Former Man United manager Jose Mourinho promises return to coaching this summer

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Jose Mourinho left Manchester United in December.

Jose Mourinho says he’ll be back in management this summer as he continues to be linked with several high-profile jobs.

After being sacked by Manchester United in December Mourinho had said he would wait until finding his next role. Since then, there was talk he could join Lyon, especially after current manager Bruno Genesio confirmed he would be leaving at the end of the season, and this week Juventus parted company with Massimiliano Allegri.

Bayern Munich are said to be considering sacking Niko Kovac, while there is the remote possibility of a sensational return to Chelsea, who remain unsure over Maurizio Sarri after an inconsistent debut season in England.

“I have a lot of qualities and one of them is to respect other clubs and their management,” Mourinho told French radio station RMC. “I have never spoken like ‘this club wanted me, they contacted me’.

“When I left Manchester United in December, I immediately took the decision I want to work from summer. I hope to be back to work in July in a project I really like.”

Mourinho, who has also managed Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Porto during an illustrious if sometimes controversial career, refused to be drawn on his United exit, saying he could not speak freely about the manner of his departure, which came after the club’s worst-ever start to a Premier League season and amid rumours of the manager falling out with several of the squad’s players, most notably Paul Pogba.

“It’s difficult for me to talk about Manchester,” he said. “I can’t talk about them in the same joy and freedom as I talk about other clubs.”

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Champions League-chasing Atalanta and Getafe among Europe's biggest overperformers

Matt Jones 16/05/2019
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Getafe have a chance at qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in their history.

The dust is just about settling on an enthralling 2018/19 season across Europe – and there’s been plenty of highs and lows for clubs and individuals.

Manchester City and Liverpool played out an epic battle for the Premier League crown in England, while Borussia Dortmund went toe to toe with Bavarian behemoths Bayern Munich in Germany, even though it looks like they’ll come up just short.

Juventus proved their enduring class in Italy where they will hoist a record-extending eighth Scudetto. Likewise in France, Paris Saint-Germain lifted a sixth league crown in the last seven years. Meanwhile, in Spain, Barcelona also continued their recent dominance by winning an eighth La Liga title in the last 11 years.

But while there is much to celebrate in terms of title successes, what about teams that have surpassed all expectations? Maybe by finishing higher than anyone thought possible, qualifying for Europe or completely flipping their fortunes?

We pick out our top five overperformers from Europe’s top five leagues.

ATALANTA

Gian Piero Gasperini has worked a miracle at Atalanta.

Gian Piero Gasperini has worked a miracle at Atalanta.

High up in the hills of northern Italy, there is a story unfolding this season that – if realised – will seem taller than the mountainous Alps in which the city of Bergamo is situated.

However, it is very real, as the city’s Atalanta football side sit perched on the cusp of true greatness. A maiden campaign of elite cross-continent football beckons next season as La Dea (the Goddess) dare to dream of a first brush with the Champions League.

One more victory from their remaining two games – admittedly they face a tall task in Turin this Sunday as they travel to Serie A champions Juventus – will likely be enough for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side to claim fourth spot and send them into the Champions League. At the expense of national giants AC Milan, Roma and Lazio.

They finished fourth two seasons ago when it came with a Europa League berth – an end to a 27-year European drought was exciting enough. But this would mean so much more.

Gasperini’s side are Italy’s great entertainers. No-one has scored more goals (73) – not even Juve. But only Roma (47) have conceded more than their 44 in the top eight.

The sky is the limit.

GETAFE

Getafe head coach Jose Bordalas has steered his side onto the cusp of the Champions League.

Getafe head coach Jose Bordalas has steered his side onto the cusp of the Champions League.

Another epic story is being told in Spain this season, where Getafe go into the final day of the La Liga campaign needing to better the result of Valencia in order to make a maiden Champions League appearance.

It would bring European football to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez for just the third time after featuring in the Europa League in 2010/11 and its predecessor the UEFA Cup three years earlier.

It would be the biggest chapter yet to be written in the history of a fledgling club that is only 35-years-old, founded in 1983 beneath the shadows of mighty Madrid neighbours Real and Atletico.

