As Jose Mourinho continues house hunting in London, I look at the shortlist of potential employers and suitors the ‘Special One’ may have this summer: London giants Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea.
With Harry Redknapp more than likely headed for the poisoned chalice that is the England job; there will be a vacancy at White Hart Lane come the summer. However, despite Tottenham’s elevated status in the European game- after a Champions League quarter-final last season and an impending third place in the Premier League and thus automatic Champions League qualification for next season, as well as the prospect of a ninth F. A. Cup- there is still some doubt as to whether Redknapp has taken this team as far as it can go and whether Tottenham are punching above their weight.
Furthermore, while the Lilywhites are strong financially with majority shareholder, Joe Lewis, worth over three billion pounds, chairman Daniel Levy adheres to a very strict wage structure that would dismiss the possibility of Mourinho signing the calibre of player to which he has become accustomed. The white half of north London seems to have failed to recognise that logic dictates that their willingness to pay large transfer fees must be matched by an equivalent salary outlay.
On the other hand, Spurs could sign nobody in the summer and stick with what they have and they would still finish in the top four next season; that said, Tottenham are only a top striker, a centre-half and a left-back from being genuine title contenders, rather than the cameo role they played in the 2011-12 title race.
The Spurs job would be Mourinho’s greatest test to date: at Porto he won a two-horse title race and the European successes were very much bonuses; at Chelsea he spent his way to two titles and only reached one semi-final in the Champions League; at Inter, because of the Calciopoli scandal, he won two Scudettos almost by default and again the Champions League came as somewhat a bonus- though the defeat of Barcelona is certainly his greatest achievement. At Real Madrid, to date he has failed meet his remit- to arrest Spanish and European supremacy from Barcelona and while he will win La Liga this season, if the Galacticos do it having lost both Clasicos and then do not win the Champions League, that title will be a rather hollow one. At Spurs, who arguably peaked as a club, his fall will be extremely visible given the fine job Redknapp has done and to keep up with the brand of Manchester United and the Sheikh of Manchester City will be extremely difficult, especially with Roman Chelsea steaming up from behind as they inevitably will.
The Gunners arguably provide the least likely destination for Mourinho this summer. Normally, the arrival of Mourinho in London would not be a story that would concern those at the Emirates for Arsene is king. Yet this season, Arsenal are in the greatest danger yet of not reaching the Champions League for the first time in Wenger’s tenure. It is highly unlikely that Wenger would be sacked by Stan Kroenke and the Arsenal board given the fact that he has transformed the club and the standards the club has come to expect. Wenger may feel in himself however, that he has done all that he can nad that he cannot buck the trend that has emerged since Arsenal began paying off their new stadium of selling on their finest assets; they have become a glamorous Wigan in that respect.
Similarly to Spurs, the strict wage structure will limit what Mourinho would be able to do in the transfer market and questions remain as to whether Arsenal still need to sell off players to pay for the Emirates. Having said that, the appointment of a manger of Mourinho’s calibre would surely seal the contract renewal of Robin van Persie and would attract some already established players. The problem that really arises though is whether Mourinho could do any better than the Frenchman who has had Arsenal punching above their weight for almost a decade. Ultimately, the ‘Special One’s’ arrival in the red half of north London seems unlikely because his appointment would reliant on Wenger’s decision to depart. In any case, the Arsenal board will not want their carefully constructed classy brand jeopardised by the antics of a Mourinho figure.
Only four and a half years ago Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich showed Mourinho the door at Stamford Bridge. Now, with Mourinho disillusioned at life in Madrid and with Andre Villas-Boas becoming- unjustly – ever more out of favour with the fickle Russian billionaire, a move back to the Bridge for their most successful manager in history is once again on the cards.
Villas-Boas was appointed to dramatically change the make-up of the Chelsea squad. Young players have been purchased: Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Oriol Romeu and Daniel Sturridge promoted. However, only Nicolas Anelka of the Chelsea Pensioners has been offloaded. John Terry, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Paulo Ferreira and Florent Malouda all remain. More poignant is the fact that Abramovich does not seen aware that Chelsea’s current position (fifth, but still in contention for fourth) is reflective of their personnel. Even on paper, Chelsea are not as god as neither the Manchester sides or Tottenham. Nonetheless, it seems that if Villas-Boas finishes any lower than fourth, he will be unemployed in May.
The Mourinho to Chelsea scenario, as with anything in the quarter of west London, will be determined by the whims of Abramovich. Relations between the two belligerent characters are thought to be cordial at present, no doubt improved by Chelsea’s current fall from grace. Mourinho would certainly be backed by the club financially, both on the wage and fee fronts. However, Abramovich would surely have to abandon his wish to rejuvenate the Chelsea squad. Mourinho is unlikely to sell Terry, Cech, Drogba etc., and Drogba in particular given the abhorrent form of the shell Fernando Torres. However, to dismiss Villas-Boas is to abandon his new found belief in long-termism and the natural Roman order of short-termism would resume should Mourinho be appointed.