José Mourinho will manage Portugal, the only question is when

Portugal are searching for a new manager after the Portuguese Football Federation and Fernando Santos agreed to end his spell in charge that began in September 2014.

Santos guided the Seleção to their first title at the 2016 European Championship and followed up by winning the less heralded 2019 Nations League.

There is plenty of speculation linking José Mourinho with the job, and you can guarantee that FPF boss Fernando Gomes has called the 59-year-old to gauge his interest.

However, there are a few reasons why the 'Special One' might bide his time and wait for a more opportune moment to take charge.

Let’s take a look at Mourinho’s chances of stepping into the hot seat.

Past comments

Speaking in an exclusive interview after being made Yahoo's Global Football Ambassador for the 2014 World Cup, he said “I don’t have qualities to be a national team manager because a national team manager must adapt to the fact that he plays once a month and he trains twice a month and I don’t have that, I don’t adapt to that. So the job is not for me.

“The job is for me when I want to finish my career; the job is for me when I realise that I need a little rest but at this moment I want to train, I want to play. I want to play many competitions at the same time; I want to play at least three days; I want Champions League; I want the championship; I want everything. It is not a job for me to be two years waiting for a World Cup or for a European Cup, I can’t do that now.”

When asked specifically about taking charge of Portugal, he said “Obviously it depends on the generation. Maybe I get the Portuguese team in a generation that we can’t do big things because generations, the talents depends, but really I don’t care, I don’t care. I was not a player, I never did directly something for my country, I did it just at the club level. I want to try to give what I have to my national team.

“If I coach a team like England I would be very, very much connected with deep feelings too but Portugal is my country and if I can do for my country and my people, it will be something special.”

Five years later and after his spell in charge of Manchester United, he hinted that his next job could be as a national team manager, telling Eleven Sports “I want to compete in new competitions. I think about the World Cup and the European Championships. For a long time I have had the desire to try out such an adventure. Right now, I see myself more at a national team than with a new club.”

Five months later he had taken the job at Tottenham, during which time he repeated his ambition to coach a national team at some point in his career.

“Yes, I want to coach a national team, I want to have the experience of a World Cup and European Championship, the emotion of the short competition. Is Portugal the one I want to do? On one side yes as it is my heart, but it is very difficult to do it with the country you were born in.” 

Roma contract

José Mourinho took over at Roma in July 2021, signing a three year contract at the Italian club. His first season in charge resulted in I Giallorossi finishing sixth in Serie A, exiting the Coppa Italia in the quarter-finals and winning the UEFA Europa Conference League.

This season his side have been just as inconsistent, currently seventh in Serie A but only six points behind AC Milan who sit second. They scraped into the UEFA Europa League Knockout Round Play-offs after coming from behind to defeat Ludogorets 3-1 in their final group game.

Mourinho has added Paulo Dybala and Andrea Belotti to his strike force in an attempt to reduce the burden placed on Tammy Abraham up front. Regardless, his squad lags behind AC Milan, Inter Milan, Napoli and Juventus and it seems unlikely that his side can win the Scudetto any time soon.

Abandoning Roma with 18 months remaining on his contract seems unlikely, and would cost the FPF a significant fee, but anything is possible in football.

Ronaldo circus

Crisitiano Ronaldo has become a real problem for his managers, both at club and international level. The leading international goalscorer and one of the best players of all-time turns 38 in February, but is increasingly finding it difficult to accept a reduced role on the pitch.

His reported outburst after being substituted in the 65th minute in the final group game against South Korea saw Santos bench the superstar in Portugal’s 6-1 thrashing of Switzerland in the Round of 16.

Santos rewarded hat-trick hero Gonçalo Ramos with another start in the quarter-final against Morocco, Ronaldo coming off the bench in the 51st minute with the Seleção 1-0 down but unable to help his side find an equaliser.

For so long a staunch supporter of Santos, their relationship took a turn for the worst at the 2022 World Cup and the breakdown was probably a significant reason why the FPF and Santos decided to end their relationship after Ronaldo reportedly informed the FPF of his intention to continue playing for Portugal.

José Mourinho managed Ronaldo for three seasons at Real Madrid, winning one La Liga, a Copa del Rey and two Super Cups. The pair had some difficult moments before Mourinho clarified the relationship with The Telegraph in June 2013.

“A coach and player may have their differences at a given time, but it ends there. I don't have any problem. I had only one problem with him, very simple, very basic.

“When a coach criticises a player from a tactical viewpoint trying to improve what in my view could have been improved. And at this moment he didn't take it very well because maybe he thinks he knows everything and the coach cannot help him to develop anymore.”

Fifteen months later his tune had changed slightly when he told TVI “The relationship does not exist. He plays for Real Madrid and I’m at Chelsea. We do not often pass each other on the street.

“It’s just a memory. I remember the good and the not so good. I remember that he is a goal machine, he helped me to become a champion, to win the Cup and the Super Cup.

“He also helped each of us to make history in winning La Liga with 100 points against the best Barcelona side in history. Cristiano Ronaldo gives me great memories and I wish him all the best in his career.”

Regardless of that thin praise almost a decade ago, it’s logical to think that José Mourinho doesn’t want the hassle of managing an aging Ronaldo again, especially on the international stage, and who could blame him.

State of the squad

The Ronaldo situation aside, Portugal have Diogo Jota, João Félix, Gonçalo Ramos and André Silva as options up front, but it’s unlikely any of them can replicate the ruthlessness displayed by CR7 in his heyday.

Portugal have a strong squad with a multitude of options in central midfield, but there are issues in central defence with 39-year-old Pepe likely to retire.

The new boss may decide not to play Danilo Pereira in the heart of defence, leaving the inexperienced António Silva, Tiago Djaló, Gonçalo Inácio, Diogo Leite and David Carmo as options to partner Rúben Dias.

Mourinho may decide that it would be beneficial to wait until Portugal are more settled and experienced in central defence.


Regardless of José Mourinho’s inability to replicate the success that he achieved with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, he is still regarded as one of the best managers of all time, especially in Portugal.

The ‘Special One’ has been in charge of inferior squads in his last three jobs at Manchester United, Tottenham and Roma, and one wonders how much more he can take managing clubs that have next to no chance of winning league titles.

The FPF would see the appointment of Mourinho as a massive coup despite his lack of titles in recent years. He is far more tactically astute than Fernando Santos, won't be overawed by the job and would demand a level of respect from players that Santos might have lost and other candidates would not carry.

If Mourinho’s contract situation at Roma means it is unlikely he would jump ship immediately, the Ronaldo situation means it’s even more unlikely he will become Portugal’s next manager.

Assuming that the 59-year-old has indicated he would be willing to take over after the 2024 European Championship, that would leave the FPF in a difficult situation. Germany paid the price for giving Joachim Löw a long contract, and the FPF might have realised they made a similar mistake with Santos and decide to offer the new manager a short term deal.

There will be doomsayers unhappy with the prospect of José Mourinho becoming the boss of the Seleção, but just as we saw with the Portuguese Football Federation and Fernando Santos, the FPF simply don’t care and will see the benefits of appointing Mourinho significantly dwarfing any potential negatives.

By Matthew Marshall