Jose Mourinho's next move
On 18 December, José Mourinho was sacked for the first time of his career. Is the ‘Special One’ past his prime or not? His next career choice shall define his place in soccer's Hall of Fame.
José Mourinho, also known as the “Special One”, was sacked from Manchester United on the 18th of December 2018 after starting the 2018-19 season with just 7 wins from his first 17 games. His “swan song” was an EPL game against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool FC, where the Red Devils were defeated 3-1.
After this disappointing performance, the team’s management decided to sack the controversial manager - offering a massive payout of around £22.5m according to the Daily Mail.
During his not-so-successful term in Manchester, Mourinho managed to win just one EFL Cup, one FA Community Shield and one UEFA Europa League. But despite this, he definitely remains one of the great coaches of our time.
Disregarding his club achievements and individual honours, Mourinho is the coach with the “Longest Football Unbeaten Home Run by a Manager” (nine years) and the coach with the “Most Points in a Premier League Season” (95). Beat that, Pep!
Most importantly, Mourinho is a person who likes challenges and that is something proved by his career choices so far.
Soon after leaving his job as a school coach, he worked in various roles as a scout or interpreter with teams like Sporting Lisboa, Porto and Barcelona. Having the opportunity to work with Sir Bobby Robson and Louis Van Gaal helped him become the manager he is today.
Robson also asked José to join him for two years as assistant coach in Newcastle and then he would step down offering him the head coach position. Mourinho refused as he knew that the manager from Durham would never let go the club he loved.
Turning down Sir Bobby's offer to join him in Newcastle, Mourinho's first managerial position saw him take on the Portuguese giant SL Benfica. He left the team after just nine league games due to disputes with the newly elected president of the club, Manuel Vilarinho. Unfortunately for him, Manuel realised his mistake too late even though José had defeated Sporting Lisboa 3-0.
Soon after he joined União de Leiria for around a year. His amazing performance with the club gained Porto’s attention, and they quickly signed him in January 2002 after being unbeaten for 8 consecutive games with União.
At Porto Mourinho’s career skyrocketed. He immediately got to work and managed to end up 3rd in the Primeira Liga despite being 5th in January, when he took over. He demanded that players like Ricardo Carvalho, Deco, Dmitri Alenichev and more join the team. He also introduced modern training techniques. He emphasized strengthening the team’s physical and combative abilities, aiming to apply pressure to Porto’s opponents from the offensive line till the goalkeeper.
At the end of the season Porto won the Primeira Liga - setting a new record by collecting 86 points. They also won both the Taça de Portugal against his former club União de Leiria and the UEFA Cup against Celtic FC in May 2003.
This would only be an appetizer to what would follow. Porto secured the 2003-04 Primeira Liga five weeks before the end of the season with a perfect home record. Even though they were defeated by Benfica in the Taça de Portugal final, two weeks later Mourinho won his first UEFA Champions League after beating Monaco 3-0 in the final. To get to the final Porto managed to beat Manchester United, Lyon and Deportivo de la Coruna, suffering defeat only at the hands of a victorious Real Madrid in the group stage.
That season was crucial for the Special One’s future as it introduced him to the elite of football managers. Moreover, his memorable reaction to Costinha’s goal in Old Trafford signaled his transfer to the EPL, with Liverpool and Chelsea being the most possible candidates. Even though he had expressed a preference towards the Reds of Merseyside he ended up at Stamford Bridge under the rule of billionaire Roman Abramovich. It was in his first press conference as Chelsea’s managed that he earned the nickname the “Special One”.
Becoming the “Special One”
When he arrived in London he went to work straight away. He brought in players such as Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Mateja Kežman and Tiago as well as Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho from Porto.
His first two seasons, 2004-05 and 2005-06 were very successful after winning and then, next season, retaining Chelsea’s first EPL title in 50 years. He also won the League Cup against Liverpool in February of 2005 and the 2005 FA Community Shield against Arsenal.
