sport

Mourinho eyes return to England

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has underlined why he wants a return to England.

With Madrid sliding 18 points behind Barcelona and the Spanish media's relationship with Mourinho causing further discord, it seems certain one of the game's most charismatic figures will be looking for a new job next summer.

And England is an obvious destination, given how welcome he was made during his time at Chelsea and the affection he obviously has for football in this country.

That has been made clear by Mourinho once more in a video message to the FA, which will form part of their 150th anniversary launch in central London on Wednesday.

"There could not be a better place to go," said Mourinho.

"In England you feel the real passion for the game. It's not just about passion for clubs, it's mainly about passion for football.

"My memories are great. I loved it from the first day to the last. I don't regret my last day because after that I was lucky enough to enjoy Italy and to have and enjoy some success there and also in Spain.

"But I know that one day I will come back because English football means a lot to myself."

Mourinho has been a headline maker in England since the night he charged down the Old Trafford touchline to celebrate Porto's Champions League victory over Manchester United in 2004.

The following season he announced himself as "The Special One" at Chelsea, remaining at Stamford Bridge for three seasons, during which time he won five trophies, including back-to-back Premier League titles.

He also won the FA Cup in 2007, when Chelsea beat United thanks to Didier Drogba's late goal.

And it remains a tournament that tugs at the heart strings like no other.

"I know what I felt when I had to go up the Wembley stairs to get the FA Cup," he said.

"The FA Cup represents the passion of football. It represents clean football. It represents the good smell of football.

"If you are in England, you feel it. You feel proud to be in football - even in the worst moments.

"That's pure football. That's the football you play as a kid in the street transported through time and space into organised competition and into the real world of football."

Even since his departure for Inter Milan and then Real Madrid, his career has been monitored with interest in these parts and it seems both Manchester clubs are on red alert for when the 49-year-old comes back on the jobs market.

Mourinho was at Old Trafford on Sunday to scout on United, who face Real in the Champions League.

Yet it seems England has also been a big part in his life, going right back to the 5-3 World Cup epic between Portugal and North Korea at Goodison Park in 1966.

"I was three years old so I don't remember it but I grew up with that match because it's one that every Portuguese who is in love with the game speaks about it," he said.

"Portugal were losing 3-0 then Eusebio conquered the world, because to score four goals in a World Cup match and turn the match around was amazing. With that match Portugal qualified for the semi-finals.

"So 1966 was a great period for Portuguese football. I was not there of course, but I've read so much about it and watched it on video dozens and dozens of times.

"I would have liked to have been there."

Mourinho's message will be played out on Wednesday at the lavish ceremony at the Connaught Rooms in central London, where football's first rulebook was drafted.

Scores of football dignitaries will be in attendance with every living former England manager amongst those invited.

With high-profile friendlies against Brazil, Republic of Ireland and Scotland already arranged, it promises to be a memorable year, with Pele confirmed as guest of honour at the inaugural player of the year awards' night at St George's Park on Sunday, February 3.

The FA will use Wednesday's event to showpiece the huge amount of work they do, both at the highest level and, more importantly, the grassroots game given they are responsible for all seven million officially registered players in England.

It is an undertaking that should not go unrecognised.

"To say congratulations to the English FA is to say congratulations to football," said Mourinho.

"It's to say congratulations to everybody that loves football around the world."