By Greg Stobart
Jose Mourinho knows his audience and has never lacked a sense of theatre, so it was no surprise that he again announced his intention to return to England during his pre-match press conference ahead of Real Madrid’s clash with Manchester United earlier this month.
The Portuguese coach has long insisted that he wants to return to manage in the Premier League and, with the 50-year-old almost certain to leave Madrid in the summer, his comments would have caused some incumbent managers to shift in their seats.
"After Real. I love everything about the Premier League," said Mourinho. "Normally it will be my next step."
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Jose Mourinho's Madrid marriage is coming to an end. The Portuguese signed a long-term contract with the club last summer and marked 1,000 days as Real coach by beating Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga on Saturday evening, but problems on and off the pitch have blighted his third season at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Mourinho has had bust-ups with a number of his players this season, notably club captain Iker Casillas and his deputy Sergio Ramos. Marca recently reported the players had given the board an ultimatum, supposedly telling president Florentino Perez: "Presi, either Mourinho leaves, or we will..."
That was hastily denied by Perez, yet controversy has never been far away. Mourinho dropped idol Iker before Christmas and has also criticised the club, his players and youth-team coach Alberto Toril at different times this term.
His relationship with the press has also deteriorated and results in La Liga have been poor. The Primera Division looks lost now, while Mourinho will focus all his energies on the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. But whatever happens in those two competitions (and tough second-leg matches against Manchester United and Barcelona await, respectively), an agreement is likely to be reached for the 50-year-old to move on in the summer.
If Mourinho is to ignore interest from Paris Saint-Germain to pursue a job in England, then there are only two jobs that could be available and appeal: Manchester City or Chelsea.
On Sunday, the Premier League champions will host the European champions with both managers looking over their shoulder at Mourinho.
Roberto Mancini is under pressure with City miles behind rivals Manchester United in their quest to retain their title and the Italian is facing questions after his side again crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage this season.
Mancini signed a five-year contract last summer but his power has been weakened following the appointment of directors Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, who are tasked with realising the Abu Dhabi owners' ambition for global domination.
In the other dugout at the Etihad Stadium will be Rafa Benitez, Chelsea's interim manager for whom the boos and jeers have not abated from the Blues fans since his controversial appointment in December.
Benitez's priority will be to guide the Blues to a top-four finish but the thought of the Spaniard having a future at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of the season seems inconceivable given the hostility towards him from his own supporters.
Mancini and Benitez will rue the spectre of Mourinho looming over them, not least because of the personal bad blood they both have with the Real Madrid boss.
After all, it was Mourinho who replaced Mancini at Inter and went on to deliver the Italian giants an historic treble and a Champions League title, his second after delivering Porto to European glory in 2004.
Benitez lasted just six months as Mourinho's replacement at San Siro before he was sacked, a blow to his pride given the hostility between the two when they were in charge of Liverpool and Chelsea respectively.
Mourinho was in charge at Stamford Bridge for three years after being appointed in 2004, during which time he won the Premier League and the League Cup twice, as well as the FA Cup.
He has been with Madrid since 2010 and won the the Spanish title last season, but his position has become almost untenable in recent months.
The chatter in west London is that a return to Chelsea looks a strong possibility, especially given Mourinho's emotional ties to the club and the fact he has long kissed and made up with owner Roman Abramovich, who in 2008 gave his former employee a £2 million car as a present.
With the Portuguese coach building bridges in England after a season of burning them in Spain, two of the Premier League's most high-profile managers will go head-to-head knowing that they will be in Mourinho's sights. And he usually gets what he wants.
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