John Terry and Didier Drogba lifted the Football League Cup following Chelsea’s win over Tottenham in the final on Sunday at Wembley Stadium. If you’re wondering “what else is new?”, this time is different than the others.
Terry and Drogba are stalwarts of Chelsea’s previous glories in the recent past, but Sunday’s triumph assigned tangible value to the dynasty-building work manager Jose Mourinho has done in the first 20 months of his second stint at Stamford Bridge. The trophy the Blues won by beating Tottenham 2-0 in the Capital One Cup (the current, sponsored name of the 55-year-old competition) final is their first following Mourinho’s second coming.
Mourinho routinely downplayed his team’s strength and potential during the barren 2013-14 season — even comedically describing the Blues as “little horses” in last season’s Premier League at one point.
Mourinho surgically tweaked his squad last year in the transfer market and now has positioned Chelsea to challenge for all major honors this term, next season and most likely in the years to come. Chelsea won’t win an unprecedented quadruple in 2014-15, as many speculated it might several weeks ago, but its winning ways likely won’t stop at the Capital One Cup. Chelsea’s five-point lead over Manchester City in the Premier League standings after 27 games makes it the favorite to win the domestic title. It also is a dark-horse contender to win the UEFA Champions League.
Barring dramatic changes in a number of circumstances, Chelsea will be among the elite teams — both domestically and in Europe — for at least the next two-plus years.
Its blend of serial-winning veterans like Peter Cech, Terry and Drobga, trophy-hungry players in their primes like Branislav Ivanovic, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, and future Ballon d’Or contender Eden Hazard ensures Chelsea’s place in the highest order.
Upon returning to Chelsea, Mourinho said he wanted to stay for a long time and build a dynasty. Mourinho now has planted the first sign-post, and Step One of the project is less than three months away from completion.
Chelsea’s squad also includes Thibaut Courtois, Nemanja Matic, Filipe Luis. Each are regular starters who didn’t play Sunday, but Mourinho made it a point to praise their contributions to Chelsea’s Capital One Cup triumph in his postgame comments.
Chelsea also brought a number of highly rated young players to Wembley Stadium. Many of them were tasting success for the first time at senior level.
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If the likes of Andreas Christensen, Nathan Ake and Isaiah Brown and Ruben Loftus-Cheek meet Mourinho’s high standards and develop into first-team regulars, Chelsea will be able to absorb the blows of the inevitable departures of Terry, Drogba and Cech — the remaining members of the Blues’ vaunted “Old Guard”– and transition into a new period of success without too much disruption. If those youngsters fail to develop, Chelsea still will have the financial resources necessary to recruit talent from the top end of the salary and transfer markets.
The most likely ouctome is a mix of the two scenarios. Either way, Mourinho currently enjoys a charmed existence as he tries to build a new Chelsea dynasty and chase history. Only another fall-out between Mourinho and owner Roman Abramovic can change these facts, which are hammered into the ground.
Thumbnail photo via Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press