7 possible destinations for Jose Mourinho’s next job

jose-mourinho

“The club wants to make it clear that Jose continues to have our full support.” That sentence, the first of Chelsea FC’s statement in support of Jose Mourinho, should quiet doubts instead of inspiring them. But that’s not how momentum works, and at this moment – with Chelsea off to their worst start since 1978; with Mourinho, in a purportedly dreaded third year on the job – the narrative is in control, and that narrative is either in the second act of a remarkable comeback or winding up the final scenes of a predictable conclusion.

If you have a gambling addiction and nothing better to, put it on Mourinho departing from Chelsea sometime in the next five months. Every indication points in that direction. Despite Chelsea’s vote of confidence, Roman Abramovich has never had patience for this type of disappointment, while Mourinho’s own combination of ambition and self-destruction makes this, another line from Chelsea’s statement, the most important part of the club’s assurance (emphasis added):

“However, we believe that we have the right manager to turn this season around and that he has the squad with which to do it.”

If, come February or March, Mourinho only has Chelsea at the edge of Europe, Abramovich will use that clause as his justification. He’ll insist that beyond form, aging and regression, a the team that won last year’s Premier League could not conceivably be that bad, even if Liverpool (last year), Manchester United (2013-14) and his own Blues have made similar slides in recent seasons.

And that will leave a special one on a special journey – perhaps the first time since he left Benfica in 2000 that he’ll have to actively seek a job. When he left Stamford Bridge before, an Inter team stonewalled in Europe were blessed to have him. And when he left the Santiago Bernabéu? Chelsea welcomed him back with open arms. Not since club politics undermined his first job has Mourinho tasted true uncertainty.

Then, he ended up at União de Leiria, a team that’s now in the Portuguese third division. Within three years, he was winning the Champions League at Porto. Could another reset do him a similar service? Odds are he won’t have to be so humbled, but if he does leave Chelsea, the timing and trajectories of a few potential landing spots could dictate where he ends up.

And, obviously, some of those potential destinations make more sense than others:

 

Paris Saint-Germain

paris-saint-germain

“I know the PSG project well, I know it well because when they start this project with the owner, the president and Leonardo, I was to be the coach.” – Mourinho, Feb. 27, 2015.

PSG was also heavily linked with Mourinho when Carlo Ancelotti replaced the Portuguese at the Santiago Bernabeu. With Chelsea in the mix, that was never going to happen, so the Parisians went with Laurent Blanc, a man who has delivered domestic titles but little else. The progress that French hegemons seek in Champions League continues to be elusive, with PSG yet to taste the semifinals.

Mourinho, in contrast, is one of only four managers to win the Champions League with two different teams (Ancelotti, Jupp Heynckes, Ottmar Hitzfeld). The only time a team from outside of England, Germany, Italy and Spain has won the Champions League in the last 20 years was Mourinho’s Porto in 2004. In the last 12 years, his teams have made the semifinals eight times. Along with Bayern’s Pep Guardiola, a two-time Champions League winner with Barcelona, Mourinho has the most impressive Champions League resume of any active manager.

Perhaps PSG keeps Blanc if they make the semifinals; even then, if they lose, it may matter how well they play. Regardless, if Mourinho is out of a job this spring, Blanc may end up in a must-win situation. Replacing him with Mourinho may be too much for Nasser Al-Khelaifi to resist, while José can seek a title on a fifth major European circuit.

 

Juventus

juventus

“Every now and then he is pathetic … He continuously repeats the same things and it becomes banal. I think he is very talented but his arrogance hides insecurity.” – Massimiliano Allegri, Aug. 21, 2015. 

Stylistically, it feels like a conflict – the aristocratic, often austere feel of the Agnelli family with the brash braggadocio of Mourinho. But for as much as Mourinho clashed with Italy’s media, league and culture, he was dominant at Inter. If Juve should find itself in need, it could justify bringing Mourinho in, potentially under the guise of becoming a true and consistent contender in Europe.

