Jose Mourinho waved a tearful goodbye to AS Roma this week, with the Italian club parting ways with the head coach after a disappointing start to the Serie A season.
Roma find themselves ninth in the table, with hopes of a return to the Champions League fading fast. For Mourinho, it brought an end to what has become a predictable cycle in the latter period of the Special One’s career, with immediate success followed by a downturn in results and an unhappy end.
Mourinho’s exit from Rome has not had the toxicity of previous departures. He remains a popular figure in the Italian capital, having led I Giallorossi to the Europa Conference League in his maiden campaign, the clubs’ first trophy in 14 years and a first European honour since winning the 1961 Inter-City Fairs Cup.
Mourinho, however, was unable to turn his team into contenders domestically. The traditional northern powerhouses and Napoli were all far superior to his team in Serie A, despite his personality contributing to an often sold-out Stadio Olimpico and the arrivals of signings such as Romelu Lukaku and Paolo Dybala.
Roma came within a penalty shootout of Europa League success last season, another major trophy and a place in the Champions League. Instead, the defeat to Sevilla left Roma needing to be creative in the summer transfer market, with loans and free transfers making up the bulk of the new arrivals.
A 3-1 defeat at Milan at the weekend made it one win in six league games for Roma, whose squad looks short of the quality required to return to Europe’s elite. Mourinho, unable to find consistency in Serie A, has been moved on with club legend Daniele De Rossi appointed as his replacement.
So where does Mourinho go from here?
His win percentage at Roma (49%) was the lowest of his managerial career to date. A sign of the economic challenges at the capital club? Or that the 60-year-old is a fading force in top-level coaching?
Mourinho will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches of all time, but he has not won a league title since 2015 and the greatest nights of his coaching career are over a decade ago.
While former rival Pep Guardiola has continued to innovate, evolve and succeed, Mourinho’s coaching roles have been predictable short-lived cycles of swift success and rapid decline.
The Premier League has been mooted as a potential destination for the Portuguese and while it would be box-office viewing, there appears no obvious opportunity.
Chelsea and Manchester United, whose managers are under pressure, have been down that road before, while Newcastle would be taking an almighty gamble in replacing Eddie Howe with the often combustible two-time Champions League winner.
The Saudi Pro League are sure to throw big money in Mourinho’s direction again, while international management appears an obvious route at this stage of his career, even if the Brazil and Portugal roles appear to have passed.
FC Porto have been linked with re-appointing their former manager, in what would be one for the romantics.
Mourinho’s ascent to the top truly began at the Estádio do Dragão, as Porto shocked Europe to win the 2003 UEFA Cup and 2004 UEFA Champions League. For two seasons, a fresh-faced Mourinho turned Porto into arguably Europe’s best side.
Of the options on this list, it appears arguably the most perfect. A return to a club where he is adored, but one that is struggling to keep pace with great rivals Sporting Lisbon and Benfica at the summit this season.
The chance to win silverware, while creating the siege mentality Mourinho’s best teams have been famous for when competing against financial behemoths in Europe, would be compelling viewing.