Jose Bordalas’ Azulones (Deep Blues) have lost only nine games this season – two fewer than Los Blancos – and conceded one less goal than champions Barcelona.

They are tied with Valencia on 58 points in a tussle for the final Champions League spot that could not be more tense ahead of the final day.

WOLVES

Wolves

Two of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ four previous Premier League campaigns ended with them finishing 20th and going straight back down – their other two visits yielded finishes of 15th and 17th.

On the last occasion that happened in 2011/12 they followed it up with successive relegations, to League 1.

Wolves have had to claw and scratch their way back to England’s top table in the ensuing five years. How fitting then that a blistering return to the top-flight in 2018/19 might yet end in Europa League qualification.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have taken four points from home and away meetings with Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea this season, as well as beaten Tottenham and drawn with champions Manchester City.

They have played a bold and brilliant counter-attacking style that many giants have been unable to trample – they even beat United and Liverpool on their way to the FA Cup semi-finals.

Wolves have shown plenty of bite and they will be howling at the moon with delight should City complete a domestic treble and beat Watford at Wembley on Saturday.

LILLE

Lille

Amid all the hype – but mostly boredom – surrounding Paris Saint-Germain and their dominance of Ligue 1, many more interesting storylines often go unheard.

Take Lille for example. They’ve led a fairly mediocre existence since lifting their fifth French title eight years ago. 2010/11 ended a 57-year title drought – but since then the powerful Parisiens have lifted six trophies in eight years.

So bad had the malaise become for Lille, that they finished fourth from bottom and narrowly avoided facing a relegation play-off with the third-placed team in the second tier last year, finishing a point ahead of Toulouse.

Christophe Galtier, in his first full season in charge, has transformed the Great Danes – driving them to 34 more points than a year ago and firing them 15 places up the league table to second, and back into the Champions League, courtesy of the league’s best defensive record.

BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH

Dieter Hecking

It seems strange now that Gladbach announced in early April they would not be extending manager Dieter Hecking’s contract, considering he has brought them to the cusp of Champions League qualification after two below par ninth-placed league finishes.

True, Die Fohlen (The Foals) need to beat Borussia Dortmund – who have an outside chance of winning the league title – on the Bundesliga’s final day on Saturday in order to return to Europe’s top table. But the fact they are even fighting for just a fourth shot at Champions League participation in its 27-year history is remarkable.

Alassane Plea’s arrival from Nice last summer has paid off with 12 Bundesliga goals, while the younger Hazard brother, Thorgan, continues to shine, with 10 assists.

The hierarchy made the Hecking call when the club briefly slipped out of the top four for the first time since September in April. If he ends up leading them into the Champions League next season, it could prove a poor one.

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Man United and Real Madrid feature in Europe's biggest underperformers in 2018/19

Matt Jones 15/05/2019
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The dust is just about settling on an enthralling 2018/19 season across Europe – and there’s been plenty of highs and lows for clubs and individuals.

Manchester City and Liverpool played out an epic battle for the Premier League crown in England, while Borussia Dortmund went toe to toe with Bavarian behemoths Bayern Munich in Germany, even though it looks like they’ll come up just short.

Juventus proved their enduring class in Italy, where they will hoist a record-extending eighth Scudetto. Likewise, in France, where Paris Saint-Germain lifted a sixth league crown in the last seven years. Meanwhile, in Spain, Barcelona also continued their recent dominance by winning an eighth La Liga title in the last 11 years.

But while there is much to celebrate, there are also plenty of shaking heads too. Just who has disappointed the most this term. We pick out our top five underperformers from Europe’s top five leagues.

MANCHESTER UNITED

WHAT. A. MESS. You might well have thought United had been slowly stumbling toward a painful demise ever since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

But in 2018/19 that decline rapidly accelerated. Things looked bleak in pre-season when, on the cusp of his dreaded third year in charge – the point at which disaster sets in at all his other clubs – Jose Mourinho appeared to be writing this season off before it had started.

