What next for Jose Mourinho?
Jose Mourinho has admitted that he is open to the prospect of international management being his next venture in football.
Having been out of management since his sacking as Manchester United manager back in December 2018, Mourinho is willing to embark on a very different type of challenge in a bid to get back onto the coaching scene.
“I want to compete in new competitions. I think about the World Cup and the European Championship.”
“For a long time, I have had the desire to try out such an adventure. Right now, I see myself more as a national team [manager] than with a new club.”
And that poses a real question: what could that next job be?
The natural and obvious choice would categorically be Portugal. A nation stacked with talent, an excellent blend of youth and experience, a chance to reunite with Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal national team is unequivocally in the best place it has ever been before.
And yet there’s just one small problem for Mourinho to take the hot-seat and land the job he’s highly anticipated to one day take: Fernando Santos.
Having won no silverware in the eight decades that preceded Euro 2016, Santos has led Portugal to two trophies in three years. And now, the job is pretty much his for as long as he wants it.
That puts Mourinho - and Portugal - in a rather tough spot - and Mourinho knows it. He has always, quite openly, had an eye on the Portugal job, always wanting to manage them at some point in his career, and Portugal have always wanted to have him too. But circumstances are yet to conveniently lend themselves for that union to transpire.
For a long time, Portugal would have taken Mourinho in a heartbeat, the national team almost waiting on bated breath for his appointment - but now, when Mourinho finally wants Portugal, Portugal are, for the first time, unmoved.
That’s why Mourinho has been quite careful in his language and, when addressing the national scene, added “Is Portugal the right team for me? Not necessarily.”
He knows, as much as he’d like to lead Portugal, that prospect is not currently on the table. There’s not doubt he’d have wanted to be the man to lead his nation to their first ever international trophy, but that is no longer possible either.
Will Portugal and Mourinho ever come together? Almost certainly. Is now the moment? Almost certainly not.
One extraordinary thing would have to happen for that to occur: Fernando Santos walking away from Portugal. And that appears beyond unlikely.
He couldn’t, could he? Take over the nation of Cristiano Ronaldo’s professional rival, in a bid to to lead Messi to his first major international trophy? What a thought.
Not many managers can claim to have managed both Messi and Ronaldo - in fact, to date, absolutely none can. The thought of Mourinho becoming the first - is it really that absurd?
Argentina are currently embroiled in a rather underwhelming Copa America campaign - having struggled in the group stage, losing to Carlos Queiroz’s Colombia in the first match before then only mustering a draw against Paraguay - Argentina are on the brink of elimination.
Currently under the management of Lionel Scaloni, he’s only under contract until the end of the current tournament, and with minimal managerial experience to his name, he isn’t expected to be a long-term appointment.
If Argentina continue to struggle this tournament, his departure seems a foregone conclusion, opening up the prospect of managing one of the most reputable footballing national teams in world football - and ultimately turn around the fortunes of something of a “fallen giant” that has clearly lost its way - and identity.
That must be an enticing prospect for Mourinho, who will see overseeing Argentina winning their first major trophy since 1993 as a great challenge - and a huge way to put his name firmly back on the managerial map.
He wouldn’t have long to wait long for the chance to do that either. With the Copa America taking place again next year, he’d be back in competitive football very quickly indeed, so this wouldn’t necessarily have to be a particularly long project. After that, if it doesn’t go to plan, he’d have the World Cup in 2022 to look forward to. So it’s a feasible, and not too distant, challenge that Mourinho would very probably be interested in.
The problem? Mourinho seems more keen on a European job. His own words were “I want to compete in new competitions. I think about the World Cup and the European Championship.” It’s interesting that he stressed the Euros as one competition he’s interested in - something that, obviously, Argentina don’t compete in. Does that mean Mourinho can be ruled out of the Argentina job? Not necessarily. He could just be referencing the Euros as an example of one of several new competitions he’s keen to explore.
Argentina seems like one to keep an eye on, although if a high-profile national team job in Europe opens up in the not-too-distant future, he’d almost certainly prefer to go there.”
One such job that fits that bill is the Spanish job. And, due to highly unfortunate circumstances, that position has opened up.
Spain have moved quickly to fill that vacancy with Luis Enrique’s assistant manager Robert Moreno. He was interim manager during the victories over Malta, Faroe Island and Sweden, and therefore has a 100% win record.
But will they be looking for more experience for the Euro 2020 finals? It’s not entirely inconceivable.
And, where Spain are concerned, it’s not unprecedented to see them change manager rapidly and unexpectedly before a major tournament.
No better reference is needed than their previous manager Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked just days before the start of the World Cup due to his decision to join Real Madrid, and replaced with Fernando Hierro.
The same thing, therefore, could happen now. With Mourinho available, Spain would surely be open to appointing the most successful Portuguese manager of all time. The question is would Mourinho be interested? You wouldn’t bet against it.
An alternative to Argentina could be Brazil - and perhaps this one could, potentially, be the more likely, depending on what happens over the next two weeks.
Brazil are currently hosting the Copa America - and expectations are sky-high of putting the World Cup 2016 misery behind them and winning a major tournament on home soil.
They haven’t looked brilliant though. A comfortable 3-0 win over Bolivia was followed up with a frustrating 0-0 draw with Venezuela - and while progression to the quarter final looks assured, will they be able to lift the trophy without their injured talisman Neymar?
It doesn’t look like a foregone conclusion by any means, with Colombia and Uruguay both looking strong, while Chile always pose a threat.
So the question is: if Brazil fail to lift the trophy, will Tite keep his job? That is certainly far from guaranteed, and you wouldn’t bet against Brazil approaching Mourinho while he is available if they do fail to achieve ultimate continental glory.
The pressure is on for Tite and Brazil and, if they fall short of expectations, a managerial change could be on the cards. And Mourinho will be one of the first names they’d consider.
Where do you think Mourinho will go next?