It is late May and the cleaning crews just finished sweeping away the confetti from Real Madrid's La Liga championship celebration. Sure, Madrid may have failed to get over the hump and defeat bitter rival Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League semifinals, but they are looking down at the Cules in the La Liga table and have a big, shiny trophy to prove it.
Things are about to change at the Bernabeu, though, even if it is not an unexpected change. It has been in the making for months, but when Jose Mourinho and Florentino Perez step to the microphone to announce that The Special One will not be returning as Real Madrid manager, it still sends ripple effects through the rest of world football. Yes, one of the world's biggest teams is looking for a new manager, but more importantly, arguably the world's best manager is job-hunting again.
To be more specific, Mourinho is taking job offers.
Mourinho has made no secret of his desire to return to the Premier League and the English papers are delighted that for at least a few weeks, they have something to speculate about. It is not as if the papers are any different from the rest of the football world. Everyone is talking about where Mourinho might go, and seemingly every club within spitting distance of the title in England is in play.
Is Manchester City ready to splash the cash for the most expensive of managers to go along with their high-priced team? Is Sir Alex Ferguson ready to abandon his post at Old Trafford and open the door for Mourinho to take over at Manchester United? Would Roman Abramovich and Mourinho really resume their tempestuous relationship at Chelsea? Is Arsenal ready to bring the curtain down on the Arsene Wenger era and see if Mourinho can get them back in the running for league titles again? Might Tottenham Hotspur, with their spot in the Champions League and bright young talent, be Mourinho's landing spot? Could Liverpool pull the plug on King Kenny? The possibilities for Mourinho seem endless.
First up is the big spenders, but fresh off of a Premier League title, Roberto Mancini isn't going anywhere. As much as the Citizens would love to bring in the biggest name in managing, the opening just isn't there. They already have the league champion manager.
The red side of Manchester isn't looking for a manager either. Ferguson isn't ready to walk away and certainly not coming off of a season in which the blue side of Manchester reigned supreme.
Without Champions League football, and with an entrenched director of football in Damien Comolli, Mourinho sees nothing he likes at Anfield, so he rules a spell at Liverpool out.
Incredibly, Mourinho has only been unemployed for a day, and three options are already gone. Two of those options never really proved to be options, no matter how intriguing the idea may have seemed. The world's best manager doesn't quite have his pick of clubs, but there is a trio of clubs in London still in play with every bit of the spotlight that Mourinho so desires.
Arsenal are a club IN CRISIS, and who better to bring them out of crisis than The Special One? Even if their crisis is more imagined than real, the "Arsenal in crisis" meme has become prevalent enough that some have begun to believe. Mourinho would be more than happy to go down as the man who took the Gunners out of squalor.
A trip to the Emirates is not to be, though. Wenger only got the axe because Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League with a fifth place finish, and Mourinho has no interest in a team that isn't in the world's premier club competition.
Tottenham are in the Champions League, but they also come with a budget and a rather strict one at that. The prospect of managing Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and the rest of the Spurs crew is tempting, but Mourinho doesn't want to deal with the club's tight budget or the man that controls it, chairman Daniel Levy.
With five clubs out of the running, there is just one club left for Mourinho. The man that was supposed to choose from his offers is now truly job-hunting, and he has to look back to his old stomping grounds for a gig. The problem is that Mourinho didn't exactly leave Chelsea on the best of terms, and despite he and Abramovich somewhat patching things up, re-hiring Mourinho would almost be an admission on behalf of the Russian that he made a mistake. In addition, despite his disappointing season that resulted in a mere fourth-place finish, Andre Villas-Boas is also still in charge at Stamford Bridge, giving Abramovich a good reason to keep his distance from Mourinho.
Whether he has a reason or not, Abramovich can't completely stay away from Mourinho. Speculation that Mourinho will take over at Chelsea continues into June and Abramovich isn't doing much to stop that speculation. The days tick by, and one day there is a report that Villas-Boas is out and Mourinho is in, and the next there's a report that Abramovich still holds a grudge against Mourinho and will never hire him back.
Eventually, Abramovich is done with the dance. He doesn't want to appear as if he knows he was wrong, and Mourinho isn't sure if he wants to work for the Russian again. Villas-Boas stays and Mourinho has gone 0-6 in the Premier League. So much for that glorious return to England.
Who could have believed that The Special One wouldn't be able to find a job? He may have been eying a job in England, but there wasn't one for him, or at least not one that he wanted. So Mourinho finds himself in the land of unemployment, only it doesn't last long.
A notorious hard worker and football junkie, Mourinho never seemed cut out for the international game. The months between matches never suited his style, but he always left the door open for one job -- Portugal.
Paulo Bento may have succeeded in getting Portugal to Euro 2012 -- which was in doubt when he took over mid-qualifying for Carlos Queiroz -- but the team had no chance in Poland and Ukraine. Grouped with Germany, Netherlands and Denmark, Portugal was exposed, and a loss to the Dutch on the final match day ended their tournament in the group stage and sealed Bento's fate. He was out as Portugal manager.
With the Premier League not an option, Mourinho decides to take a look at the one job that he always thought he would take one day and is now available. Portugal may need some work, and Mourinho may not like the minimal time he would get with his team or the inability to buy players, but this is a job he has wanted. More importantly, it comes at a time when he can't get any other job he wants.
The Premier League's loss is Portugal's gain. On July 5, four days after the conclusion of Euro 2012 and 18 days after Portugal were eliminated, Mourinho steps to the microphone to announce, "I'm happy to be the manager of Portugal."
Mourinho isn't signed up for four years. He's in this for two years, with plans on qualifying Portugal for the World Cup and then leading his country in Brazil. The spotlight might not be as bright over those next two years as it would be in England, but for one month in 2014, it will be brighter than anything he has ever experienced. That is until The Special One experiences the spotlight from the home dugout at Old Trafford for the first time that August.