The temptation is to believe that Jose Mourinho is finished as a top manager after Roma announced his sacking on Tuesday morning.
Season three syndrome strikes again. Its ultimate toxicity, where everything burns down after a few positive years, is now so well established that it's essentially a guarantee.
He has now been released by four clubs in a row, all because of poor results, in stark contrast to the first half of his career when he either decided he was at his wits' end somewhere or left due to personality conflicts. These teams' league positions after his dismissal were 16th (Chelsea), sixth (Manchester United), seventh (Tottenham Hotspur) and ninth (Roma). He won three of those four trophies (Tottenham was the exception, although that job was a hospital pass from the start), but in the end the shiny silverware was left in a smoldering pile of rubble.
Mourinho won the Europa League with Manchester United in 2017 (AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)
Every club president, owner, chairman and CEO of a reasonably large club will at least pause before picking up the phone. Is it worth the effort? Is the short-term success it is likely to bring worth the emotional toll you will have to endure?
In a way, you would be questioning the sanity and basic judgment of anyone who hires him. These days, scorched earth is less of a byproduct and more of a brand. When he used to defile himself in public to get attention, it was seen as a way to protect his players and divert all the attention and hatred towards himself and away from them. But these days it's more about self-preservation, emphasizing that some factor other than himself was to blame for the recent negative result, failed contract signing or FA indictment.
But someone will always push the big red button that says “Jose.” Football is a short-term game these days. So why even think about the third year, let alone beyond? In any case, only five current Premier League managers have been in office longer. Four in La Liga. Only two in Serie A. Take your trophies and then leave. Nowadays he may live solely on the fumes of his genius, but fumes can still carry you forward.
Those trophies again. Even in the post-Real Madrid era, at the clubs that released him, he won the Premier League with Chelsea and the Europa League and the League Cup with Manchester United, where his claim to finish second in 2017 is one of the best achievements His career doesn't look so silly anymore. He also won the Conference League at Roma, their first European cup since the 1961 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and their first ever since 2008.
Mourinho celebrates with the UEFA Europa Conference League trophy last year (Ozan Kose/AFP)
He is still popular with the people. A significant number of Roma fans still love him despite recent results and in many ways he is the perfect modern manager for an increasingly paranoid fan culture where many are convinced there is some kind of conspiracy against their club. If you want someone to fuel your burning feelings of injustice, he's your man.
It doesn't take particularly long to make a list of possible places he could go.
There is Saudi Arabia. Mourinho claimed last year that he had rejected “the greatest ever managerial proposal in the history of football” and later said he was “convinced” of working there one day. One can imagine that his agent's phone is already ringing.
There's Newcastle. Eddie Howe's position does not appear to be in immediate jeopardy, but if results continue to follow the current path that could change. Newcastle's owners have not yet been attracted by star power, so Mourinho would be an atypical appointment, but at some point they may, however, adopt the mindset that they need someone to “take them to the next level”. The idea that Mourinho is that man is misguided.
There's Chelsea. Sounds silly, but don't rule it out completely. The lack of progress this season may not be entirely Mauricio Pochettino's fault, but their owners' patience will only go so far. In a recent poll by The Athletic, 30 percent of Chelsea fans said they would take Mourinho back. Not an overwhelming mandate, but probably more than you thought it could hold a candle to.
There is Real Madrid. The same applies here: Don't rule it out. Carlo Ancelotti may have recently signed a new contract, but contracts hardly matter to Florentino Perez once the worm turns and Perez apparently still loves Mourinho, they still talk, the flame is still alive.
There is postage. An emotional return to the club where he celebrated his first brilliant successes feels somehow appropriate. Coach Sergio Conceicao is not exactly popular after a difficult (by their standards) season in which they trailed league leaders Sporting Lisbon. There also arises the delicious possibility of Mourinho working for Andre Villas-Boas. His former coach, with whom he fell out quite spectacularly after Villas-Boas displayed scandalous disloyalty by single-handedly eliminating Mourinho's team from Inter Milan, is running for the presidency of Porto. He also appears to have a good chance of ousting Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, who has been in office since 1982.
Villas-Boas (centre) and Mourinho at Chelsea in 2006 (Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC Via Getty Images)
There is Turkey. It's either Galatasaray or Fenerbahce that's a given, isn't it? Imagine how he would thrive in a country that seems to despise referees and encourage conspiracies even more than he does.
There is MLS. There's only one job, and since he has the utmost respect for Minnesota as a team and a place, it's hard to imagine him climbing up there, but the prospect of somewhere more glamorous might appeal to his still-significant ego.
Finally, there is international management. He has said in the past that he would like to manage a national team at some point. This was supposed to be the last appearance of his career, but times are changing. And it should be Portugal, but Roberto Martinez has his feet under the table and probably won't be going anywhere for a while.
What about the USA? Greg Berhalter's contract runs until the 2026 World Cup, but a poor showing in the Copa America this summer could change that and the authorities may not want to go into a home World Cup with the prospect of embarrassment. There's even been talk of Brazil, even though a) they just got a new head coach and b) it's hard to imagine a less “jogo bonito” manager if you tried.
In many ways, an international gig could be best for everyone: those who aren't fans of Mourinho and those who love him. The former category can largely ignore him most of the time, while the latter can gorge themselves on pure, uncut Jose every few years at major tournaments.
Mourinho is on a downward trend. The charisma and magnetism of his early years are gone, but people will always be blinded by the remaining light of his star power. People will still think that he could be the man to make them greater. And to reiterate, people will remember that he is still a manager capable of achieving success, both tangible and otherwise.
If you think this is the end of Jose Mourinho, think again.
(Top photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)