They say you should never go back in football; that legacies are destroyed and reputations sullied by ruining the honeymoon effect of the first spell, but it seems as if Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho is nearing closer and closer to a return to Chelsea – is that a wise move for the man himself? Or to put it another way, could it possibly even work?
Not many managers in the world can define their destiny in much the same way the 50-year-old can, hardly any would have the pick of their next role when their current side, the reigning league champions, find themselves 13 points behind their bitter rivals – you simply couldn’t imagine Roberto Mancini naming his price and moving elsewhere by popular demand in the same fashion. When things are going well, he is a master tactician, a genius, or as he called himself upon his arrival in England last time around, a ‘Special One’. However, when he disagrees with the media, is guilty of letting in-fighting destroy a campaign and is unable to turn their league fortunes around, the blame is rested squarely on the shoulders of the under-performing players – he’s essentially Harry Redknapp with more silverware.
There’s no doubting that Mourinho has a certain aura about him, but having been in the Spanish capital for three years now, he has just one league title and one Copa Del Rey to show for his efforts; should the club not win the Champions League this season, on the whole, his tenure will be regarded as a failure, and possibly the biggest one of his managerial career. Sure, they beat what were termed the best team for a generation to La Liga last season, and he seriously got under Pep Guardiola’s skin, while the professionalising of the ranks (for a while at least) and restoring them to some sort of European dominance by breaking their Champions League semi-final duck are all positives, but Mourinho is a man that is judged on trophies and he’s come up short so far.
The three clubs thought to be in the mix for Mourinho’s signature are PSG, Manchester City and Chelsea, the post at Stamford Bridge made all the more easier by the fact that Rafa Benitez is simply employed on an interim basis at the moment. With the French outfit currently five points clear at the top of Ligue 1 under Carlo Ancelotti and still in the Champions League, it would be harsh to sack him when he appears to have delivered broadly what was expected of him before the season begun, while you sense Mancini may be given one more year to have a crack at the title and make some sort of impact in Europe.
The case for a Mourinho return to Chelsea is a compelling one – while he may like stack-loads of money to spend in the transfer market at pretty much every job he goes to, which goes in tandem with his refusal to integrate youth-team players wherever he’s been with any great success, the Portuguese it has to be said does like a challenge and he never quite takes over a club that are seen as the best and brightest.
Chelsea first time around was seen as a ‘project’ with endless wealth behind it, Financial Fair Play dictates it will be different this time around, yet he still took the club over when they were on the up but not quite there yet and moulded them into a marvellous winning machine, leading the club to back-to-back league titles, one FA Cup and establishing them as a European force to be reckoned with.
In Italy with Inter Milan, he achieved the unthinkable, by winning the club the treble in 2009-10, helping the club to its first in 44 years before riding of into the sunset. By winning Serie A in both his seasons there, which was seen as the minimum requirement given their domestic dominance and the overall strength of the league and lack of alternatives to their hegemony, he put them on the map so to speak in Europe once more. Mourinho is superb at living up to expectations and helping teams that have a particular historical bugbear from conquering their ills and you sense that while the PSG post may be tempting that ultimately he’d get a little bored in what is essentially a dead domestic league now.
Mourinho went as far as to drop his biggest hint yet in an interview with Sky Sports on Tuesday: “I can’t deny, in spite of this disgraceful weather, that I love it here.
“I have big emotional connections with Chelsea. One day I think I have to go back to English football, to Chelsea or another club. Chelsea are in my heart, so one day I have to go back.
“We have a house here, our daughter is coming to study in London so being in London is a very normal thing for us. But every time I come and people see me walking or shopping people start making connections.
“I feed it because I say every day when I have a chance that I love it here, that I spent a fantastic time here, that I will return. I give a little contribution to the speculation, but just because I love it.”
The working relationship with owner Roman Abramovich will need some mending, having been sacked by the Russian oligarch in 2007 before going through a string of managers like a man trying to get over the break up of a marriage with fling after fling. However, the pair are said to be on good terms once more and Mourinho provides a decent block to Abramovich’s influence in first-team affairs and at the very least, he’ll stand up to him if he believes he’s interfering, just like he did after the Andriy Shevchenko signing.
There are many reasons why Mourinho won’t take the Chelsea job again – he has a legacy there and may not want to risk it, money will have less of an impact than last time, taking the current side and making them champions looks a long and difficult task – but the heart wants what the heart wants and you suspect out of all the posts on offer, a return to Stamford Bridge is the most appealing.
Having not quite been the roaring success at Real Madrid that he would have hoped, he has a point to prove again and that makes him a very dangerous proposition for the top two should Abramovich manage to convince him to come back.