Is Real Madrid the best return destination for Jose Mourinho?

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ANOTHER MANAGER CHANGE

Tuesday night proved to be a new low in the recent history of Real Madrid, as the club crashed out of the Champions League against Ajax, suffering a 4-1 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It was a tumultuous evening for Los Blancos, who saw themselves booed off both at half-time and full-time of the match and were eliminated at the first knockout stage despite taking an initial 2-1 lead in Amsterdam.

This season has been a significant fall from grace for Madrid, who have gone from being crowned kings of Europe for a third straight season and fourth time in five years to be being unable to get past a side who have a combined squad salary that is equal to Gareth Bale’s.

A managerial change is inevitable, with Santiago Solari - who came in midway through the campaign to replace Julen Lopetegui - now having no chance to continue his role past the end of this season. Solari has signed a contract until 2021, but it is now widely accepted that he will not be the man to take them forward into the 2019/20 campaign.

That leaves Madrid to search for what will be their fourth manager in just over 12 months, with Zinedine Zidane being linked with a sensational return shortly after leaving. Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino have also seen their names linked to the post, but there is one man who Madrid fans seem to have their hearts set on - Jose Mourinho.

It's a surprise to say the least given what a divisive character he was during his time in Madrid and the fact his spell at Manchester United came to such a combative end. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now working wonders with a squad which Mourinho so often insisted wasn’t good enough.

With Madrid now touted as a serious contender for his next club, is a return to the Bernabeu really the best move for his career?

Jose Mourinho

RETURNING TO MADRID

Mourinho has already addressed the speculation regarding him taking over from Solari in the summer, after Madrid fans were audibly heard chanting his name during Tuesday’s 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Ajax.

He told Spanish TV station El Chiringuito: "I am proud of that, but Real Madrid have a manager. Obviously it's a reason to be proud but nothing more than that.

"There has been nothing [between me and the club] - not even the minimum contact. I haven't done that [spoken to the players or the president] . Like you say, there are rumours. But rumours in football are bad."

Other sources have indicated that a deal is closer than what Mourinho is currently letting on, with the Telegraph reporting that Madrid are "almost 100 per cent" sure that they can tempt the Portuguese to come back for a second spell.

If that is where he decides to make his return, nobody can doubt his desire to still manage at the top level. During his final months at Old Trafford, Mourinho looked apathetic and miserable, showing no level of enjoyment despite holding what is one of the most prestigious jobs in world football.

But perhaps a break away from the limelight is just what he needed and there have been signs that the 56-year-old is becoming himself once again, that is if his appearances on BEIN Sports are anything to go by. After returning to Chelsea immediately after his three-year stint at Madrid finished, many felt that he had lost a little edge, perhaps fatigued from the pressure that comes from the Real bubble.

That said, there are reasons to suggest that this summer would be the perfect time for Mourinho to return to Madrid. This has been their poorest season in many a year, having been knocked out of the Champions League at the first knockout round - losing twice to CSKA Moscow in the group stages - and were well-beaten by Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey semi-finals.

Los Blancos are also 12 points behind their El Clasico rivals in the La Liga table, sitting third behind Atletico Madrid and have already lost eight of their 26 league games - more than Barcelona and Atletico combined.

As such, expectations will be at an all-time low for an incoming manager, albeit also coming with the pressure to be the person to lead them from out of the shadows and back to the forefront of Spanish football.

Jose Mourinho

SHOULD YOU NEVER GO BACK?

There will almost certainly be a significant turnover in the playing squad also, with the likes of Marcelo, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale all being linked with moves away from the club in recent weeks. That would allow Mourinho to put his stamp on the squad right away, something which he arguably could never quite do in his previous spell.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the undisputed main man at the club, with his talent and goal scoring ability dictating that the team be built around getting the best out of him. That has never really been the Mourinho way and without the presence of Ronaldo in the dressing room, it should make him the top figure at the club.

That in itself won’t guarantee success and joining Madrid at such an uncertain time in their timeline could be a risk that hugely backfires. In England his stock has never been lower, and another poor performance at Madrid would really see questions asked about whether he is yesterday’s man.

At one stage Mourinho said he was open to the idea of managing in France, almost certainly hinting at his interest in the PSG job in the process. If they are in his future plans, his former club may well have done him a huge favour by knocking them out of the Champions League at the round of 16 stage, increasing scrutiny on the shoulders of Thomas Tuchel.

PSG generally cakewalk to the Ligue 1 title every season, giving Mourinho the opportunity to then proclaim himself as a rare breed of coach to have won the league in five different countries. Such a claim may well be too grand for Mourinho’s ego to resist.

In Europe, anything better than the last 16 of the Champions League - the stage in which PSG have fallen from the competition in each of the last four seasons - would be considered a success.

With Madrid, the expectation is semi-finals as a bare minimum, something which he did achieve in each of his three seasons there between 2010-2013.

There is no doubt that Madrid are a big risk for any established manager to take at this stage, with the club set for a huge transitional summer in 2019 after such a disappointing season.

It's a challenge, but Mourinho has often thrived when his back is up against the wall and having the opportunity to become the man to completely turn around the fortunes of arguably the world’s biggest club could ultimately too great for him to pass up on.

Mourinho Manchester United
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