I love conjectures when it comes to the football business and I’m now going to indulge myself in this one. As remote as this may seem now, I am increasingly thinking we are going to witness the shock return of The Special One to Stamford Bridge. Obviously, all the papers and pundits are solidly claiming he’s going to Inter Milan and the sacking of Roberto Mancini would seem to more or less confirm this view. Indeed, amongst all the names being peddled for the Chelsea job, Jose Mourinho’s is conspicuously missing. But, as I’ve implied above, I’m reading the situation differently.
From all I can see in the press, there’s no new information on the Inter move, but with the sacking of Henk Ten Cate and the continued retention of Steve Clarke, I think the deck is being cleared for Mourinho’s return. To me, the sacking of Ten Cate indicates that Frank Rijkaard won’t be coming. As much as Roman Abramovich is reputed to be yearning for free-flowing attacking football, Rijkaard’s magic has waned in the past couple of years and his reputation for not being able to rein in big egos would not appeal to the Chelsea hierarchy that needs a strong character for the dressing room. Besides, Roman is too proud to want to jump at the opportunity of employing a Barcelona reject. Indeed, I have a feeling that no sacked manager or anyone whose position is presently threatened will get the Chelsea job; so those who think Mancini or Sven-Goran Eriksson are in the frame should think something else.
In Mancini’s case, the fact that he made no headway in Europe in his time with Inter further rules him out. Chelsea are not only looking for a coach with proven European success, but I think they’re also looking for one with a record of winning the Premier League. Chelsea are not looking to Mark Hughes or Roy Keane. The reported interest in these people is manufactured by the British press. Didier Deschamps wants a job badly and he’s an old boy; so he’s let it be known he’s available. But he was overlooked for Mourinho four years ago and I can’t see Chelsea going back to him. Guus Hiddink is too old by Chelsea’s standard and big Phil Scolari is too eccentric and untested in club football in Europe.
What all this means is that the job is only for one man. That man is Jose Mourinho. Reports have claimed he’s got back on good terms with Roman and the Chelsea hierarchy and he himself has confirmed it in a series of interviews. There are even reports that Roman gave him a gift of a special Ferrari model recently and so on and so forth. When all is said and done, there is nobody on the list of possible appointees with a better record than Mourinho. There’s none with his charisma and there’s none with the ability to energize the supporters worldwide than him. There’s none that can sell the Chelsea brand better worldwide and yes, he stands head and shoulders above everyone purportedly in the frame. So, what is the problem?
I think what is happening is that Mourinho has probably reached some kind of pre-contract arrangement or understanding with some other club (possibly Inter) before the present development at Chelsea and would rather Chelsea sort it out with the club before he can return. He could also be playing mind games with the Chelsea hierarchy, considering the nightmare they put him through in his last year and half at the club in terms of hamstringing him. Mourinho wants full control of football affairs and is possibly driving a hard bargain behind the scenes while letting the impression be created that he isn’t going to wait for Chelsea as he has another job lined up. I think the battle now is between Inter and Chelsea for Mourinho’s signature. I won’t be surprised if there are talks now behind the scenes between Inter, Chelsea and Mourinho to get the latter back at the Bridge. Inter sacking Mancini could just be a gimmick to up the ante with Chelsea, while Chelsea sacking Ten Cate and leaving Clarke could be a message to Mourinho that the people brought in as part of the now failed reorganization at Chelsea have been cleared. Mourinho and Ten Cate obviously have a history from the Frisk-induced Battle of Nou Camp and the Chelsea hierarchy are clearly aware that he’d be the last man Mourinho would want to work with.
So, my little theory is that the card shuffling going on in the European managerial circles may shockingly return Mourinho to the club that has given him the biggest profile of his career and to fans with whom he still has a love affair. I will therefore hang on to the faintest hope that The Special One is returning until Chelsea actually appoint a new manager. Stranger things have happened in football.
Update · Monday 2nd June · Mourinho takes over as Inter boss
Mourinho has signed a three-year deal with the Italian side in his first job since he and Chelsea parted company by mutual consent in September 2007.