Terms of Mourinho’s Chelsea return yet to be finalised
Emotional Real Madrid manager yearning for a return to the country and club where he is ‘loved’ by fans and media alike
Talks between parties representing José Mourinho and Chelsea over his potential return remain ongoing, with no agreement as yet struck despite the Portuguese’s very public courting of his former club in the aftermath of Real Madrid’s Champions League exit on Tuesday night.
Mourinho, whose trophy-laden if turbulent spell of a little over three seasons in London ended abruptly in the autumn of 2007, suggested he expects to leave the Bernabeu at the end of the current campaign and move to a club “where people love me”.
He is considered favourite to become Chelsea’s permanent manager once Rafael Benítez’s interim stewardship draws to a close in June, having reconciled with Roman Abramovich in the years since, but is technically only one of a number of candidates to whom the Londoners are speaking.
While Chelsea will only publicly address the managerial situation at Stamford Bridge once the season is complete, discussions have been taking place for some time behind the scenes and the hierarchy, via intermediaries, have sounded out potential replacements for Roberto di Matteo, who became the fifth full-time manager sacked by Abramovich in the period since Mourinho departed London, when he was relieved of his duties last November. Mourinho is understood to be top of that list, though there remain issues that need to be ironed out before he could swap Spain for the Premier League.
His contractual ties with Real are one, given his current deal extends to 2016, but primary among the obstacles remains the amount of power he would be able to wield back at Chelsea. The original fracture of his relationship with Abramovich during his previous spell at the club was born of frustrations over transfer policy, with the imposition of Avram Grant as a director of football riling the Portuguese.
Yet, if he was to return, Mourinho would have to accept the existing structure at the club, particularly given the positions of the chief executive Ron Gourlay the technical director Michael Emenalo are not believed to be under any threat. Indeed, the latter heavily influences the club’s scouting and recruitment.
It remains to be seen whether Mourinho, who has also generated interest from Paris St-Germain, will accept that hierarchy within the club and can therefore secure the return to which he alluded on Tuesday night after Borussia Dortmund eliminated his Real team from the Champions League.
“I want to be where people love me to be,” he said. “I know in England I’m loved. I’m loved by the fans, I’m loved by the media that treats me in a fair way, criticising me but giving me credit when I deserve it. I know I’m loved by some clubs, especially one, and in Spain, the situation is a bit different because some people hate me.”
Many on the playing staff would welcome his arrival, which could yet have an influence on whether Frank Lampard is offered a one-year contract to extend his stay at the club for a further season. John Terry, too, is entering the final year of his current deal, with both having been key players during Mourinho’s first spell in charge. The defender Branislav Ivanovic, who joined under Grant, was quoted in the Serb newspaper Vecernje Novosti saying: “Everyone who loves Chelsea hopes Mourinho will return.
“As players we don’t have any confirmed information that he would return. But we would all like it to happen because he is one of the best coaches in the world. He is immensely respected by all for what he has done for the club. With him we can be stronger as a club. It would add another dimension to Chelsea, and it would be sure to help us become one of the main contenders for the title.”
Chelsea have also sounded out Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini over his availability having been impressed with the Spanish club’s progress into the Champions League quarter-finals this term. The Chilean, who has previously coached at Real Madrid and Villarreal, is contracted for a further season though there is a buyout clause believed to be set at around €4 million for his services.
Other options mooted have been David Moyes, who is out of contract at Everton in the summer, or Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone, while the former Chelsea players Gus Poyet and Gianfranco Zola have impressed with their progress at Championship clubs Brighton and Watford respectively this term.
It falls upon Benítez to secure Champions League qualification – his team are currently third – before he departs, with his side hoping to secure their progress into the Europa League final by seeing off Basel at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night. The Londoners are 2-1 up from last week’s leg in Switzerland, with a full squad having trained at Cobham ahead of the tie this morning.
The interim manager is also due to take the side on their post-season tour of the United States, where they will play Manchester City in St Louis and New York, with no formal announcement on a permanent appointment anticipated until June.