That’s the spin. But what’s the reality? Right now, Max Allegri is doing his own Mourinho impression, taking a league champion and camping it in Italy’s bottom half. The losses of Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo buy him time (and there is a lot of evidence to suggest time will be an ally), but what if the team doesn’t improve? What if the dominance Juventus has enjoyed since Mourinho left the peninsula gives way to a type of pre-Antonio Conte swoon? What if Allegri really does repeat his trajectory from Milan, where he also won a title before, eventually, struggling to keep his team in the table’s top half?

Teams in those situations have a way to justifying extremes. They take what they thought was philosophy and spin it, concentrating on bottom lines over marketing ones.

Juventus isn’t dogmatic, and they lack no love for adding to their vaunted, record scudetti total. Just as he was when he went to Real Madrid, Mourinho might become a lightning rod among the fan base, but he’d also, like he does everywhere, take the club forward, if only by inches.

 

Valencia

valencia-team-photo

A conservative estimate is that [Diego] Costa will become the seventh Mendes client Mourinho has signed for Chelsea over two spells. And at least one other is to follow. Add in Inter Milan and Real Madrid and Mourinho has made at least 12 signings involving Mendes.” – The Telegraph, June 5, 2014.

This is where things get creative, though thanks to Mourinho’s relationship with agent Jorge Mendes, landing at Valencia isn’t out of the question. If Blanc and Allegri succeed and, in the face of other possible compromises, Mourinho decides Spain, a club deeply influenced by his agent, and a salary potentially in line with his previous jobs is acceptable, Valencia could happen.

Just as with PSG, Juventus, or any other club, though, that’s predicated on what happens with the existing coach. Nuno Espirito Santo is coming off a highly regarded first year at the Mestalla, and having been brought in by owner Peter Lim thanks to his tight relationship with Mendes, he enjoys a special security at the club. It’s going to take more than a slump to see him go, so despite early, vocal displeasure from fans this season, Nuno’s place seems reasonably secure.

Would he enjoy a similar status if Mendes could deliver Mourinho? No, but whether that promise is enough to change coaches is another question. But if Valencia struggles to challenge for fourth, and if they disappoint in the Champions League, Lim may wonder who he can continue taking his ambitious project forward. Would it be too to ask Mendes to deliver Mourinho, should Jose fail to land another job?

For Mourinho, a chance to compete with both Barcelona and Real Madrid would provide motivation, as could a large voice in a project like Valencia’s. However, even with such a prestigious coach, it is hard to see Valencia truly competing in Europe during Mourinho’s first three or four years on the job, and although Diego Simeone proved you don’t need the big two’s talents to win La Liga, snaring a spare Primera title or Copa del Rey proved unsatisfactory to Mourinho at El Real.

 

Portugal’s big three

primeira-liga

“I have respect for a coach who was absolutely everything to this club and in this country.” – Julen Lopetegui, Sept. 28, 2015.

One of the worst case scenarios: All the clubs that can both afford Mourinho and appease his want to compete for big things don’t need coaches. Time passes, days of listening to Jamie Carragher on the set of Sky Sports start to bore him, and Mourinho can’t shake the itch. He has to get back on the sidelines, even if it means taking a step back. No matter where he goes, success will open doors.

The answer could be a spot with one of Portugal’s big three, whose rate of managerial turnover almost guarantees a quick opening for Mourinho. Over the past decade, counting caretaker and interim managers, 30 different coaches have managed games for Benfica, Porto or Sporting Club (Sporting has had 15 coaches since the summer of 2005). For such prestigious and resourceful clubs, it’s an astounding rate of turnover.

But it arguably creates a perfect situation for Mourinho. At any of these clubs, he could have enough talent to win the league and advance out of his group in the Champions League – accomplishing things that would restore his reputation. And just as so many other managers (like himself) have used those jobs to leap to bigger league, he could, too, be back in a big-four league within a year, after a brief sojourn back home.

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5 Comments

  1. StellaWasAlwaysDown October 6, 2015
  2. Bishopville Red October 6, 2015
  3. Abdulai Sesay October 7, 2015
  4. Pratham I October 7, 2015
  5. Brian January 3, 2016

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