Jose Mourinho Is Heading For The Champions League One Way Or Another

Will Mourinho be managing Roma or PSG next season?
17:00, 12 May 2023

The music. The logo. The night air. The parade of Europe’s best footballers. The only thing missing from this tableau in recent years has been the salt-and-pepper-headed Portuguese man stalking, and occasionally knee-sliding down, the touchline. But Jose Mourinho could be returning to a competition he has won twice before.

Whether it be lifting the iconic, big-handled beast with Inter Milan and Porto or falling short with Real Madrid and Chelsea, there is something of a pull between the Champions League and Mourinho. A manager called “box office” so often you might mistake him for Tom Cruise, he has rightfully become interlinked with the most box office tournament in club football.


Yet the Champions League has had to do without Jose’s inimitable presence since Tottenham Hotspurs’ last-16 elimination under him in 2020. Since then the iconic Portuguese manager has endured a reduction in status. His Spurs tenure ended in humbling fashion, cast out on the eve of the Carabao Cup final. Meanwhile, for all Roma’s historic importance, Mourinho pitching up there was seen as the great headliner accepting a role as a support act in the wider festival of global football.

Mourinho has always had a way of upstaging his peers though. What was supposed to be a quiet dotage at a club that hadn’t won a trophy for 14 years ended up signaling a rebirth for both parties. A fanbase as devoted, passionate and fiery as Roma’s was always likely to warm to a bullish, siege mentality like Mourinho. He too has warmed to the club and the city. The union is bringing success on the pitch.

You could argue Mourinho has benefited from reduced expectations. Even in a season where Juventus have been in flux for reasons footballing and administrative, nobody expected Roma to challenge for the title. It’s been five years since they finished in the top three, so their current 7th position is about par for the course. This is a turn-up for the books even compared to Spurs or an increasingly beleaguered Manchester United, who both still consider Champions League football a minimum requirement. It seemed appropriate for Mourinho to have settled at a club where his previous exacting standards were not required to be met, considering his power to meet them appeared to be waning.


But contrast this with his work in cup competitions. Roma secured not only their first trophy in over a decade, but their first European silverware since 1961, when they won the Europa Conference League. The achievement also gave Mourinho the personal milestone of being the first manager to win the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League. 

This season he has led Roma to the semi-finals of the Europa League. Having won the first leg against Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 it is not beyond the realms of possibility to imagine them going all the way. As well as yet another European accolade for Mourinho this would signal Jose’s return to the Champions League. However, while it looks likely that the 60-year-old will manage in that competition next year, this likely won’t be his route into it.

Mourinho has reportedly been targeted as Paris Saint-Germain’s first-choice to take over from manager Christophe Galtier. It would be a sensational return to a top job for the ex-Chelsea boss at a time when many were willing to consign him to history. With Lionel Messi looking set to leave in the summer, a reset will be needed at Parc Des Princes. 

Despite looking nailed-on to lift the Ligue 1 title, it has been a disappointing campaign for the French giants. Toulouse won the Coupe de France, while the trophy PSG really want is set to go elsewhere. They were eliminated from the Champions League at the round of 16 stage by Bayern Munich.

It is this tournament Mourinho will be charged with winning should he take the reins at PSG. He has done it twice before. Once with a much smaller club in Porto and again with a club far less rich in Inter Milan. Logically you would say Mourinho therefore has all the tools at his disposal to end PSG’s Champions League drought.

But Mourinho’s inability to relate to modern star players was blamed for his downfall at both United and Spurs. Most great managers eventually hit a point where their methods just don’t hit the same way for a new breed of footballer. Is Mourinho equipped to get what is needed from Kylian Mbappe for example? How will he cope with the brilliant but mercurial Neymar? In the past you’d have said it was a him-or-me scenario but at a club like PSG that stance normally leads to the manager going and not the player. 

Whether it is with Roma or PSG, we are closing in on Jose’s great return to the Champions League. It is a competition that hasn’t quite felt the same without it. But, whether through Roma achieving another modest league position or a PSG implosion, next year could also be Mourinho’s last season in the Champions League. Just don’t expect ‘The Special One’ to go quietly.

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