Jose Mourinho is surely coming towards the end of his Tottenham tenure, but where will he go next? International management is a possibility.
10) Crystal Palace
It is fairly common knowledge that Jose Mourinho loves Crystal Palace. There are unconfirmed reports of his bedroom being covered in Aki Riihilati posters. His ringtone is said to be Glad All Over. Some suggest he watches replays of the 1991 Zenith Data Systems Cup final when trying to unwind from a long day of either parking or throwing people under buses. The rumour is that he was so deeply incensed by Alan Pardew’s 2016 FA Cup final jig that he immediately sought to replace the opposition manager in a successful attempt to ensure both coaches were unemployed by the end of the calendar year
He has publicly declared his honorary Eagleship on a number of occasions, even as far back as June 2007 when he described London as “perfect”, expressed his wish to still be managing in the capital city by 2012 and added: “If it is not working at Chelsea, then Crystal Palace or somebody else.” Neither of his two spells at Stamford Bridge incorporated that Olympic year but Mourinho’s return did allow him to pointedly praise his favourite fanbase even while claiming his most recent league title.
Mourinho points at the #cpfc fans, puts his thumbs up and mouths top fans, before gesturing to the Chelsea fans behind him & miming sleeping
— Sam Jordan (@samuelpjordan) May 3, 2015
Roy Hodgson is out of contract this summer. Mourinho’s own elite club membership expired long ago. It is certainly outlandish but no longer laughably so.
9) Zenit St Petersburg
Mourinho dipped his toe into the Siberian waters with his role as a pundit on Russia Today during his Manchester United reign and the 11-month hiatus that followed his Old Trafford exit. Though criticised for dealing with the state-controlled television network, the Portuguese enjoyed his time away from the typical spotlight that tends to follow him in one of his major European league jobs. Few would blame him if he developed a taste for it.
With the Chinese Super League scaling down its grandiose financial operations completely, and MLS surely not even a consideration for an ego of Mourinho’s size at just 58, Russia could appeal. A couple of trophy-hoarding years at Zenit St Petersburg might awaken the beast; becoming the first manager to take a club from the country into the Champions League quarter-finals since CSKA Moscow fell to his Treble-winning Inter team in 2010 is the sort of legacy-boosting challenge he tends to crave. Plus retrospectively following the career path of apparent successor Andre Villas-Boas would be fun.
8) Atletico Madrid
The longest-serving manager in Europe’s top five leagues is Stephane Moulin. His reign at Angers started in June 2011 and has taken the club from the French second tier to Ligue Un’s mid-table. The 53-year-old is the only man who can put Diego Simeone to shame, with the Argentinean celebrating a decade in charge at Atletico Madrid in December.
He should make it that far, whether or not Los Colchoneros complete their La Liga title capitulation as expected. Atletico led the table by ten points with a game in hand on January 31 but a woeful run of form has left Real Madrid and Barcelona one and two points behind respectively. Couple that with another early exit in the Champions League for a side that has followed two finals and a semi-final in 2014, 2016 and 2017 with elimination in the group stages, last 16 twice and quarter-finals, and perhaps Simeone’s tenure will extend no longer than the duration of his current deal, which expires in summer 2022. There would be worst stylistic choices than Mourinho for his replacement; the Portuguese would also presumably enjoy reigniting his feud with the Madrid press.
7) Borussia Dortmund
“I miss football, the adrenaline, the pitch, my work. Football is football.” Bread is also bread, while cheese is cheese. While providing such characteristic clarity during his job hunt back in July 2019, Mourinho said that he was “studying German” and would likely entertain any approaches from clubs in the country.
A couple of months prior, he showed his hand. “For me, the Bundesliga provides an exciting competition to follow, especially thanks to the teams in the middle of the table, who are constantly improving and thus creating an overall nice competition,” he said. “Full stadiums, great organisation, good tactical approaches with many teams – I find the Bundesliga really interesting. I admire the work of BVB.”
The interview was conducted by Sport Bild who, at the time, reported regularly on discussions being held within the Dortmund hierarchy about appointing Mourinho. Lucien Favre has since left and Edin Terzic is warming (or wetting, currently) the seat for Marco Rose to take over at the end of the season. His spectre lingers when it comes to one of the few major leagues he is yet to manage in.
