Tue, May 08, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Mourinho launches attack on under-performing stars

AFP , LONDON

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, left, consoles captain John Terry, center, and Frank Lampard after Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Arsenal in their English Premiership match in London on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

Jose Mourinho took a thinly veiled swipe at Chelsea's underachieving stars after his side surrendered the Premiership title to Manchester United.

Mourinho will end the season without a championship to celebrate for the first time in five years after Chelsea's 1-1 draw against Arsenal on Sunday handed United the league.

The Portuguese coach, who had won four titles in a row with Porto and Chelsea, knew his team had to win at the Emirates Stadium to keep alive their slender hopes of overhauling United.

Despite fighting back from a goal down with 10 men, they ultimately fell short. But it was the spirit shown by his under-strength team that prompted Mourinho to hint that he was unhappy with the contribution from some of the less motivated members of his squad.

Although he refused to name the players he feels have let him down, it would be easy to suspect he was talking about the likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Ballack and Khalid Boulahrouz.

It has been suggested that senior players at the club have expressed their dissatisfaction at Ballack's perceived lack of effort, while Shevchenko has failed to live up to his illustrious reputation.

Whether Mourinho's caustic comments are the precursor to a clear-out at the end of the season remains to be seen, but if he does keep faith with his current squad they have been left in no doubt about the standards he expects.

"Somebody that wants to succeed in this dressing room has to watch this game a couple of times to understand why some have success in this group and some have none," Mourinho said. "It is the perfect game for players to see and analyze where they are and understand the principles of this group. You can go to any club and analyse player by player their contribution during the season."

"That's why you have the club player of the season award. Some players have 20,000 votes, other players have 20 and others have no votes," he said.

"This is a club for people that want to succeed. The Chelsea dressing room has special human and professional relations between the group."

Trailing to Gilberto Silva's 43rd minute penalty and down to 10 men after Boulahrouz's red card, it would have been easy for Chelsea to wave the white flag.

But Mourinho has instilled a will to win in the majority of his group that brought them close to four trophies this season. They showed great courage to draw level through Michael Essien in the 70th minute and they should have kept United waiting for their title celebrations.

Salomon Kalou had a chance to win it in the last minute but his shot was brilliantly tipped over by Jens Lehmann and Chelsea's two-year reign as champions was over.

The Chelsea boss promised his players would form a guard of honor for United as they come onto the pitch to recreate the gesture that they were shown at Old Trafford two years ago.

Mourinho seems set to stay at Chelsea despite his frosty relationship with owner Roman Abramovich, but he admitted this had been his most testing season.

"It has been difficult but if I want an easy season I go to a country where it is easy to be a champion," he said."I always said that one day I would lose a championship. I told my people that the day I don't win it, I don't want to blame myself, I don't want to blame the players or the people that work with me."

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