Special treatment

José Mourinho has unexpectedly returned home – to make headlines, if not to work. Phil Town describes how Portugal has been coping

Once the natural incredulity at “the best coach in the world” being removed from office had passed, the Portuguese press and public shifted promptly to what really mattered: the dosh involved. Mourinho gets €24 million trumpeted sports daily A Bola. €26 million to keep quiet reckoned O Jogo. Filthy rich blared Record, trumping its rivals with €30m (£21m). Weekly magazine Sábado thought it had the right figure: “€25 million… less tax”. “Mourinho has shown that he’s number one on and off the field… even at getting ­compensation,” jested Benfica coach José António Camacho. Sábado had a graphic showing the rise and rise of Mourinho’s income over the years, starting in 1978 with the 500 escudos (€2.5) he would earn from writing reports on opponents for his dad, a goalkeeper with Vitória de Setúbal, and ending with the €7.5m a year he was being paid by Chelsea.

The excitement at the prospect of all that lolly having subsided somewhat, the focus turned to where Mourinho would now be heading. His departure from Stamford Bridge coincided neatly with the ­fallout from national-team coach Luíz Felipe ­Scolari’s mean left hook to Serbia defender Ivica Dragutinovic during the 1-1 draw in the recent Euro 2008 qualifier. That incident and Portugal’s disappointing results in the group had pundits calling for Scolari’s blood and the transfusion of Mourinho’s. The FPF (Portuguese Football Federation) convened an “emergency” meeting, but only for almost a week later, possibly to see how the Mourinho situation would pan out.

He has always said that he would be interested in the job towards the end of his career, but he soon quashed all speculation about any appointment at this time. “I don’t want to work in Portugal, neither at clubs nor with the Selecção,” he said. “Portugal are going to qualify with ease and have a great Euro… and they’re going to do it with Scolari, who’s done great things and will continue to do so.” The FPF had their meeting and backed Scolari in his appeal against UEFA’s four-match ban.

So where else could Mourinho go? Weekly magazine Focus asked the question: “Should they be afraid?”, “they” being Ranieri, Schuster, Mancini and Rijkaard. Milan’s Carlo Ancelotti volunteered himself to that group: “Even if I’m careful, Mourinho’s a floating mine,” he said. “I want a team with pressure, a real challenge, if not there’s no fun. And everyone knows that Italy and Spain are places I want to go,” Mourinho has said.

Notwithstanding the inevitable speculation, his self-imposed blackout will keep his final destination under wraps for the foreseeable future, though. Before the blackout, the Portuguese were hopeful of some hints from Mourinho, sworn to silence by the terms of his compensation package with Chelsea. Indeed, in an interview with state TV channel RTP, he launched a sly mortar bomb: “When I said goodbye to the players, 23 of them were crying.”

Mourinho is a man of his word, and meaty sound-bites, the Special One’s speciality, have all but dried up. He couldn’t avoid the scrum of reporters that met him at the airport on his return to Portugal, though, and, loath to appear ungracious, he had a brief impromptu chat with them (which caused Santana Lopes, a former prime minister, to walk out of an interview with TV channel SIC when they cut to the airport scenes). What he said was generally unrevealing, but we did find out that to avoid rumours of his joining one of the Portuguese Big Three (Porto, Benfica and Sporting) he wouldn’t be going to any stadiums, apart from possibly that of his home-town club Vitória de Setúbal, and that it is indeed Tami who wears the trousers in his house.

Mourinho sells, though, so in the absence of newsworthy snippets, magazines and papers are tripping over themselves to put out features. Focus devoted ten pages to him: “Controversial? So what?” it began, finishing with a flourish. “He came, he saw, he conquered.” Its suggestion that “English football will forever be divided into the pre- and post-Mourinho periods” was perhaps tainted with a little hyperbole, but that he had a profound effect on the English game was a source of general pride here. Carlos de Abreu Amori, writing in the national daily Correio da Manhã, likened him to some of the greatest figures in Portugal’s rich history: “The Portuguese who is proud of himself and doesn’t hide it.”

Meanwhile, Zé Mário (Zé short for José, Mário his middle name), as he is affectionately known, has returned to his luxury house in Setúbal (with a sauna, a view of the Arrábida hills and a gang of expectant reporters camped out at his gate), to watch matches on the telly, go fishing and await the next phase of an already remarkable career.

From WSC 249 November 2007