6) Paris Saint-Germain
The only other notable box he is yet to tick is Ligue Un. Mourinho has won championships in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, meaning he is level with Carlo Ancelotti, Giovanni Trapattoni, Eric Gerets and Ernst Happels on titles in four different countries. Ahead of them is Tomislav Ivic, who has reigned in Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and France.
Mourinho would relish the opportunity to achieve something no manager ever has before and collecting trophies in more different nations than anyone fits that bill. Lyon and Lille have been linked before but he and PSG have long felt like natural bedfellows. And replacing Mauricio Pochettino at one club has clearly gone so well that he might as well make a habit of it.
“Lampard, Terry, Joe Cole, everybody, was saying, ‘Come, come, come,’” Mourinho once told The Guardian of how he almost replaced Steve McClaren in December 2007. “My players said, ‘The guys from Manchester United and Liverpool call us and say to us: Tell your boss to come.’ I had lots of positive things to push me.”
It was wife Matilde who persuaded him against taking the England job after leaving Chelsea just a couple of months prior, the argument being that Mourinho would struggle without the day-to-day operations of club management. “Maybe in 15 years from now but not seven,” he added then, seven years ago. But he surely did not predict in 2014 where his stock would be in 2021. International management has long been one of his ambitions; it can also provide the break he needs at this stage of his career.
It is difficult to see otherwise where Mourinho goes in terms of England. His affinity with the country is obvious and his family are settled in London. But his options are incredibly limited: the Chelsea hat-trick won’t happen; neither party will entertain a Manchester United return; the Liverpool ship sailed almost two decades ago; Manchester City really would not suit; Arsenal fans would implode at the mere prospect. Tottenham were a relative climbdown when he was appointed in November 2019 and Mourinho will not appreciate slipping further down the ladder in terms of employment prospects.
Newcastle are an intriguing outlier. It depends on the prospects of a long-awaited takeover finally going through to reenergise the club and release them from Mike Ashley’s self-imposed shackles. Fans genuinely might expect Champions League qualification at that stage – much to the delight of some scoffing pundits – and Mourinho’s connection with the city through Sir Bobby Robson at least leaves the door ajar.
The conventional wisdom is that you should never go back to your ex. Mourinho has done so only once: returning to Chelsea to claim another Premier League title before the palpable discord set in. He has otherwise resisted second bites at the cherry but two particular encores must be tempting. Antonio Conte’s success at Inter Milan render any desire for a San Siro reunion moot, so the Porto option might be explored.
Sergio Conceicao has done a fine job at the Estadio do Dragao, delivering a couple of Primeira Liga titles and as many Champions League quarter-final berths in four years. But they are currently second to Sporting and at the European mercy of Thomas Tuchel. Heading back to where it all began in his native Portugal might rekindle that familiar flame. The only question is whether Mourinho would want to risk tarnishing his standing there. He left Porto on top of the world in 2004 and his homecoming could only be viewed as a step down.
For so long it has seemed the ultimate objective for the man who has won everything. A World Cup or European Championship with his country would complete the set and mark him out as one of precious few to reign supreme at club and international level. Yet when discussing the possibility last September, Mourinho suggested “it is very difficult” to manage one’s home nation.
There is a suspicion that he would see that role as his last, a sort of shuffle into semi-retirement while he still considers himself to be relevant at the highest level. Sir Alex Ferguson was 45 when he managed Scotland at the 1986 World Cup. Mourinho is 13 years older and the prospect of balancing club and international roles as his idol did with Aberdeen has passed. Portugal surely beckons for him one day. The question is whether it will be next.
Andrea Pirlo is struggling. Juventus are third in Serie A, 12 points behind Inter Milan and out of the Champions League. They face Atalanta in the Coppa Italia final in May with a first trophyless season since 2011 a legitimate possibility. Public support for the manager has been offered but privately there must be an acceptance that the gamble has not worked.
Mourinho would undoubtedly be a similarly risky appointment, albeit for different reasons. His experience is both a strength and a weakness: there are few with a better track record yet his history shows that any success, if delivered at all, is painfully fleeting. But after claiming the Serie A title in both of his previous seasons in Italy, a pragmatic Old Lady might consider him the perfect partner to take them back to the summit. Perhaps he and Giorgio Chiellini could discuss the history of Tottenham.