With so many bridges burned, where on earth does Jose Mourinho go from here?
When the news broke on Thursday afternoon, it came as both a huge surprise and not surprising at all.
Jose Mourinho, a self-proclaimed “Special One” who has never seemed to have even contemplated failure let alone tasted it, has departed Chelsea just a few months after winning his third, and the club’s fourth, Premier League crown.
The official line was “mutual consent”, but Mourinho’s previous insistence that he would not resign – and risk walking away without a sizeable pay-off – suggests that the decision was the board’s more than the manager’s. He has still yet to complete a fourth campaign at a single club, with his ambition to redefine his reputation by committing himself to the Blues for the long-haul now in tatters.
The defeat to Leicester on Monday ended with the Chelsea manager openly accusing his own players of ‘betraying’ his work
The speed and extent of the champions’ collapse has been truly extraordinary. When Mourinho left Stamford Bridge for the first time in September 2007, Chelsea found themselves in fifth place, just two points off the top. Now, they are languishing way down in 16th, a single point above the drop zone and 20 behind a table-topping Leicester City side managed by Claudio Ranieri, who fittingly delivered the final nail in Mourinho’s coffin with a 2-1 win at the King Power Stadium on Monday night.
Ranieri is not the only manager who would have wanted to administer the decisive blow. Mourinho has made many enemies throughout his managerial career, often deliberately creating friction before channelling the resultant tension into a positive energy that can be used to better his team.
For so long that has been held up as key to his success. But the antagonism and acrimony often produces an atmosphere so poisonous that something has to change. Mourinho began the season by admonishing his popular medical staff for failing to properly understand the game, and the defeat to Leicester on Monday ended with the Chelsea manager openly accusing his own players of ‘betraying’ his work. The constant need for conflict has consequences.
Mourinho’s monumental failure this term – it should be stressed at this point that Chelsea’s squad must shoulder a significant portion of the blame too – thus raises the intriguing question: where exactly does the Portuguese, whose methods can be so divisive and damaging, go from here?
International football is a possibility, though it always felt as though that move would come a lot later
It is a remarkable to even envisage Mourinho, winner of eight league titles, four domestic cups and two Champions Leagues, not being a coach in demand. There is, however, no obvious job for him out there.
The bridges he burned at Real Madrid surely remain too charred for a return just two-and-a-half years after his departure, despite Rafa Benitez’s current plight. There is no opening for him in Italy, where he would receive an extremely hostile reception from the vast majority of the country’s media. Bayern Munich is simply not a natural fit, and it seems the Bavarians have their eye on another former Chelsea boss in Carlo Ancelotti anyway.
Paris Saint-Germain is perhaps the most likely destination, but there has been talk in recent weeks of a new deal for incumbent Laurent Blanc. The Ligue 1 giants, keen to build a positive brand identity and reputation worldwide, may themselves think twice before hiring him, just as Barcelona and Manchester United have done in the past. International football is a possibility, though it always felt as though that move would come a lot later, after the 52-year-old had left the club game on his own terms.
Success at a cost
He is one of the greatest coaches in modern times and yet he may find himself short on suitors when the time comes to plot his next move
Mourinho is Chelsea’s most successful-ever manager, and yet he has now been pushed out of west London twice. He is a serial winner, a man who virtually guarantees trophies in the short-term wherever he goes, and yet he has left three of his last four jobs under a cloud.
He is one of the greatest coaches in modern times – perhaps even one of the best in the history of the game – and yet he may find himself short of suitors when the time comes to plot his next move.
The current situation would have been unthinkable just a few short months ago. Given the disastrous way events have unfolded since August, though, Mourinho can have few complaints. For all of the silverware and all of the success, his track record shows that things tend to go wrong once the honeymoon period has come to an end. Perhaps, despite everything, Wednesday’s news is not that surprising after all.