Mourinho hints his future could be in U.S.
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LOS ANGELES – The world’s greatest soccer coach has given his strongest indication yet that he would be interested in leading the U.S. national team.
Jose Mourinho took the opportunity during his club team Real Madrid’s preseason tour in California to further fuel the speculation, linking him with a switch to America that would be every bit as significant as David Beckham’s arrival three years ago.
“When [my kids] are older, it is time for a different time in my professional life and my personal life, too,” Mourinho told ESPN. “So who knows? This is a great place for me. I came here with Chelsea, with Inter Milan and now with Real Madrid.
“I love L.A. I love to work here. Who knows, [maybe] my future will be around in a different environment.”
For those U.S. fans salivating at the prospect of the arrival of the “Special One”, the name Mourinho gave himself six years ago and had the gall and brilliance to live up to, a reality check is in order.
First of all, it won’t happen anytime soon, not with Mourinho having just joined Real Madrid after successfully leading Inter Milan to an Italian League and Champions League double last season.
Also, U.S. coach Bob Bradley is still very much in charge as things stand, and even if the USA boss departs once his contract is up at the end of the year, US Soccer would need to set its sights somewhat lower than Mourinho.
For now, at least.
Yet it is impossible not to respond to Mourinho’s comments by looking into the crystal ball and imagining what might be.
In four years time, another World Cup will have come and gone. Mourinho, if his own personal blueprint pans out, will have re-established Real Madrid’s position as European club soccer’s dominant force. His children will be rapidly approaching college age. And, after more than a decade of managing at the pinnacle of club soccer, the more laid-back pace of a national team job could fit very nicely.
Much of the criticism aimed at Bradley following the USA’s respectable World Cup performance this summer was unfair. Bradley deserves another four-year cycle, yet that is far from certain right now.
However, even if he continues and performs well in 2014, even he knows there is barely a club or national federation on the planet who would shy away from Mourinho, if it thought it stood a chance of getting him.
And even if Mourinho wanted to fulfill his often-stated desire of another coaching stint in England, there would still be time to fit a couple years of that before qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, a tournament the USA is bidding to host but is considered a long shot.
The American lifestyle would be one of the primary selling points for Mourinho, who has made no secret of his enjoyment for the SoCal sun. Make no mistake, he is in the U.S. this August because he wants to be.
Real Madrid and its associated glamour came to California, where it will take on the Los Angeles Galaxy in an exhibition at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, but not because some suit told Mourinho it would make business sense. Not because Spain’s richest team felt that trying to break into the American market would add another welcome injection of lucre. And not for anyone else’s benefit but himself and his team.
The Special One is as the Special One does, and Mourinho, freshly installed in the Madrid hot seat, swiftly issued his new employer with a series of demands when he took over at the end of May.
Some were predictable: wanting new players of a suitably elite caliber, such as Germany’s World Cup star Sami Khedira and Argentina’s Angel di Maria; appropriate rest for those members of his squad who played deep into the summer in South Africa; and, of course, nothing less than complete control.
Yet there was also one other stipulation that got precious little play among the fervor that followed his appointment. Mourinho wanted to come to America for preseason. Nowhere else. No questions asked.
So a couple months back, Madrid’s corporate types got on the phone and dialed the Los Angeles Galaxy, where they found a predictably enthusiastic response.
“We hadn’t heard from them until he joined and we think they had other plans,” said Tom Payne, the Galaxy’s president of business operations. “It seems very much that it was his thing, his idea, his plan. He loves it here, he has been here before, and he sees it as the perfect place and the perfect way to prepare his team. Of course we were very happy and excited about that.”
After all, even in Tinseltown, a date with soccer’s most glamorous team is well worth getting out of bed for. Saturday night’s game has already sold more than 72,000 tickets, with the Southern California sports public responding positively to the chance of seeing Cristiano Ronaldo plus a trio of Spain’s World Cup winning heroes in action.
But the headliner might just be Mourinho. Who else but the Special One, with a couple of tantalizing words, could have the American soccer public collectively wondering, “What if?”