In the 2007-08 season, even though Chelsea won the the League Cup again against Arsenal and the FA Cup against Manchester United, he failed to secure his third consecutive EPL title. Moreover, his relationship with Roman Abramovich worsened significantly as a result of the underperformance of the Ukrainian striker, Andriy Shevchenko, and the appointment of Avram Grant as director of football despite his numerous objections.
Chelsea’s bad start in the 2007-08 season was the perfect excuse for a “divorce by mutual consent” and he was succeeded by Grant. During his first stay in London, he won every domestic trophy available and managed to stay undefeated at home. His major failure was not winning the UEFA Champions league after being kicked out twice by Liverpool and once by Barcelona.
The Italian journey to the top
A few months after his departure from Chelsea, on June 2008, he was appointed as the successor of Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan. After having secured the Serie A title for a third consecutive year they were desperate for a European title and José was the right man for the job.
Even though he went on to win the Italian championship with a ten-point margin, his first season in Milan was considered a failure due to their disappointing Champions League presence. Inter’s traditional domestic contestants, Juventus and AC Milan, were not considered to be as strong as a few years back, recovering from the consequences of the Calciopoli scandal.
Naturally, he did not miss the opportunity to “pick up a fight” with famous Italian managers like Carlo Ancelotti, Claudio Ranieri and Luciano Spalletti, as well as the entire Italian press. It was Mourinho's 2009-10 season with Inter Milan that established him as one of the top coaches of his generation.
Despite the Nerazzurri’s poor start in the Serie A, on May 22nd they became the first Italian club to complete the treble beating Bayern Munich 2-0 in the Champions League final. A few days earlier they had secured their fifth consecutive Scudetto and the Coppa Italia by defeating Roma in the final 1-0.
His immense success combined with Real Madrid’s fans celebrating Barcelona’s elimination, prepared him for a move to the Spanish capital. The move may had already been agreed with the Merengues before the Champions League final by the looks of his statement a day after the game: 'if you don't coach Real Madrid then you will always have a gap in your career'.
Marrying the Queen
On 28 May 2010, it was confirmed that José Mourinho would undertake the biggest challenge of his career so far: to bring Real Madrid back to its domestic and European throne. When José joined Real the club was in a tough position. It hadn’t secured a title since 2008 and its archrivals were dominating both Spanish and European competitions, winning title after title.
Mourinho was part of Florentino Pérez’s effort to bring an end to the Catalan dominance, which also included the purchase of players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, Di María and Mesut Özil to create the new Galacticos.
Despite winning his first Copa Del Rey and defeating Barcelona 1-0, his first season in Madrid was rough. He failed to win La Liga, he lost his first El Clasico in Camp Nou by 5-0 in one of the worst nights of his career and he was knocked out of the Champions League semi-final again by Messi’s Barca.
In the next season, José got his revenge by securing the 2011-12 La Liga with an emphatic victory over Barcelona in Camp Nou and by breaking the record of most goals scored in a season. Unfortunately for him, Real Madrid were knocked out again in the Champions League semi-finals, this time by Bayern Munich during penalties.
Despite signing a new four year contract at the start of the season and winning the 2012 Supercopa de España against Barça, the 2012-13 season was destined to be his last in the Spanish capital. For a third consecutive time, the Merengues were kicked out of the Champions League in the semifinals stage by Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund after an embarassing 4-1 loss in Westphalia.
Moreover, Barcelona won the Spanish championship with 15 point difference and Real Madrid was defeated in the Copa Del Rey final by Atlético Madrid. Real’s underperformance, combined with José’s clash with Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo, led to a divorce by mutual agreement at the end of the season.
Old love stories are hard to forget
Soon after, in June 2013, José returned to his old love, Chelsea FC. Even though Chelsea managed to win the 2012 UEFA Champions League, they were struggling in domestic competitions. Realising early that Chelsea couldn’t win that season’s EPL, he referred to it as a transitional season even though his squad finished only 4 points behind the champions, Manchester City.
