‘My memories from English football could not be better… there couldn’t be a better place to go. In England you feel the real passion for the game… one day I will come back because English football means a lot to myself.‘ – Former Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and current Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho.
One of the most spectacular footballing CVs in the world is nearing a full circle. League titles in Italy and Spain have only served the rumour mill to point the ‘Special One’ back to his spiritual home.
Success has followed the 50-year-old around Europe – Mourinho unforgettably won a Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League treble in his second season at Inter Milan – yet his project at Real Madrid appears to be nearing an end.
Of course, the partnership may live on – but reported tensions within the Bernabeu are taking their toll on a squad that amassed a record 100 points in winning La Liga last season. Many analysts and fans are divided on how successful Mourinho has been at Madrid, despite that record league win last year.
Meanwhile, back on the Kings Road, former Liverpool manager and great Mourinho rival, Rafael Benitez, is not for the first time proving a mere shadow of the Portuguese maestro.
Two and two are slowly being put together and like an accomplished journeyman who has no greater urge than simply to come home, Mourinho’s heart seems to be calling back to one of his former loves.
And suspicions are growing that for Mr Abramovich (though no man could possibly ever claim to know what he is thinking) the feeling may just be being reciprocated. Frankly, who knows? Destiny has a funny way of going about these things.
They say never go back to an ex-girlfriend – they say things will never be the same a second time around. But if not, it would surely only be because this time, things would be even better. After all, Mourinho has unfinished business on these shores.
Nothing will pain the Portuguese tactician more than knowing he didn’t win the Champions League with Chelsea. That the Stamford Lions went on to win it without him will mean very little to the man himself – compassionate joy for his former players aside.
And even worse for the 50-year-old will be the memory of Sir Alex Ferguson clawing back domestic superiority for Manchester United after Mourinho had initially won two league titles with the Blues.
Though great mutual respect exists between the two managers – the fact reads like a giant slap across Mourinho’s face.
How he would love another crack at restoring Chelsea’s domestic dominance. How he would love to be back in the ring with the ultimate nemesis in Ferguson – the most successful Premier League manager in history.
But the relationship works both ways: the Blues need a passionate, knowledgeable and charismatic leader to arrest their current slide. The painful truth is that Roberto Di Matteo should still be in the Stamford Bridge dugout, but current interim boss Benitez is no adequate replacement. The Spaniard – once undeniably one of Europe’s top managers – has simply lost his touch.
There is a dearth of realistic alternatives across Europe. Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp, Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone and Swansea’s Michael Laudrup are potential options. Yet neither manager has experience of managing a club like Chelsea – and that is a vital factor.
Laudrup can also be ruled out for the same reasons as Brighton’s Gus Poyet and Watford’s Gianfranco Zola: inexperience. If Abramovich wants to pay out another hefty sum after only a few months, he is welcome to hire any of the above. If he wants to be sensible for a change, they can be considered realistic targets only after a few more years.
What’s more, while Dortmund and Atletico are flying domestically, they are only recent additions to Europe’s elite. To manage a club of Chelsea’s stature – with a chairman as demanding as Abramovich – a little something extra is required.
That means one thing. Forget sulking over Guardiola and resist the urge to hire another unproven rookie; Mourinho is the only answer.
The ‘Special One’ knows what it takes to manage the Blues and no one will thrive off the daily pressure more. He won’t have most of his backbone that made the club so successful during his spell in charge (Drogba, Carvalho, Essien in his prime and possibly Lampard). Further to this, if he were to leave Real Madrid without winning the Champions League, he would have failed his ultimate objective with the Spanish giants and many pundits might also deem his spell in Madrid to be a relative failure.
But some things in life transcend rules, boundaries and common sense. Some things make sense simply because they shouldn’t.
If the outspoken father of two were to come back and charm his beloved Blues once again, he would face one of his greatest challenges in one of his most comfortable atmospheres.
Yes, he would still make controversial remarks and he would still fall out publicly with some of his players.
But he would be loved. And he would be valued for what he brings to British football. He would sit outside on the street and talk to reporters as though they were his best friends – and he would be respected for it.
No longer would Mourinho be fighting a losing battle against his players, no longer would he be fighting a losing battle against the press. For no matter how inspirational a leader any man is – and my word, Mourinho can inspire – everyone needs to feel at home to be at their best.
At Chelsea, that is exactly what Mourinho would be – back home. And this time, maybe – just maybe – it would last.