Not so special now: What next for Jose Mourinho after Roma sacking?

Legendary Portuguese coach sure to have options despite latest setback in Serie A

Legendary coach Jose Mourinho this week left Roma in Serie A. AFP
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Once the hottest property in football management, Jose Mourinho's stock has been in decline for a number of years, and his sacking by Roma poses the question as to what comes next for the self-styled 'Special One'?

Mourinho's availability would have previously put Europe's leading clubs on high alert, but with his tactical approach considered outmoded in some quarters and his behaviour often incendiary, his next opportunity may well come away from the elite of the sport.

That could mean an emerging market like the Saudi Pro League or the MLS, or even a national team job, although you'd imagine Mourinho still views himself as one of the world's top club football coaches.

Might we see him back in the TV studios, perhaps on a temporary basis, or will his desire to coach lead him back into the dugout at the earliest opportunity, even if it means operating at a slightly lower level?

Below we look at what might be next for Mourinho.

Saudi Pro League

Whatever Mourinho's perceived flaws, he remains one of the biggest personalities in world football and a magnet for media attention. At a time when the Saudi Pro League is attempting to aggressively grow its brand, you'd imagine his name is already being mentioned in boardrooms all over the kingdom.

Al Ittihad have endured a nightmare defence of their SPL crown and dispensed with the services of Nuno Espirito Santo in November, while results have hardly picked up since the appointment of his replacement, Marcelo Gallardo. Could we even see Mourinho reunited with compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo at Al Nassr? The two have had their ups and downs but based on recent praise of one another, the relationship seems in a good place. Mourinho himself has already spoken about a potential move to the SPL.

"Doors are always open for me in Saudi Arabia. I want to feel the development there," he told ESPN in October 2023. "Cristiano was the first to go there and give a different perspective immediately. The players thought at first that it was a one-man show, but they realised in the summer that everything was really changing.

"Many players, not just at the last period of their careers, but also some players at the best years of their careers, are coming. Because the competition is real, not just at domestic league, but also the AFC Champions League is very interesting."

Back to the Premier League

Mourinho's love affair with the Premier League has taken him to Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, while he was at one time the preferred candidate for the England national team job.

The difficulty there is would any of the top clubs take him? His bridges are probably burnt at his former clubs. Chelsea want a manager capable of working with their legion of intensely data-modelled juveniles, while Daniel Levy famously turfed out Mourinho the night before a cup final. United are also heading in a different direction in what will come as a blow to the nearby Lowry Hotel where Mourinho once stayed for 895 consecutive nights at a cost of half a million pounds.

Liverpool or Arsenal fans would probably riot given the things he has said about them in the past, while Manchester City is obviously a non-starter. Newcastle? He would love the chance but Eddie Howe's position seems secure for the time being. How about West Ham? David Moyes' job seems perennially under threat, or even Crystal Palace should Roy Hodgson depart in the summer? He could try and improve on the efforts of former Al Jazira boss Frank de Boer at Selhurst Park, a man he famously dubbed "the worst manager in Premier League history".

National team job

Another avenue Mourinho has spoken of in the past is a move into international management. The natural choice would be his native Portugal but with Roberto Martinez breaking records in qualifying matches and preparing the team for Euro 2024, that would appear highly unlikely.

Recent reports had somewhat incongruously linked him with the Brazil national team job with the CBF apparently keen to employ a European coach to give the Selecao a more rigid tactical structure – who better than the ultimate pragmatist Mourinho? – but they have now gone in another direction with the appointment of Dorival Jr.

It seems inevitable that we will one day see Mourinho on the touchline at a major international tournament, but that will probably be in his dotage as some sort of grizzled, eccentric hired gun with anecdotes and air miles to burn.

A new European adventure

So far we've seen Mourinho manage with great effect in Portugal, England, Spain and Italy. So how about a foray into one of Europe's other major leagues?

It's hard to picture him in Germany where the coaches seem to get younger, tracksuits tighter, and the football more energetic by the season, but there are certainly a few clubs in France where he might be considered a good fit.

PSG's Qatari bosses are of course long-term admirers, while fallen giants Lyon seem in desperate need for a figurehead to reverse their fortunes.

And just imagine Mourinho at Marseille, a move that would no doubt delight the club's infamous ultras and in equal measure chill to the bone the matchday stewards at the Stade Velodrome.

Another club with a fanatical support is Napoli, and with them languishing in mid-table and Walter Mazzarri unlikely to have a long-term future at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, could Mourinho yet find another home in Italy?

Reality TV or punditry

Mourinho's sustained success at the top level of European football has been to the detriment of TV coverage everywhere with the acid-tongued Portuguese having undertaken precious little punditry work.

He enjoyed a short stint with Sky Sports in 2019 after leaving Manchester United and you'd think broadcasters everywhere would love to have him.

Meanwhile, his enduring celebrity is sure to result in reality TV offers, whether that be dancing, ice skating, or regaling fellow campers in the jungle with tales of Marco Materazzi, or the one about the time he signed Steve Sidwell, all while chewing on ostrich genitals.

Updated: January 17, 2024, 6:50 AM