Jose Mourinho is ready to get back to work after revealing he is targeting a return to the dugout by June.
The Portuguese has been out of work since being sacked by Manchester United in December, but says he is keen to get back to management and would like to be in place in time for pre-season.
There is no questioning Mourinho’s pedigree, having won the Champions League at both Porto and Inter Milan, as well as league titles in Portugal, Italy, England and Spain.
But it is Mourinho’s spiky nature and defensive-first, declining tactical nous and man management skills that have seen him shown the exit at every previous club.
With that in mind, where is left for Mourinho to go? A return to former club Inter seems the most likely destination at the very top level, with Zinedine Zidane having been re-appointed Real Madrid boss. Thomas Tuchel has just signed a new deal at Paris Saint-Germain while it’s difficult to see a return to England being on the cards. Would his ego allow him to take a step down to a club at the second level, or even a move to the Far East?
Here, we assess some of his potential landing spots and the likelihood of it happening.
THE OBVIOUS CHOICE
Why it will happen: Mourinho certainly doesn’t have many friends left in football, but Italy and Milan are two places where there is still a lot of love for the former Nerazzurri favourite. Mourinho departed the Santiago Bernabeu and Old Trafford with little love lost, having made enemies particularly in the dressing room, but he is still held in high regard by many former players at the San Siro.
The club released an official 110-year anniversary book last year where iconic former stars were asked to name the club’s greatest ever manager. Javier Zanetti, Luis Figo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Diego Simeone, Marco Materazzi and Wesley Sneijder all picked Mourinho. Ibrahimovic, who he also brought to United, famously said of his former boss following Inter’s 2008/09 Serie A title: “I would have killed for Mourinho.”
In two years in Italy, serial winner Mourinho lifted two Scudettos as well as the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana and of course that famous 2010 Champions League crown – a defensive masterclass seeing Barcelona vanquished in the semi-finals. Current coach Luciano Spalletti is also on razor thin ice.
Why it won’t: To be fair to him, Spalletti has been hampered by an inability to splash the cash in the transfer market due to stringent Financial Fair Play restrictions placed on Inter, whose owners Suning Group are keen to make the club profitable.
And, wherever he has gone, Mourinho requires money to burn in order to bring his vision to life. His decline at United was intrinsically linked to a rift with the board and the fact he wasn’t backed financially to bring in the players he wanted, so this might put him at odds with a club trying to tighten its budget.
He will also want to go where there is almost a guarantee of winning a trophy. And while you could see Inter lifting a Coppa Italia under Mourinho, loosening Juventus’ vice-like grip on the Scudetto appears as impossible as it ever has in the past eight years.
Why it will happen: There’s no doubt that Mourinho is in the twilight of his management career as, although he is still only 56, he has outstayed his welcome at a host of clubs in Spain, England and Italy.
There remains the possibility he might want to try, or be wanted in, Germany and France, but the possibility to coach a top club in either appear remote at the moment. Apart from still wanting a job at a top club, the other thing that will help make his decision is money, and there’s a lot of it swirling around the Far East, particularly the Chinese Super League.
Some of the world’s top names are moving east either for one final hurrah or while still in their pomp, and Mourinho would no doubt be a huge attraction and would command a mammoth salary.
Why it won’t: A tad too early for a desperate move such as this? Perhaps, but then he surely only has one big chance left. And how many truly top clubs does the ego-centric Mourinho really feel are worthy of him, or are/will be in need of a coach come the summer?
It appears a certainty that the CSL will be a brief stop before he finally does call it a day, but this is perhaps still a few years down the road.
Why it will happen: Sentimentality? In reality there aren’t many places left for Mourinho to go. He’s burnt a fair few bridges in his career. But, like with Inter, he is universally loved in his home country, especially at the club where he made his name and led them to that unprecedented Champions League triumph in 2004. He has also already ruled out a return to Porto’s rivals Benfica, where he began his managerial career.
Why it won’t: Sergio Conceicao. The Porto boss has been linked with Everton in the past and has turned heads this season by leading the club into the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but talk of an exit has been quashed by the fact he signed a new one-year deal at Estadio do Dragao earlier this month.
Why it will happen: Bruno Genesio is out of contract at the end of the season and is yet to be offered a new deal. President Jean Michel Aulas admitted earlier this week he would strongly consider appointing Mourinho, saying it could provide him with an alternative destination, although he would need to “accept the economic situation” at the club.
Mourinho himself said: “If I said no (I am not considering it), I would not be being honest with you.” A chance to work in a fifth country would appeal to his ambitious side.
Why it won’t: When Pep Guardiola was appointed Manchester City boss, football purists were licking their lips at the prospect of the former Real and Barcelona protagonists renewing their bitter rivalry in the Premier League.