He criticised the World Cup, a lack of transfer activity, youngsters he’d picked for the summer tour of America and even Anthony Martial’s new-born baby as things he was irked by.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in after Mourinho was eventually jettisoned in December and corrected the ship – the Norwegian’s run of 14 wins and just one defeat in his first 17 games was arguably the brightest period since Fergie retired.

But a tumultuous end to the campaign has brought to light just how much of a shambles the club is really in. Ole’s at the wheel, but can he steer the club off its current course towards utter disaster?

REAL MADRID

Zinedine Zidane is back at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he has his work cut out.

Zinedine Zidane is back at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he has his work cut out.

Another big club in a Real mess. Barcelona’s continued dominance of La Liga masks the increasing fragility of an aging squad, which was brutally exposed by Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals. And yet, despite how much the Blaugrana have regressed, Los Blancos remain on course to finish more points adrift of their great rivals than the 17 (they are currently 18 behind) they trailed behind a year ago.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the superhuman glue that somehow held this creaking ship together over the last three seasons but, with him gone, Real have sunk completely.

The ugliness of Julen Lopetegui’s exit from the national team job to take over from Zinedine Zidane didn’t bode well. And, after he was dispensed with, it became clear Santiago Solari was just a stop-gap. Even the fanfare over Zidane’s return quickly dissipated as he’s overseen just five wins in 10 games.

Karim Benzema has been the sole shining light in a season during which even ‘old faithful’, the Champions League, couldn’t save them, as the old masters were blown away by Ajax’s young guns.

SCHALKE

Domenico Tedesco and Schalke sunk after a memorable 2017/18 campaign.

Domenico Tedesco and Schalke sunk after a memorable 2017/18 campaign.

Schalke have had a shocker. After hitting the heady heights of second in the Bundesliga a year ago, it’s been a season of struggle for the Gelsenkirchen-based club.

Rookie Italian coach Domenico Tedesco was revered in Germany’s North Rhine district when he led Schalke to runners-up spot behind Bayern Munich and the semi-finals of the DFB Pokal in his first season. But he was sacked in March following an 10-2 aggregate defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League round of 16.

From second, Schalke have unfathomably slipped to relegation contenders. They’ll avoid the ignominy of a relegation play-off as they’re five points clear of 16th-placed Stuttgart with a game to go. But, currently 15th, they’ve never finished lower than 14th in the 28 seasons they’ve featured in Germany’s top-flight.

REAL BETIS

Quique Setien has endured a poor second half of the season at Betis.

Quique Setien has endured a poor second half of the season at Betis.

Quique Setien was being primed for a Barcelona blazer when his Betis side blew the Blaugrana away with a virtuoso display at the Camp Nou back in November.

A 4-3 triumph had vibrant Los Verdiblancos riding high in La Liga and the Benito Villamarin faithful dreaming of an even more glorious campaign than the one Setien led them to in 2017/18, when they finished sixth and qualified for the Europa League.

Hopes were high that Setien’s stylish play could land them just a second bite at the Champions League in the club’s history, and first in 13 years. But after that brilliant Barca display, their season has taken a bizarre twist, victorious in just nine of their ensuing 25 league games.

They’re 13 points worse off than a year ago and are likely to finish 10th, while they crashed out of Europe at the last 32 stage to Rennes despite condemning AC Milan to a Europa League group stage exit.

FULHAM

Claudio Ranieri was sacked in February after just three wins in 16 games.

Claudio Ranieri was sacked in February after just three wins in 16 games.

A little harsh to put Fulham here for going straight back down after only gaining Premier League promotion a year ago?

Maybe, maybe not. Simply being relegated is not why they feature.

The Cottagers spent a huge amount of cash last summer in order to set up home in England’s elite. But they struggled to settle from the off and many of their eye-catching acquisitions were flops – while they ended their campaign with former player Scott Parker as their third manager of the season.

Incredibly, Fulham were the third-highest Premier League spenders last summer, forking out £105.3m – becoming the first newly-promoted club to smash the £100m mark in a window.

They outspent the likes of United, City and Arsenal and yet failed to get out of the relegation zone after they were put there following a 4-2 defeat at Cardiff on October 20.

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