By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
When Pep Guardiola is mentioned, Jose Mourinho's name invariably follows. And so it seems fitting that, now the Catalan coach has seen his next club revealed as Bayern Munich announced a deal for the former Barcelona boss on Wednesday, attentions turn to the Portuguese. The Catalan picked Germany, leaving a host of clubs still searching for a new coach ahead of the 2013-14 campaign. And that makes his old rival a man in demand.
Guardiola had been unwilling to discuss his future at last week's Ballon d'Or in Zurich, but Bayern made their agreement public on Wednesday as speculation continued to mount. He turns 42 this Friday but can celebrate in the satisfaction that his future is now sorted out - at least for the next three years.
Mourinho, meanwhile, will be 50 next Saturday and his time at Real Madrid looks to be approaching its end. Far adrift in La Liga and by no means certain of success in the Copa del Rey (in which a semi-final against Malaga or Barcelona awaits if his team can finish off Valencia) or the Champions League (where a last-16 tie versus Manchester United is the side's next obstacle), a summer switch seems increasingly on the cards.
With Pep out of the way, Mourinho has been the centre of attention this term in Spain - but for all the wrong reasons. The Portuguese penned a new deal in the summer to remain at the Santiago Bernabeu until 2016, but Madrid's form has been poor since then despite claiming the Spanish Supercopa. Seven defeats already in all competitions have left fans frustrated as La Liga looks lost, while those same supporters have turned against their coach as jeers have replaced cheers in recent home games.
Mourinho made himself a target by dropping captain and club symbol Iker Casillas, while dressing-room divisions have left him vulnerable with his own players, too. As well as his goalkeeper, the coach has had spats with Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao, Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria and even Cristiano Ronaldo this term. Bad blood is growing with fans, players and the press, and the 49-year-old may even look for a way out himself. Either way, he now seems unlikely to stay at the club beyond the summer.
But there will be plenty of interest and Mourinho, as is his way, will welcome it. In fact, he will revel in it. With things going against him in Spain, the Portuguese is likely to issue a come-and-get-me plea to potential suitors in his press conferences, just as he did earlier this season ahead of the Champions League clash at Manchester City, when he spoke of his desire to return to England on the eve of an important European game. It hardly seemed the time.
City are one of the sides looking to upgrade on their current coach. With Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain on board, the Premier League champions were leaning towards Pep over Mourinho but now that dream has died, a move for the Madrid boss becomes a real possibility. Roberto Mancini made way for the Portuguese at Inter. Now he must fear a case of deja vu.
On the other side of the city, Manchester United will eventually need to find a successor to Sir Alex Ferguson. The 71-year-old had previously name-dropped both Pep and Jose, but could decide on a timely transition if the latter becomes available this summer. However, senior figures at Old Trafford remain sceptical on Mourinho due to his defensive football and abrasive attitude towards the media. Only last month, Sir Bobby Charlton claimed the Portuguese was "too arrogant" to become the next United boss.
Arsenal are unlikely to go near Mourinho for the same reasons. He once called Arsene Wenger a 'voyeur' and there is no love lost between the pair. The Gunners would also be keen to maintain the passing and possession philosophy pioneered at the club by the Frenchman. They would probably not be able to offer Mourinho what he would want in terms of transfer funds, anyway.
|"In England you feel the passion for the game. I know that one day I will go back because English football means a lot to me"
- Jose Mourinho in video message to the FA this week
In France, Carlo Ancelotti is far from secure as Paris Saint-Germain trail Lyon in Ligue 1. If the Italian cannot lead the nouveau-riche side to the title and success in the Champions League knockout stages, he could also find himself in Mourinho's significant shadow come the summer.
AC Milan, meanwhile, will almost certainly change coach at the end of the current campaign, but Mourinho often muses fondly over his past at Inter and would be unlikely to join a cash-strapped club in any case.
However, with his Madrid stay looking less likely to last beyond the summer and Guardiola's next move made public, Mourinho will be the hottest property between now and the end of the season as Europe's elite watch and wait for news from Spain. It's where he feels most comfortable of all and, with the way things are going for the Portuguese at the Bernabeu right now, it could be a welcome distraction too.