He is managerial Marmite but Ball Control is an avowed apostle to the Cult of José. As a sporting pantomime villain, Luis Suarez is a mere understudy.
Even as his Real Madrid crashed out of the competition that provides his and their raisons d’être, all thoughts turned to Mourinho’s future, and where he would attempt to win an unprecedented third Champions League at a third club. The great demagogue, as ever, relished the limelight and gave a deliciously thinly veiled response to the inevitable questions re his next port of call; all but confirming that he’ll be back at Chelsea next season.
That he is expected to leave Real after only three seasons – to the apparent relief of many associated with the club – continues a pattern of nomadic adventure across Europe. Having previously moved from Porto (after just over two seasons; left a hero) to Chelsea (three and a bit; drummed out by the megalomaniac owner after losing an internal power struggle) and then Internazionale (two seasons; alienated the entire Italian press corps) we can look back on a trail of increasingly intense assignments, progressively culminating in implosion and rancorous recrimination.
With that history behind him, it took no benefit of hindsight to know that when he arrived at the Bernabeu José’s need for to be at the core of club affairs was always going to clash with the culture of Real Madrid. At Los Blancos Presidents are elected by the socios to act as modern day Caesars; providing chaotic melodrama for the masses, often by assembling and empowering an expensively acquired, short-term-focussed playing staff.
A manager of two halves
To this blog, grandstanding is the very currency of sport; in this, Jose delivers in droves. He also delivers success, which is why his stock remains high in the instant gratification era of modern football. To capitalise on the second element of his management you must therefore make peace with the more distasteful parts of his nature (such as this).
There are very few clubs around that would not countenance making that pact, though many in the upper echelon might think more than twice. Barcelona is one obvious example. The soon-to-be Pepped Bayern Munich is another. Manchester United, too, in the increasingly melancholic form of Sir Bobby Charlton, protest their morals to be too pure for what Mourinho would bring to the club.
Amongst Europe’s elite that largely leaves the cabal of nouveau riche, petrodollar-funded clubs such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain as seemingly natural bedfellows for the chequebook manager par excellence. The crucial difference between these two clubs and their precursor of Chelsea is that they are owned by Middle Eastern barons whose stated aim is to promote their region. In short, they want to buy trophies as well as the halos worn by the likes of Barça. Neither of them, then, would be keen on having their ‘project’ hijacked and ‘brand’ tarnished by a man who enters every club acting as if he is bigger than the whole operation.
It may be that Roman Abramovich is willing to relax the reins he has gripped so tight in the past few seasons (with moderate success) if it means more silverware – it’s hard to see Jose coming back without any guarantees of this sort. What we’re constantly told by the media is that the notoriously taciturn owner demands trophies to be delivered with style and panache.
Doesn’t sound very Mourinho, does it? But delusion reigns at Stamford Bridge. Why else would they believe they could foist a hated enemy like Rafa Benitez on the club’s supporters?
It may be then that José returns from his Chelsea exile and successfully exploits the deep pockets of Roman to bring more championships (and perhaps even European glory) to the Bridge. Once the relationships become strained, as they surely must in such an ego-rich environment, the hobo will be off again.
Who’s to say his destination after that wouldn’t be United? José’s eulogising of the 71-year-old Sir Alex Ferguson this season has been as nauseous as it has been transparent in its purposes. He clearly covets the top job in England and, with a debt of £359.7m to service, the ravenous Glaziers would surely be only too happy to put the principles of a club legend like Charlton to one side and throw their lot in with a man who always brings success, as well as acrimony.