The opportunity came after he left Stamford Bridge, when the terms of José Mourinho’s 2007 departure meant a return to the club game would have to happen outside of English soccer. The one exception: If The FC extended an offer to coach the Three Lions, the man who became a quick legend at Chelsea would have the chance to stay in England.
In an interview published today by The Guardian, the two-time Champions League winner discussed how close he was to taking that job in December 2007. With many of his former Chelsea players regulars with England, Mourinho said he as “this close” to his first international coaching position.
Ultimately, “The Special One” listened to his wife, who advised him against taking the job.
From today’s post:
“Lampard, Terry, Joe Cole, everybody, was saying, ‘Come, come, come,’ … My players said, ‘The guys from Manchester United and Liverpool call us and say to us: Tell your boss to come.’ I had lots of positive things to push me” …
But one person stood in the way; one person insisted that the job was wrong for him …
“My wife told me not to take it and she was right … It was the right decision. We are talking about seven years ago … and I cannot wait two years for a big competition. I cannot be spending two years playing against Kazakhstan and San Marino.
The lack of games in general was also a killer. Mourinho tried to talk himself into it, imagining travelling, watching players train and play, and doing individual work with each. Ultimately, he saw international coaching as a old man’s game:
“It was not the job for me seven years ago, it’s not the job for me now and I don’t think it will be the job for me in seven years’ time. Maybe in 15 years from now but not seven.”
As The Guardian’s David Hynter muses, it’s interesting to consider how things would of have been different for England had Mourinho been in charge. Perhaps the controversies surrounding John Terry would have been handled differently. Maybe an equally robust but occasionally more aggressive tactical approach would have distinguished Mourinho’s teams from Fabio Capello’s. Would the Three Lions have slipped to second in their group at South Africa 2010 if Mourinho was in charge?
It’s a nice thought exercise, but might as well imagine Alex Ferguson being hired by The FA. Or Arrigo Sacchi. Or Béla Guttman, Jurgen Klinsmann, or Phil Jackson, for that matter. It’s all hypothetical.
Mourinho may say he was close to taking the job, but to turn around and describe that world as an old man’s game hints there was an insurmountable obstacle separating him from the job. I’m sure he likes entertaining the idea, but “close” seems to play to the fantasy above the reality.