Chelsea

What's More Important to Chelsea: Champions League, Premier League or Both?

Chelsea's manager Jose Mourinho watches his team play during their English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Saturday, March  22, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant
Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2014

The wisdom of fictional racing driver Ricky Bobby leaves a lot to be desired in the movie Talladega Nights.

Portrayed expertly by Will Ferrell, he gives us a fine example of sporting stereotypes in the modern age as he indulges in excess, women and money. The world is his oyster on the back of his talent behind the wheel, and he makes sure he exploits it for all it's worth.

The character is a complete farce, although of all the proverbs Bobby spouts, there is one that resonates.

"If you ain't first, you're last," he repeats.

Were it reality, Bobby's antics would probably infuriate motor racing fans like no other driver before him. After the Chelsea manager's comments this week, he would have an admirer in Jose Mourinho, it seems, though.

"I want my team to feel that there is only one champion and, if you finish second, you are not a champion!" he explained in true Ricky Bobby style, per ESPN, ahead of Chelsea's visit to Crystal Palace.

He couldn't resist a thinly-veiled criticism of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal in the process, either, commenting: "We don't want a trophy for finishing second, third or fourth [...] like some other guys want."

It takes a lot more than merely quoting the motto of a movie character to get under the skin of Mourinho and delve into his psyche, but Bobby's mantra is a fine place to start.

LONDON - MAY 7:  (L-R) Frank Lampard, Jose Mourinho and John Terry hold the trophy up as his Chelsea team mates celebrate after receiving the Barclays Premiership Trophy at Stamford Bridge on May 7, 2005 in London, England.  (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Im
Ben Radford/Getty Images

Indeed, Mourinho's ambition is simple: He wants to win and nothing else matters.

Second, third, fourth or fifth—the position of his team is irrelevant. If Mourinho isn't first, he may as well be last. After all, nobody remembers the runner-up.

Champions League or Premier League, it doesn't matter—whenever there is silverware on offer, Mourinho is determined he is going to take it all.

It's that expectation and demand that has seen him win league titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, not to mention the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan.

Before he joined Chelsea in 2004, Blues fans were content with a season that had seen them finish behind Arsenal's Invincibles in the Premier League, while also losing to Monaco in the Champions League semi-final.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18:  Frank Lampard of Chelsea celebrates with team mates and manager Jose Mourinho after scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Hull City at Stamford Bridge on August 18, 2013 in Londo
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

It had been a promising first season under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, although the man who had led them from the dugout was coming under intense fire from the boardroom.

Claudio Ranieri's time was up, yet his departure was met with a degree of anguish on the terraces.

Chelsea hadn't lifted a trophy under his four-year tenure, yet the Italian was a popular figure. Almost a decade on, managers aren't afforded that same patience in West London.

Every football club across the globe is an impression of its manager. It is he who creates the ethos that resonates from the bottom up and if he is willing to accept mediocrity, it soon impacts on his players, the rest of his staff and the fans.

Abramovich's record of hiring and firing managers at Chelsea—he's employed nine different men during his time in charge—has come in for plenty of criticism, yet it's the culture created by Mourinho that has fed it.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  Andre Schurrle of Chelsea celebrates scoring his second goal with Nemanja Matic, Eden Hazard, David Luiz, Samuel Eto'o, Oscar, Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

When the likes of Luiz Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti were dismissed, it was all in the pursuit of success, which it was deemed they were unable to deliver.

There were many more besides, too, and eventually Chelsea have been forced to return to the man they know will guarantee the glory all at Stamford Bridge crave—Mourinho.

We're fast approaching the climax of 2013-14, and unlike their rivals Liverpool and Manchester City, Chelsea are facing a congested schedule in the coming weeks as they fight for supremacy on domestic and European soil.

LONDON - MARCH 8:  Frank Lampard and Jose Mourinho of Chelsea celebrate victory at the end of the UEFA Champions League, First Knockout Round, Second Leg match between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on March 8, 2005 in London, England.  (Photo b
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

At home, Mourinho is contending with his peers determined to knock him and Chelsea off their perch. Only this week Crystal Palace boss Tony Pulis outlined his plans to stop Chelsea with defensive tactics that will require maximum effort from the Blues' players if they're to be victorious.

And soon after they travel to Paris to face the might of Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

It's going to be a gruelling period, but Mourinho wouldn't have it any other way. Neither would Chelsea fans. In the face of pressure and expectation, they are looking to flourish.

That's the Chelsea culture now. The club's very fabric is defined by so much more.

Abramovich's wealth gave Mourinho the platform to build something special in West London and he accomplished it emphatically. So much so, that success is no longer wished for by fans, it has become a demand.

It's not about the Champions League or Premier League for Chelsea. It's about it all.

In the words of Ricky Bobby: "If you ain't first, you're last."

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes

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