Decrypting the José Mourinho rumour machine
So it’s going to be José. If reports emanating from Spain this week are believed the deal for Mourinho to join Manchester United this summer is done bar the ink on the contract. Diego Torres of El País claims that the Portuguese is certain to join the club having already signed a “pre-contract.”
According to Torres, the former-Chelsea, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Porto manager will be due around £15 million in compensation if he is not appointed by 1 June – £5 million if he has not joined by 1 May; a further £10 million awaits a month later.
This kind of arrangement is a strange phenomenon in English football – a rumour that many take with a pinch of salt – although one that United may have entered into previously. David De Gea was rumoured to be owed compensation by Real Madrid if he was not signed by the end of last summer’s transfer window. Cristiano Ronaldo supposedly signed something similar with the Spanish club when he was still at Old Trafford.
The fact the reports come from Spain offers some credibility. After all, Real Madrid has strong connections to El País, and may be motivated to place the story considering Los Merengues’ interest in potentially bringing Mourinho back to the Bernabeu next season.
Still, on the face of it, this is a bizarre move by Ed Woodward, and perhaps another great piece of business by Mourinho’s agent, the super-powered Jorge Mendes. The latter seemingly holds a strong power over Woodward, or at least retains a good friendship.
The pre-contract, should it exist, has seemingly helped pave the way for negotiations with Mourinho to begin. If further reports are anything to go by – despite being reported in The Sun – the Portuguese’s £20 million-a-year salary will eclipse that earned by Pep Guardiola across town at Manchester City. Woodward 1-0 Abu Dhabi.
The best reason to believe this week’s speculation? Gianluca Di Marzio reported definitively that Mourinho will be United’s next manager. Di Marzio has proven, in recent times, to be the most accurate and reliable source of transfer news on the planet. As far as taking tabloid rumours seriously goes, this is the best material available.
Yet, a wider question is raised by the week of speculation: if the payment clause is in place, what exactly motivated Woodward and United to risk paying Mourinho lavish amounts, simply not to hire him? After all, Mourinho clearly wants the United job above all, while the Portuguese is unlikely to secure a better offer elsewhere. Mourinho at United is a deal that should suits both parties.
"Gianluca Di Marzio reported definitively that Mourinho will be the United’s manager. Di Marzio has proven, in recent times, to be the most accurate and reliable source of transfer news."
The promise of Madrid might be a partial answer, although it is not an entirely logical observation. After all, Mourinho has a fractured relationship with club’s hierarchy, players and fans, including captain Sergio Ramos. It is a scenario that makes a return difficult, even if el presidente Florentino Pérez does have a change of heart and tries to bring his former manager back. As ever at Madrid, it really comes down to want Perez wants.
Alternatively, Woodward may have been hoodwinked by Mendes yet again. In purely hypothetical terms, Woodward may well be waiting until the club cannot make the Champions League to fire Louis van Gaal, executing a clause in the Dutchman’s contract that enables a payout cheaper than the £10 the club would otherwise owe. It is a strategy that United used to brutal effect with David Moyes.
United’s league position and points tally make this a problematic scenario though, with the Reds a point behind Manchester City with eight games to go. There are four league games in April – United host Everton, travel to Tottenham Hotspur, and then play Aston Villa and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford to finish the month.
In other words, it is more than likely that Van Gaal’s side will not be eliminated from Champions League contention before the first ‘Mourinho clause’ is triggered. Indeed, it might require a December-like disaster including four defeats for Van Gaal to be fired before April is out. And the Reds have a good record against the clubs inside the top 10, while Villa and Palace’s form is such that even this United side will feel confident of picking up points.
The foregone conclusion is that Mourinho is coming this summer – and despite Woodward’s continued incompetence Atlético Madrid’s Andrea Berta, another Mendes client, will likely join him in Manchester. Yet, the wisdom of promising Mourinho money based on his arrival date continues to raise eyebrows, although it is not surprising.
Woodward’s record when it comes to running the football side of the club is patch. In time this episode may be added to the list of non-commercial calamities that Woodward has overseen in the past three years – especially if he does not get the Mourinho deal done in time to save the club from further public embarrassment.