Jose Mourinho and AC Milan are a match made in heaven

Aditya Devavrat 15:24 30/05/2019
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  • Jose Mourinho has managed on the other side of the Milan derby, with Inter.

    A grand old European club that has fallen from grace. A history with one of the club’s biggest rivals. A league with a domestic powerhouse to dethrone. A chance to redeem himself and prove the doubters wrong.

    Could things be set up any more perfectly for Jose Mourinho‘s return to management than AC Milan?

    Actually they could. Inter Milan, the club where Mourinho became an instant legend after leading them to the treble in 2009/10, are set to hire Antonio Conte this summer.

    Reviving Milan and getting to rub that in his old foe’s face will only make things sweeter for Mourinho, who has been out of a job since getting sacked by Manchester United in December.

    Milan, who just parted ways with Gennaro Gattuso, wouldn’t be able to give Mourinho the budget he usually likes operating with, but maybe that only adds to the appeal for the former Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and United manager.

    At his core, Mourinho is an underdog. Punching above his weight and defying expectations is where he thrives.

    After all, at Porto, where he first burst onto the scene, he led a club that couldn’t compete financially with Europe’s elite to the Champions League title.

    Taking Milan back into the top four, then building them into genuine challengers to Juventus at home and the rest of the continent’s best clubs in Europe is the sort of challenge Mourinho should relish.

    It is also, of course, identical to the challenge he had at United, and that didn’t end well. But though there are parallels between the two situations there are also some key differences that would suggest things would go differently in Milan.

    Most importantly, though there’s no doubt he deserves a good share of the blame for the way he fell out with players at United, the Milan squad doesn’t have the same level of egos, and would prove more malleable.

    And just the fact that Milan have a sporting director’s role, even if it’s currently vacant following the departure of Leonardo, means their structure is better than what Mourinho had to deal with at Old Trafford.

    There are plenty of reasons why Mourinho to Milan wouldn’t work. Though the club, the fans, and the players would no doubt love to return to their perch atop Serie A, those in charge of the Rossoneri right now would be content with consistently getting into the top four, as that would guarantee revenue and make the bottom line look nicer for Elliot Management Corporation.

    Mourinho, the serial winner, has higher ambitions.

    A club whose policy has shifted to developing players with a high resale value rather than collecting the world’s biggest stars – the 2000s saw Kaka, Andry Shevchenko, Ronaldo Ronaldinho, Clarence Seedorf, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham all don the famous red and black shirt – isn’t one where Mourinho would usually succeed.

    His mixed record with youth would give pause to a team where 20-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma, 21-year-old Patrick Cutrone, 22-year-olds Franck Kessie and Davide Calabria, 23-year-old Krzysztof Piatek, 24-year-old Alessio Romagnoli, and 25-year-old Mattia Caldara could form the core of a successful team for a long time if managed properly.

    And there’s the matter of his Inter Milan connections, having earned the love of the supporters after that historic 2009/10 season.

    0531 Mourinho Inter

    Would he want to risk losing favour with them by coming back to the same city to take charge of the Nerazzurri’s biggest rivals?

    Chelsea’s supporters began disavowing him soon after he took over United, and the rivalry between the two Milan clubs is far more fierce and bitter.

    But going down as a success, possibly even a legend, for both sides of the Milan derby, is the sort of achievement that would appeal to Mourinho’s ego.

    For Milan, Mourinho would undoubtedly be a short-term appointment at a club which should be looking at a long-term plan.

    At his worst, he can set a club back a couple of years by fracturing relationships to the point of no return – even sacking him may not be enough for United to keep the players who had fallen out with him.

    0531 Mourinho Pogba

    At his best, though, Mourinho renders long-term planning moot. He accelerates the timeline. A club content with re-establishing themselves as Champions League regulars in the next few years could suddenly morph into title challengers within a year or two.

    When Mourinho returned for a second stint at Chelsea in 2013, he took over a club that was sixth in the Premier League and took it to third and then first.

    They went into the bottom half following a collapse the next season, which is the other side of the Mourinho coin. But Chelsea, though hardly the model of stability, have a structure that can weather the Mourinho storm – and any club should be looking to build an operation that continues to succeed even if the manager changes every two or three years.

    For size, for tradition, for place in history, there are few clubs apart from Milan that could match Mourinho’s hunger and ego. For narrative, there’s almost nowhere else that could give him a shot at such a glorious redemption. It’s a match made in heaven.