Jose Mourinho may not be willing to drive Roman Abramovich’s car
In September 2007 when José Mourinho was sacked as Chelsea manager by Roman Abramovich - amid rumours of a dressing-room coup - the rift between the Portuguese coach and the club appeared permanent.
The impression was that Mourinho would only return to Stamford Bridge as an opposition manager looking to gain revenge on an owner and players who did not appreciate all he had done for them - six trophies in three years including two Premier League titles.
Little by little though, over the intervening years, a return has seemed more likely. Within six months, Abramovich made the first move by presenting the then unemployed coach with a £2million (Dh11.6m) Ferrari.
Mourinho also remained in contact with some players, particularly England midfielder Frank Lampard. Last month Porto president Pinto da Costa said that text messages between Mourinho and some at Chelsea were undermining André Villas-Boas’ attempts to rebuild the club.
Through this time Mourinho has regularly taken opportunities to state how much he enjoyed his time in England. In July 2009 - when coaching Internazionale - he talked of replacing Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Last December he told the BBC he would like to manage again in the Premier League.
In January came the stories Mourinho had already decided to leave Real Madrid this summer, followed last week by the widely published photographs of his house-buying trip to London. Just last Friday Villas-Boas admitted Mourinho’s shadow still hung over Stamford Bridge. “His is a presence ever felt in the club,” said Villas-Boas of his former mentor. “The most successful part of this club’s history is related to José.”
Now Mourinho may get to decide whether he wants to write the next chapter in that history. With his relationship with Abramovich seemingly healed, and the club desperate for success after two turbulent and likely trophy-less seasons, it looks like the job is his if he wants it.
However, the last four years have been kinder to Mourinho than to the heavyweights in the Chelsea dressing-room. In 2007 John Terry and Frank Lampard were approaching the peak of their careers. Now they - plus Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien - are on the wane.
It is also true that while his relationship with some players (e.g. Lampard) is good, Mourinho is less close to others (e.g. Terry). If the Stamford Bridge dressing-room is complicated, the situation in the boardroom is even more obtuse. Villas-Boas admitted in January that he had little say in transfer affairs, and was asked to explain his team selection for last month’s 3-1 Champions League defeat in Napoli by the club’s technical director Michael Emenalo.
It is very difficult to imagine Mourinho accepting a job knowing that kind of interference is likely. Mourinho may have his heart set on a Premier League return, but he has other suitors. When Abramovich makes the call to offer the Portuguese his old job back, he might end the conversation asking Mourinho to return the keys to that Ferrari.