Jose Mourinho - Craving For Absolute Power

The charismatic Portugese manager is an inspiration and enjoys adoration – but that is still not enough for him. The consensus on Jose Mourinho's rise from translator to transmogrifier is that he craves the one thing he can't have: autonomy, supreme power, in direct opposition to Roman Abramovich, the Moratti clan of Milan or Real Madrid's grandees. Casting himself as the little man fighting inscrutable wealth, he makes a fine job of portraying each career move as a dash for freedom.

But just suppose he provoked some of the confrontations that pepper his time in football management. Let's imagine that standing up to an owner or a president is all part of a strategy to preserve his aura and keep his life in motion. The hard part is knowing how much this brilliant touchline general acts out of an urge to preserve his independence and to what degree he is just a clever sod who is always on the make.

Most of us would applaud any coach who outruns the fire of boardroom cruelty. Mourinho is employed by a club who sacked Fabio Capello for winning La Liga with low scores for artistic merit, and Vicente del Bosque 12 months after he had won the Champions League. So when the Real directors started leaning on Mourinho to pick certain players and resisted his transfer demands the political opportunity worked both ways. Real could look beyond him, to their next victim, and Mourinho could lay the ground for a return to the Premier League.

Students of extraordinary coincidence will have noted that he swept into London to say "my next job will be in England" a few days after Roberto Mancini's Manchester City were knocked out of the Europa League and then lost 2-0 at Chelsea. A few days, also, after Ron Gourlay, the Chelsea chief executive, had said Carlo Ancelotti's position would be reviewed in May.

Few expect Ancelotti still to be talking about good and bad "moments" at Stamford Bridge next term. And the way Mancini is going, only the FA Cup and a safely-won Champions League place would give him hope of persuading City's owners that he is the right man for the transformation. Nobody mentions that Mourinho ostracised Mario Balotelli at Internazionale, while Mancini may have gambled his career in England away on a player whose volatility is exceeded only by his confusion when asked to put on a bib.

"I miss England and my next job will be in England," Mourinho declares. "There is unfinished business. And I think England wants me back, no?" It would be stretching it to say there are vigils in Trafalgar Square demanding the safe return of the scourge of the Reading ambulance service, but the point can be conceded. England certainly wants more of his charisma, the adoration he inspires in players, the newspapers he sells.

There is a name missing here; Manchester United. Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson talk often, as friends, as allies, but the younger man (who must envy Ferguson's power base) will not come away from their chats thinking United will advertise for a new leader any time soon. The retirement-phobic Ferguson is re-energised by the knowledge that United are holding off the pack in the middle of a rebuilding phase. Imagine how good his team will be, he reasons, when reinforcements are bought and the youngsters mature.

After one of their telephone conversations, Ferguson said: "The Real Madrid job is the hardest challenge in Jose's career. I've spoken to Jose a couple of times and he's not managing a normal football club. Sometimes he's managing a circus, sometimes a fantastic outfit in terms of the quality of the football they can produce and the kind of players they always want. But it's a very difficult club to manage."

Even harder is shooting Barcelona off their perch. In all Mourinho's calculations there must be the fear of failing for the first time. Not in absolute terms, but relative to the majesty on show in Catalonia. He brought Chelsea their first league title for 50 years, answered the yearning at Inter for another European Cup, then moved on from "the home of tactics", as he calls Italy, knowing the Serie A-Coppa Italia-Champions League treble could not be improved upon, or probably even repeated.

In red Manchester, the best he could hope for is an Old Trafford starting date of June 2012 – but even that looks unlikely. The grandeur of that statement – "my next job will be in England", as if the decision is all his – obliges him either to seek a reconciliation with Abramovich or wait for Mancini to fall. Naturally, he would never do anything so vulgar as apply for a job already occupied by a colleague.

"In football there are a few victories here [in England] I would like to repeat," he says. "I will talk to my agent and get a project for my career." Elsewhere in these interviews he talked of Real Madrid almost in the past tense. From the time Sir Bobby Robson asked him to learn Catalan so he could eavesdrop on the Barcelona directors, Mourinho has been a student of power. It's his obsession to know more than the professors.

Exclusively by Paul Hayward

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