Since his departure in 2007, Jose Mourinho has been the elephant in the room at Chelsea. Among the most popular, charismatic and successful managers in the club's history, the Portuguese boss built up a relationship with the Stamford Bridge crowd that despite his subsequent spells at Inter Milan and Real Madrid, is yet to wilt.
While the affection may still remain, the memories of Mourinho's reign are slowly started to erode. Avram Grant's success in taking Chelsea where the 49 year old had failed; the Champions League final in 2008, only worked to swell Roman Abramovich's desire for European success than vindicate his decision to rid of Mourinho earlier in the 2007/08 campaign.
Carlo Ancelotti almost went one better, winning the Premier League with the verve and excitement that Mourinho could only dream of achieving with the same group of players.
When it seemed as though Mourinho's legend was close to being extinguished, Andre Villas-Boas' reign at the club resurrected his memory, as many established Chelsea stars, many of whom accepted the introduction of Jose and took to him upon their arrival in west London, fought against their new leader.
But in Roberto di Matteo, Chelsea appear on the brink of ridding the club of Mourinho's memory; and is set to ensure they finally progress, five years after his departure. The Italian firstly made Mourinho's former cohorts feel as though they were no longer first choice, something that his predecessor tried, but failed to convey.
Granted, Di Matteo won the Champions League with an intrinsic role played by many of the side that won back-to-back titles in the 2004/05 and 2005/06 seasons, the way he left no room for sentimentality in offloading them post haste was impressive. New deals weren't handed to Jose Bosingwa, Salomon Kalou or Didier Drogba, who couldn't clinch a two-year extension; his contribution in leading Chelsea to Champions League glory dismissed.
And now with Di Matteo ready to allow both Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole to leave the club at the end of their respective deals in the summer of 2013, the final artefacts of Mourinho's reign are being offloaded.
Should the England duo depart, Paulo Ferreira, who is yet to clock up a single minute of action for Chelsea this season, remains the only player brought in by Mourinho during his two-and-a-half year spell, along with John Terry and Petr Cech. Even in the management staff, only opposition scout Mick McGiven and academy manager Neil Bath remain from the days of the two-time European Cup winner.
Like many legendry faces in English football; Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool, Thierry Henry at Arsenal, Eric Cantona at Manchester United, Mourinho will never be forgotten at Chelsea. But there is a difference between recollecting past memories, and longing for a return; Blues fans must tread on the right side of the fine line.
Chelsea's success this season can in part be put down to washing their hands of Mourinho. A new emphasis, after last season's defensive make-up and the signing of thrilling new players make it an exciting time to be a Chelsea supporter. With Mourinho's long shadow looking like finally being cast away, the new era at the Bridge can begin.
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