As usual, Chelsea were eliminated in the Champions League semifinals by Atlético Madrid. As in Madrid, José saved his best performance for the next season when Chelsea won the League Cup by beating Tottenham 2-0 and the EPL, losing just three matches all season.
His domestic successes granted him a new four-year contract with the Blues but the team’s poor start next season, with 9 defeats in 16 EPL games, lead to another divorce by mutual consent.
The fairy tale comes to an end
Even though Chelsea stated that Mourinho left the club on good terms and will always remain a much-loved figure at Chelsea, the following May he signed a three-year contract with Manchester’s Red Devils.
He began his time at Manchester United with a good omen, defeating the reigning EPL champions Leicester in the FA Community Shield final. He also managed to win the 2017 Europa League against Ajax and secure the club’s presence in the Champions League the next season.
However, the fact that both seasons Manchester United finished with a great distance from EPL’s top team made Jose's position shaky, as the team's unappealing style of play and under-performance continued. The club’s poor performance continued this year and the 3-1 defeat in Anfield by Liverpool was the last drop that made the cup run over and lead to the Special One’s first sacking.
What will Mourinho’s next team be?
Many things can be said about José Mourinho, about his managerial skills, his personality or his charity work; but only two are certain - he likes challenges and he won't go, or stay, where he feels unwanted.
He left Benfica because he didn’t have the full support of the board. After winning everything with Porto he went onto the next big challenges of his life. After winning every domestic title in England, he went to Inter Milan to help them win their first Champions League after nearly half a century. He became the first winner of a treble in Italy and then embarked onto the next journey of his managerial career.
Despite failing to restore Real Madrid onto its European throne, he managed to win every available domestic title and challenge Barcelona’s dominion. He returned to his beloved Chelsea to finish what was left undone, a Champions League trophy under his name. And even though he wasn’t as successful as in his first turn, he still managed to lift the EPL trophy.
He took over Manchester United, having to deal with Chelsea’s fans disappointment and the nearly impossible task of filling Sir Alex Ferguson's shoes. This was a task that David Moyes and Louis van Gaal had failed to do, and José unfortunately followed the same course as them.
Inside José’s mind
It is hard to rank José’s career yet. Is he in the top three football managers of all time? Top 10? Top 50? It is very hard to say. He is still only 56 years old. His mentors, Sir Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal, were professionally active until 71 and 65 years old respectively. Therefore the Special One has at least a decade ahead of him to establish himself as the best manager of his generation. Now the question that will define his career is, what will José Mourinho’s next club be?
Most if not almost all professional football clubs and national teams around the globe would be honoured to have José managing them.
Cloudbet examined the factors that may influence Mourinho’s choice. We ended up with the following four (plus one) teams as the most likely candidates.
Paris Saint Germain FC
The Parisians are probably the best club for José’s next career move. Last May, PSG signed a two-year contract with Thomas Tuchel. However, the team’s billionaire owners have got a habit of replacing managers before the end of their terms and if Tuchel does not manage to bring a European trophy to the French capital, it is very possible that he may follow in the footsteps of Laurent Blanc and Carlo Ancelotti..
The Ligue 1 champions resemble a young Chelsea, around the time Mourinho joined them. The billionaire owner of the club has spent and keeps spending extraordinary amounts to create a squad filled with superstars like Neymar, Dani Alves, Di María, Cavani, Thiago Silva, Mbappé, Buffon and many more.
They have crushed all their domestic competition, winning all French championships since 2013 with the exception of the 2017 season. However, they still miss a great success in European competitions - being more famous for their failures than their achievements abroad.
If the teams president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, gives José a carte-blanche to the club and brings in the players he asks, it may be hard for José to refuse the challenge; to bring the first UEFA Champions League to France since Marseille in 1993 and to bring the first ever “cup with the big ears” in the City of Light.
FC Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich is one of the biggest European clubs, like Real Madrid. They have dominated in German football, winning 28 championships, and in European competitions, with an impressive five Champions League titles.
Despite winning last season’s championship, this year’s start has not been the best - leaving them six points from the top after 16 games. Niko Kovač position is already uncertain and his team’s games against Liverpool will determine his future in Bavaria. Even if FCB manage to proceed to the next round, it can’t be certain that he will remain until the end of the season.
