He may have been installed as the bookmakers' favourite – and amount to a tantalising and available prospect for the Football Association – but Jose Mourinho has no intention of succeeding Steve McClaren as England manager.
A source close to Mourinho said yesterday that the 44-year-old had not been sounded out by the FA and "if he was he would not be interested". The source insisted that the former Chelsea manager, who is on holiday in the United States, wants to remain in club management.
Indeed, he said that Mourinho is "already aware" of the club he is likely to join next year. It is thought that the Portuguese will take up a post in Italy, with one of the Serie A giants such as Milan, Internazionale or Juventus.
The terms of Mourinho's severance agreement from Chelsea – from whom he and his coaching staff received a record £18m in compensation – prevent him from taking charge of another English club this season, but there is nothing stopping him from managing the English national team.
Should England fail to qualify for Euro 2008, that is likely to tempt the FA to make a move and they would be willing to meet Mourinho's £5m-a-year wage demands. Indeed, Mourinho, through his advisers, has let it be known in the past that he would be interested in coaching England but that is thought to have been more to do with his mischievous nature – and an antipathy towards McClaren – than any great intent. The FA may well test that resolve especially as, following McClaren's lacklustre regime, they will be keen to appoint a more charismatic and driven manager.
Jürgen Klinsmann would also fall into that category and it will have been noted that he has recently signalled his intention to return to management having taken time out following last year's World Cup. Klinsmann, who wanted to be linked to the Chelsea manager's job, is also now willing to uproot his family away from California, something he refused to do when coach of the German team. But his nationality may be an issue with some with the FA – and some sections of the media.
Luiz Felipe Scolari, the coach of the Portuguese national team, would be interested, despite the debacle the FA created in approaching him before McClaren was appointed. The 58-year-old Brazilian will leave his present post next summer, after five years in charge, and wants to remain in Europe. However, as before, he will not break his contract, which runs until after Euro 2008, while his demands, in terms of the control he wants, are unlikely to be met with approval.
England will have to rule out any attempt to employ Guus Hiddink even if the Dutchman confirmed that he is yet to sign the two-year contract extension with Russia. Among English club managers, Sam Allardyce is likely to be interested even though he only took over at Newcastle United last summer while Arsène Wenger, having signed a new three-year deal at Arsenal, would be unobtainable.
The FA have certainly not begun the process of considering who might succeed McClaren. However, just 15 months into a four-year, £2.5m-a-year contract, he is hanging to his post by a thread following the disastrous loss to Russia on Wednesday evening which has taken qualification for next summer's tournament out of England's hands.
The FA chief executive Brian Barwick – who led the organisation's appointments committee and championed McClaren's succession of Sven Goran Eriksson – only gave the manager qualified backing yesterday. "Steve's job is to prepare the team for Austria and Croatia," he said. "You wouldn't expect me to say anything else. He has my support. Steve will be getting the team ready for the friendly against Austria [on 16 November] and then Croatia [21 November].
"We'll of course support him. He's got a job to do and we've got to look elsewhere for help [in qualifying]. Steve will get those players ready and we will do whatever we need to do against Croatia, hopefully with things having worked in our favour in other games away from that."
Asked if England were in a crisis, Barwick said: "Let's keep 'crisis' in perspective. Steve's job is to make sure he gets his players ready for the Croatia game and the Austria friendly before that, and that's where we are. We have to now look to other teams to do a favour for us, but equally we have to concentrate on the game we have. What we are in the game of here at the moment is concentrating on trying to qualify. We know now it's out of our hands, but we have to concentrate on our own games and look for help elsewhere. [The reaction] is all part and parcel of this wonderful game we are involved in. The reality of it is Steve is concentrating now to get us ready for Croatia. That's the absolute reality of the situation."
Where now for the Golden Generation? Who'll still be around come 2010
England's probable failure to qualify for Euro 2008 is likely to bring the curtain down on a number of international careers from the so-called "Golden Generation". Age, injury problems and the emergence of new talent will force the retirement of those who do not, like Paul Scholes and Jamie Carragher, jump first. Whoever does play ought to have a chance of a decent tournament. The 2010 World Cup will be played in the South African winter which, while not exactly freezing, should suit England's running and pressing game more than any World Cup since Argentina in 1978. England, of course, did not qualify then, either.
Paul Robinson (age 30 when the 2010 World Cup starts) is still young for a goalkeeper, but he can expect a period on the sidelines while alternatives are given a chance. Rob Green (30) is the form man, and the most experienced, but has rarely figured on Steve McClaren's radar. A change in management may offer him a chance. Of the younger generation Scott Carson (24) is first in line with Ben Foster (27) sure to be given a run, when fit, if he can get a regular game at club level.
Gary Neville and Sol Campbell (both 35) are unlikely to survive a failure to qualify but Rio Ferdinand (31) can expect to become the defence's senior statesman. He may find Micah Richards (21) alongside him. John Terry (29) is young enough but his injury record casts doubt on his chances of making 2010. Should that happen there will be a vacancy at right-back. Glen Johnson (25) has the talent, but does he have the attitude and aptitude? Ashley Cole (29) will still be at left-back.
It is finally goodbye to David Beckham (35), who faces being stranded three shy of 100 caps. Unless Shaun Wright-Phillips (28) develops a final ball Aaron Lennon (23) should be on the right with Joe Cole (28) on the left. Centrally, Steven Gerrard (30) and Frank Lampard (31) will still be around along with Owen Hargreaves (29) and Michael Carrick (28) plus Gareth Barry (29), David Bentley (25) and Manchester City's Michael Johnson (22). Stewart Downing (25) remains unconvincing while Phil Neville's (33) time has probably passed.
Michael Owen (30) will not be axed; he remains England's best chance of a goal and the need to qualify for 2010 means he will continue. However, his injury record suggests future England managers will be wise not to rely on his attending a fourth successive World Cup. Wayne Rooney (24) will be approaching his prime, injuries permitting, and may finally have stopped making daft challenges. Jermain Defoe (27) has failed to convince successive managers and could be overtaken by Matt Derbyshire (24), while we wait to see if Theo Walcott (21) is the real deal. There is also interest in Chelsea's Scott Sinclair (21).
Glenn MooreReuse content