But, as Guardiola injected a devastating brand of football into a team on the up, Mourinho showed he no longer possessed the acumen or stomach to go toe to toe with his old foe as his reign across Manchester descended into bitter public brawls with players and the media, and a clear decline in style and substance.
He would be hired with the aim of closing the gargantuan gap that exists in Ligue 1 between PSG and the rest. Unlikely he has the appetite for such a painstaking task.
A third return to the club he helped build into the beast it is today isn’t totally out of the question, especially as it’s a role that has become a poisoned chalice since his second fitful stint.
That, however, is also likely to be his downfall considering the mess he left them in after departing for a second time in 2015 – after winning the title the previous season, Mourinho was sacked the following December as Chelsea ended the season in 10th place. Unlikely, yet the Blues could need building back up this summer should Maurizio Sarri depart. 2/10
A radical approach perhaps, not least because the Premier League upstarts play an attacking and attractive brand of football – very anti-Mourinho. And with the job he’s done this season, Nuno Espirito Santo is sitting pretty comfortably.
But, there is the Jorge Mendes link and Wolves are an ambitious club, with money to spend. With Mourinho heading up the new project, he could attract even bigger names than Joao Moutinho to Molineux. 3/10
Looked nailed on a few weeks ago but, thankfully for Los Blancos fans, Zidane returning to the fold renders this move dead in the water. Florentino Perez is, for some reason, a huge fan. But there are not many other admirers in Madrid. 1/10
Perennial underachievement means Mourinho would surely have been in with a sniff this summer, although Tuchel has just signed a new deal, suggesting Nasser Al Khelaifi is content to persist with the talented German tactician.
A definite possibility in the future, but with Mourinho providing a June deadline for being in situ at his next post, Paris seems an unlikely destination this summer. 4/10
Like the PSG job, you can definitely see Mourinho in the role at some point, but there likely will be one more stop en route to a cushioned fall into retirement.
Having led Portugal to Euro 2016 glory, Fernando Santos remains in the role and is pretty comfortable there. And with qualifying having only just started on the road to Euro 2020, he is unlikely to be going anywhere prior to next summer.
Has also declared the time is not right for a move into international management as he craves the day to day buzz of club management. 3/10
A team in transition and with a rookie coach who’s not exactly secure in terms of his future. But is Mourinho really the sort of coach to come into an environment where not only an overhaul is needed, but a club where the next generation are being allowed to thrive and old, established stars are approaching the exit door?
To compete in Europe they need a coach with a new way of thinking, but in Mourinho they’d be getting a sturdy figure very much in favour of the tried and tested method. Not exactly the ideal candidate to nurture the likes of emerging stars Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and Leon Goretzka. 2/10
Tottenham’s Welsh defender Ben Davies says his international team-mate Gareth Bale would be welcomed back at the club where he first made his name if he decides to leave Real Madrid this summer.
Bale’s future at the Madrid club is shrouded in doubt after reports suggesting the Welshman has continued to struggle to settle in the Spanish capital, left as an isolated figure in the squad and frequently being booed off by the Madrid fans for perceived poor displays.
It has been a difficult season for Los Blancos in general, as they have fallen from the form that saw them win three straight Champions League titles – the most recent of which was sealed by two goals from Bale in last season’s final, including a stunning overhead kick that has been rated by many as the best goal in the competition’s history.
Even that, however, has not been enough to earn the 29-year-old credit at Madrid, and though there is speculation nearly every season that Bale could leave the club, this time there could be some truth to the rumours.
If he does decide to do so, given the finances involved a return to the club where he played from 2007 to 2013 is unlikely – but Spurs left-back Davies said Wales’ leading scorer would
“He’s come under a bit of flak at Madrid recently, but for Wales he’s always been brilliant,” Davies said to reporters ahead of the Dragons’ 1-0 win over Slovakia in their Euro 2020 qualifier.
“I’m always going to say it’s unfair, he is one of the best players in the world, we see it every day in training.
“I’d definitely have him at Tottenham. But I don’t know how likely that is.
“He’s always the player that wants to be there and put his heart on the line for the team. “
Speculation continues to swirl around Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane’s future, with Juventus the latest club to be linked with a move for the French centre-back, according to Corriere dello Sport.
Reports earlier this week suggested Varane was looking for a new challenge after eight years at Madrid, a spell that has seen him become one of the best defenders in the world.
Still only 25, Varane has won the Champions League four times, along with two La Liga titles, and last summer he added the World Cup to his trophy collection after anchoring France’s defence during their triumphant campaign in Russia.
Though he has refused to address the transfer rumours after his initial hints at a potential exit, Varane now continues to be linked with a summer move.
Manchester United are said to be interested, having tried to sign him in 2011 only to be beaten by Madrid for the signature of the then-Lens defender.
And now it seems Juventus have entered the fray, a transfer that would see Varane reunited with former Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, Varane’s reported release clause of €500 million could make any move difficult.