind the scenes, and people after him. He had tried all his previous tricks this season, and nothing has worked.
Rodgers had read all about it. Chelsea was no longer able to keep up with the intensive efforts required by Mourinho. The club was tired of his histrionics and fed up with the Eva Carneiro farce. The board was wondering if Mourinho was really worth it.
All very convenient. Rodgers had left his mark at Chelsea when he was a coach for Mourinho in his first tenure. Rodgers knew that he’d left a legacy of his own, one of progressive ideals and a commitment to the most inspirational brand of the sport in history—one that almost peaked with his 2013/14 season with Liverpool. He sent a text to Mourinho, trying to get rid of the elephant in the room.
“Hi Jose, I know you’re having a few difficulties so if you ever need me to come in for a few days and take the pressure off, just let me know. I’ve learned plenty from you, and I know you did from me. Let’s see what we can do together for a few days.”
Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. He waited. Thirty minutes. An hour. No reply. Rodgers smiled. He had Mourinho rattled.