Football: Where next for Jose Mourinho as Real Madrid have an itch to scratch? China and France are options

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho at the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Manchester United and Juventus FC at Old Trafford in Manchester, Britain, on Sept 23, 2018.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho at the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Manchester United and Juventus FC at Old Trafford in Manchester, Britain, on Sept 23, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

(THE GUARDIAN) - Jose Mourinho still has a big reputation in China even if it is not as esteemed as it once was. However, the 55-year-old Portuguese manager in China would make for thrilling viewing.

Guangzhou Evergrande failed to make it eight out of eight Chinese Super League titles this year and Fabio Cannavaro has not been able to convince everyone at the club.

Mourinho has the stature to follow Marcello Lippi and Luiz Felipe Scolari at Guangzhou and the club have the money and ambition to be interested. Fans and the media would love his combative style, something that has not been seen in Asia before, although few think he would come so far east.

It would be a major surprise were Mourinho to get another job in England. For one thing, he might not want to - Manchester United seemed to be the only available position he felt like taking on after Chelsea - but more importantly after costly failure at Old Trafford there will be few major clubs willing to take the risk.

It is important to remember Mourinho was far from an automatic choice at United: there were plenty of influential voices with reservations and after two choppy campaigns gave way to the anticipated third-season syndrome the doubters will consider themselves vindicated.

It is possibly too soon to write Mourinho off, he could easily turn up somewhere and make the best of a fresh start and a clean slate, though in England the clean slate will always be a problem.

Let's face it, the man has not looked happy in his workplace for several years now.

 
 
 

Unless Marseille, with their size, history and fan base, receive heavy investment in the near future, the only potentially viable French Ligue 1 destination for Mourinho is Paris Saint-Germain.

Qatar Sports Investments has often courted Mourinho since acquiring the club and he told Telefoot in 2014 he was PSG's first choice over Carlo Ancelotti in 2011 before rejecting further Parisian advances when with Real Madrid.

Although Mourinho remains highly rated by the PSG hierarchy and despite flirtations last season when Mourinho referred to PSG's talent as special and magic, their interest has cooled a little of late.

Not least owing to an admiration of Thomas Tuchel's slow yet effective evolution of the club. Even if the German's reign were to deteriorate, it is likely Mourinho would have to wait until summer 2020 for a vacancy to appear, given the capital already accrued by the German.

As for the French national team, the FFF will stick with the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" adage for the foreseeable future. They are world champions after all.

In Germany, suggestions that Mourinho's free-agent status could have come at a handy time for Bayern Munich have not been slow to arrive in the conversation.

Bayern are adrift of the Bundesliga leaders, Borussia Dortmund, and with not only the manager, Niko Kovac, but major powerbrokers Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge under some pressure.

In terms of personality and profile, Mourinho clearly ticks a few boxes and Bayern's squad is stacked with the type of senior players he prefers working with.

Ideologically, however, it is not much of a fit. Mourinho's brand of football would be a tough sell to Hoeness and Rummenigge (not to mention the Allianz Arena public) at the best of times, let alone on his current run and with the team needing a jump-start.

He probably would not find a transfer budget to his liking, with the €43.5 million (S$67.9 million) spent on Corentin Tolisso from Lyon in 2017 still a club record, and the feeling is Bayern want to go bold and fresh next summer.

The most obvious landing spot for Mourinho in Italy would be with Inter: the team he led to the treble in 2010. Luciano Spalletti signed a new contract with the club at the start of this season but his failure to make it through to the Champions League knockout stage or mount a credible title challenge could provide a pretext for change.

The Nerazzurri recently hired the former Juventus CEO Beppe Marotta to shape their sporting strategy and he might also want to put his imprint on the club by naming the next manager.

Juventus themselves are happy with Massimiliano Allegri and would be unlikely to consider Mourinho in any case given the bad blood between them. Roma or Milan could conceivably have vacancies before the end of this season, but Mourinho might not be a popular choice with fans even if those clubs could find the resources to afford him.

There are only two Russian clubs who could realistically afford Mourinho: Zenit St Petersburg and Spartak Moscow.

But the Gazprom-owned Zenit have got a new manager, the fans' favourite Sergey Semak, who was appointed before the start of the season and Spartak sacked Massimo Carrera to appoint Oleg Kononov last month.

So it does not feel plausible to suggest that one of them would even consider talking to Mourinho at this stage. The other factor to take in is that the quality of the Russian league is not improving and not a single club has reached the knockout stage of the Champions League for the past three years.

Perhaps Mourinho would think the Russian league is not good enough for him.

As for the national team, Russia have just reached the World Cup quarter-finals and the Russian FA has obviously no plans to replace Stanislav Cherchesov, who costs them way less than Mourinho would, and who has already proved he can get a result with a team that cannot be described as one of the best in Russia's history.

Over in Spain, Mourinho's sacking will have caused a flash of emotion, a touch of excitement in Madrid. On the Real Madrid board there are still directors, the president included, who harbour the hope of bringing him back one day.

In moments of clarity, there is a recognition that to do so carries risks that are not advisable to take but there is a touch of forbidden fruit about him, the unrealisable dream. His name never entirely leaves their thoughts. His departure was bitter and unpleasant; his relationship with some in the dressing room broken.

Sergio Ramos, the Real captain, would not welcome him back. And yet that is one of the reasons why Florentino Perez finds the idea attractive: a part of him feels the tug of a purge. Another part wonders if it is really worth it. Not least because of the social impact, the possibility of reopening a divide.

Fans, too, are concerned at the consequences of a return: some fear his arrival, others are repelled by the idea. Yet there are others, a hard core, who would be delighted by it. Whether Mourinho would be is another matter. And if it is not Real, it cannot truly be anyone in Spain.