The thought of Jose Mourinho in Scotland, on the sidelines at New Douglas Park, a ground with only two permanent stands and a double-decker bus behind one of the goals, in the Ayrshire rain on a cold Tuesday night, having to field questions about Strict Liability and Alfredo Morelos’ latest red card, is almost too laughable to even comprehend. Yet here we are.
When Brendan Rodgers left Celtic for Leicester City, Mourinho’s name as a potential successor was not mentioned. That’s because the Portuguese, still revered as one of the finest coaches of his generation, was presumed to be out of the reach of the Scottish champions. The closest link to Mourinho came in the touting of Steve Clarke, his former assistant at Chelsea, for the job.
Over the weekend, though, it was reported by sources renowned for their transfer market accuracy (Italian journalist Gianluca DiMarzio) that Mourinho has an offer from Celtic to become their new manager. Celtic themselves have denied the story, but DiMarzio’s track record is strong enough to deduce that there is at least some basis to his claim.
Mourinho has other options this summer that appear to be a more natural fit. Just a matter of days ago, it was reported in Italy that the former Chelsea and Manchester United boss had opened talks with Roma. Paris Saint-Germain have also been mentioned as potential suitors for Mourinho, with Thomas Tuchel’s future up in the air in light of recent indignities in both the Champions League and Coupe de France.
But Celtic can offer Mourinho something that these other clubs cannot. Having bombed out of his last two clubs in indignity, the 56-year-old is at a career crossroads. For the first time in over a decade, his position as an elite level manager is being questioned. At his next club, Mourinho must win. He must get his hands on silverware. Lots of it.
Celtic, therefore, would be a good place for Mourinho to restore his reputation as European football’s go-to-guy for instant success.
Look at how Brendan Rodgers made the move to Scotland after leaving Liverpool. He too needed to restore his reputation and two-and-a-half seasons of unprecedented success, winning ever domestic trophy he entered, did that.
Of course, Mourinho isn’t the most natural of fits for Celtic. Many fans still begrudge the Portuguese for the behaviour and tactics of his Porto team when they beat Celtic in the final of the 2003 UEFA Cup. Some are still bitter about what they saw as unforgivable playacting and time wasting.
More importantly, Mourinho has shown himself over his career to be a volatile character. The rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid appeared to consume him. Mourinho might have taken a league title off Pep Guardiola’s great Barca side, but nobody could ever truly claim that the Portuguese handled the pressure that came with being in that particular situation at that particular point in time. How would Mourinho handle Glasgow?
As Celtic manager, Mourinho would suffer many of the same problems Neil Lennon has experienced over the past few months. In his time at the club, Brendan Rodgers built a dynamic, attack-minded and fluid outfit, moulding the squad to these specifications over three years. Lennon, a more old-fashioned coach who has made a point of asking his team to play more directly, to get it into the mixer more often, has subsequently struggled to shift ideology at the club. Mourinho would, at least initially, find the same thing.
It still seems unlikely that Mourinho will accept Celtic’s offer. Not so long ago, the East End club were believed to be struggling to match David Moyes’ wage demands. How they, all-of-a-sudden, have the money to even sit down opposite Mourinho is a mystery. But if their offer is legitimate, maybe Mourinho should give it some thought. Rodgers spent the early part of his career learning from Mourinho. Now, Mourinho could learn something from Rodgers.