Could Chelsea labour of love help Mourinho regain his sparkle?
By Bradley King
One La Liga title, one Copa del Rey - possibly with one to follow - and a Spanish Super Cup. Be sure to whisper it quietly: has Jose Mourinho been a failure at Real Madrid?
"I want to be where people love me to be," said the Portuguese boss, moments after his side were knocked out of the Champions League by Borussia Dortmund at the semi-final stage. "I know in England I am loved. I know I am loved by some clubs, especially one."
If in England he's adored, Spain are more unconvinced by his qualities. Mourinho is under contract there until 2016 but only a fool would bet against him being at the current La Liga champions past the end of this season, as fractions continue to grow between him, key players and supporters.
Indeed, his time at the Santiago Bernabeu has been, in many ways, an anticlimax. After devastating spells at Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale, it was expected that Mourinho would be the man to restore Real to their rightful place as kings of Spain. And, in the process, bring a halt to the dominance of Barcelona.
But the November of his first season brought a rude awakening for any Los Merengues fans who were expecting an immediate impact - Pep Guardiola's Barca side trounced Madrid 5-0 at the Nou Camp. Florentino Perez called it the 'worst game in the history of Real Madrid'.
The Catalans won La Liga again that year but Mourinho had his revenge in the following campaign. A 2-1 win at the Camp Nou in April effectively gave the title to Real and, despite more Champions League heartache in the last four, Guardiola's resignation seemed to signal a changing of the tide in Spain.
Mourinho improved his head-to-head record with Barca to make Madrid appear to be on a par over his tenure - won five, drew six, lost six.
But despite cracks beginning to appear in the Barcelona unit, Madrid and Mourinho haven't been able to build on their successes of last season. After feuds with key players such as Iker Casillas, Mourinho has overseen the relegation of Madrid to La Liga's second-in-command again. An unacceptable position for club football's aristocrats.
And as Mourinho paced the technical area in the defeat to Dortmund on Tuesday evening, dressed all in black, it was difficult to pinpoint that charismatic sparkle of the 'Special One' which enamoured English football supporters almost a decade ago. Has it vanished? Faded away along with his jet black hair due to the pressures of handling arguably the biggest job in club football?
Worn down by life at the Santiago Bernabeu, Mourinho needs the environment to thrive again. For that, there is only one place - Chelsea.
But if he does return to west London, fans shouldn't expect immediate fireworks again. It will be a new challenge for Mourinho; no longer can he rely on his stalwarts of old, namely John Terry, Frank Lampard and Dider Drogba. Nor could he have a safety net in the form of the individual brilliance Cristiano Ronaldo, as at Real.
But he will be given the time required by Stamford Bridge supporters. More importantly, they will also shower him with love. And while he was given plenty of the former in Madrid, reverence is something that was never truly afforded to him at the Bernabeu.