José has never worked in Germany so it is uncertain if he will be interested in doing so. The German giants, however, are amongst the biggest football clubs worldwide and almost all managers would be honored to take them on.
An extra motivation for Jose includes the fact that this role would give him the chance to succeed where Pep Guardiola has failed before. Only a few coaches have the status of José in European football, but Pep is definitely one of them - making their rivalry a big enough motive for Mourinho to seriously consider this club. Combined with the club's prestige and deep pockets, Bayern Munich would suit Jose's demands perfectly.
The Rossoneri are a shadow of their former glory. They have failed to secure a Scudetto since 2011 and their last Champions League cup was in Athens back in 2007. This season’s performance is so poor that after 16 games in the Serie A they already lag 19 points from the top. In addition to that, the seven-times European Champions were knocked out from UEFA Europa League after a disappointing night and defeat against Olympiacos. Gennaro Gattuso’s days as AC Milan head coach are numbered.
Mourinho has stressed in the past that Inter and Chelsea are his great loves. But since he broke the heart of the Blues of London, he can do the same with the Blackblues of Milan if the offer is right. The squad lacks personalities like it did in the past when players like Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Rui Costa, Kaká and Andriy Shevchenko were bringing trophy after trophy home to the club. Nevertheless, the recent additions of players like Gonzalo Higuaín and Halkan Çalhanoğlu are a sign that the Rossoneri will try to restore their former glory. And who is better to undertake this task than José?
Mourinho enjoyed his time in the Italian Fashion capital and if AC Milan’s board give him the keys of the club he would be willing to break the heart of another ex of his. A problem with this move may turn out to be another candidate from Alsace. Arsene Wenger is in advanced talks with the Milanese and if the two sides come to an agreement, José will have to postpone his return to the Bel Paese.
José’s presence in Manchester United can be considered as the first failure of his career due to the fact that it was the first time since his time in União de Leiria that he hasn’t won the championship. Perhaps an unexpected return to his roots is what is needed for the manager to return to his A-game, and what better team for that than his first club, where he left things unfinished?
SL Benfica lacks the cash of PSG, Bayern and Milan, but it doesn’t lack prestige. It’s the club where the Black Panther, the Rei, the Black Diamond, Eusebio, made his name. It’s the club that dominated European football in the 1960s and ended Real Madrid’s rule winning two consecutive European cups defeating them in the 1962 final. Since then, Lisbon’s Eagles haven’t managed to restore their former glory in European competitions, but still are the most successful team in Portugal.
Benfica may lack the capabilities of other wealthier European clubs but so did Porto until José came in. If he decides to return to his home town he will have the peace of mind he missed in England, Italy and Spain. He will be able to create a new team, his team, and he will not have to deal with superstars like Pogba or Casillas making his managerial life harder.
He will have the opportunity to create another unbeatable machine like the Dragons of Porto. Moreover, returning and succeeding with a team like Benfica will demonstrate to all his detractors that he is special indeed.
English National Football Team - Locked
Successful coaches tend to take on national teams as a relaxing break from clubs. Whether being the Three Lions manager qualifies as a relaxing break is a different story. We wouldn’t like to jinx Gareth Southgate’s performance so far but given England’s unfortunate history when it comes to managers, it wouldn’t be out of the blue if anytime soon Gareth went out and José came in.
With Portugal’s national team experiencing its golden age with Fernando Santos, the Three Lions fill all the necessary criteria for José’s next stop. A well-respected team with glorious history but well beyond its prime. Additionally, having lived in England for eight years will make it easy for him to adapt to the local facts of life and deal with the English press. The question José should pose to himself is, am I special enough to bring it home?
It’s no easy task to predict Mourinho’s moves, as nobody expected him to take on Manchester United in 2016. The only thing for certain is that he hasn’t said his last word yet. It remains to be seen whether he will prove Cloudbet’s predictions right or wrong.
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