Imagining the Jose Mourinho testimonial
Background image: Tony Phelps
I ate Chinese last night. The fortune cookie spooked me.
Ability will enable a man to get to the top but character will keep him from falling.
How did they know I was planning to write about Jose Mourinho?
The Special One is finding it difficult to land a new gig following his sack from Manchester United. He's not exactly pounding the pavement or scouring the want-ads. That's not how he does things.
Before Christmas, he told reporters he intended to enjoy some time away from the spotlight. Unsurprisingly, some time turned out not to be geological. Soon enough, he was in the BeIn studios as an analyst. He used the airtime to stir up his Mancunian acolytes and make Ed Woodward squirm.
When the novelty wore off, he announced his intention to find a new club, a top club and that he had already turned down three offers. The rumour mill called its cardiologist. Paris Saint-Germain was mooted. Real Madrid and Inter, too. The only name you could see Mou dismissing was Celtic.
Los Blancos recalled a former manager but it was one with more Champions Leagues on his CV than Jose. Zidane returned and the world forgot about the Portuguese for a time. So did PSG.
Then Massimiliano Allegri and Juventus mutually agreed to part ways. With the five-time Scuddetto winner sacked, the rumour mill popped another digitalis capsule in its mouth, chased it with a decent pinot grigio, cracked its knuckles and began tweeting how Mourinho was a perfect match for the Old Lady. Cristiano Ronaldo even said he wouldn’t turn himself in to American rape investigators if the club hired his countryman. Just to be safe, Bianconeri Chairman Andrea Agnelli ruled out Mou anyway.
Inter remained an option until reports leaked that the club intended to cut out the middleman by skipping over their former treble-winning boss and signing Antonio Conte when the campaign concluded.
Barring another predictive fortune cookie, that leaves Celtic or retirement. Going on the assumption Jose is too proud to replace one of his protégés at a club Brendan Rodgers considered smaller than Leicester City, it’s looking like retirement.
The nice thing about hanging them up for a top player or manager is that retiring comes with a testimonial. Former teammates and opponents gather to play a game for charity in your honour. Sometimes, testimonials take on a unique twist. Recently, the 1999 Manchester United legends came together for a Champions League final rematch with the Bayern legends they famously defeated at the death. In Mourinho’s case, there would almost certainly be a twist as well.
In the traditional manner, many former players from his Chelsea and Inter days would line up pay their respects. Peter Cech or Julio Cesar would don the gloves. Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry would go out back to sort out who would miss out on the two centre-half places. Javier Zanetti and Ashley Cole would be the fullbacks with Maicon ready to step in if the Argentine feels the need to floss. Nemanja Matic, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard would certainly step up as the midfield trio. Didier Drogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Milito would form a three-headed attack.
The twist would be that there are more than enough players with whom the Special One feuded to form an opposing XI. Both sides would be taken from former Mourinho players. One side who love him, the other who think there’s a ‘Special’ place in hell reserved for their erstwhile tormentor. Extra paramedics would need to be assigned to this donnybrook. Friendly would not be the word.
Here’s a look at 11 [plus one] stars and the circumstances that leave them still holding a grudge that would make this a match for the ages.