Where will José Mourinho end up next season?
José Mourinho loves it, absolutely loves it. The world is watching, so he shape-shifts in character between George Clooney, the all-purpose romantic lead, and General MacArthur, the second world war general who vowed to return. We’ve seen this movie more times than we’d care to admit.
But what happens when the lights are doused, and the final nuanced sound bite has been delivered? Is Mourinho consumed by a secret sense of self-doubt? Probably not but, given the odds on Real Madrid being eliminated from the Champions League by Manchester United, he has more reason than usual to think several steps ahead of his detractors.
Mourinho will never have to look for work. It will come to him. Managers of his magnitude are irresistible to a certain type of club owner, who seeks to bask in his reflected glory. Yet others are more reserved. There has been a momentum shift at Old Trafford, for instance, where Mourinho, once favourite to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, is being portrayed as too abrasive for Manchester United’s brand of corporate conservatism.
Though there is genuine warmth in his relationship with Sir Alex, the unravelling of his authority at the Bernabéu leaves him in an uncharacteristically difficult position. Things are so far gone in Madrid, where he has alienated fans, players and the media, that even a spectacular win tonight would offer only the briefest of respites from criticism. La Liga has been annexed by Barcelona, and when goalkeeper Iker Casillas, the patron saint of Spanish football, takes against you, there is usually only one winner.
Mourinho’s next career move will be complicated. The most logical option is Paris St-Germain, whose Qatar-funded largesse and unlimited ambition is suited to his temperament and his sense of destiny. It would be worth walking across the English Channel to witness the clash of egos between the Special One and I Am Zlatan. Mourinho and Ibrahimovic go together like strawberries and raw sewage.
Manchester City need a new manager, even if Roberto Mancini puzzlingly retains the faith of a majority of supporters. He, too, has offended key characters in his dressing room. Mourinho would certainly confront, and eradicate, the sense of complacency generated by last season’s title win. But his problem lies with City’s new power brokers, former Barcelona executives Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano. They think he lacks dignity.
That leaves Chelsea, and a rapprochement with Roman Abramovich. A messianic return to Stamford Bridge would probably suit even Rafa Benítez, who has been so undermined by public hostility he deserves to be put out of his misery. Chelsea fans would probably spontaneously combust with joy and gratitude.
Mourinho knows what he will be getting into, and the world will be watching, once more. He loves that, absolutely loves it.
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