Jose Mourinho Plays Down Real Madrid Return 'Because They Have a Coach'

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2019

SETUBAL, PORTUGAL - AUGUST 23:  Jose Mourinho during the Liga NOS match between Vitoria FC and Moreirense FC at Estadio do Bonfim on August 23, 2019 in Setubal, Portugal.  (Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)
Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

Jose Mourinho isn't about to undermine Zinedine Zidane despite rumours linking him with a return to the Real Madrid dugout.

Zidane appears under increasing pressure after Real lost 3-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday. However, Mourinho wouldn't pile on when speaking to Spanish television station Cuatro (h/t Ben Hayward of the London Evening Standard):

"There are two types of rumours. One, where people talk about Zidane, who is one of ours and it happens to us all when our teams are not doing well. You have to live with that. Zidane has been in football all his life and he knows how it is. The other type of rumour is putting in my name and I don't like that. There are problems in a lot of places, but respect is another thing."

When pressed on the idea of returning to the Santiago Bernabeu, Mourinho said:

"I wouldn't like to return, because they have a coach and I can't lead a team that has one. You can talk about respect for the club, but also the coach is not just anybody. I'm outside. I don't 'sell smoke' (a Spanish expression for giving untrue information). I would like things to go well and for everything to be sorted out."

Zidane won three straight Champions League trophies, along with a La Liga title, during his first spell in charge. He stepped down in 2018 to be replaced by Julen Lopetegui, who lasted until October the same year before being dismissed and replaced by Santiago Solari.

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The Frenchman took the job for a second time back in March. However, things haven't gone nearly as well, with Zidane not able to recapture the magic following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus last summer.

It hasn't helped that key players like goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois have struggled to make the grade in the Spanish capital:

New signings have also failed to click, including Eden Hazard. The former Chelsea winger was part of a major spending spree this summer, but injuries prevented him from playing until the trip to Paris.

Despite the presence of Hazard, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, Zidane's Real mustered nothing in forward areas:

In fairness to Zidane, his efforts to get Los Blancos back on track this season haven't been helped by a lengthy list of injuries. Key playmaker Luka Modric was among the senior stars missing Wednesday, and the absences don't offer much hope for Sunday's trip to take on La Liga leaders Sevilla, managed by Lopetegui:

Zidane continues to be tipped to be eventually pushed aside for Mourinho, with the Independent's Miguel Delaney saying the figure of the one-time Porto boss "hovers again."

BBC Sport's Guillem Balague recently wrote Mourinho's name is being linked with the job and even went into detail about how Florentino Perez asked him to come back before Mourinho took the manager's job with Manchester United.

According to Balague, Mourinho told Perez he wanted Ronaldo and skipper Sergio Ramos, who remains at the club, gone.

Mourinho will always represent an appealing potential hire for Los Merengues because of his success the first time round. He won the Copa del Rey and La Liga as well as guiding Real to three straight appearances in the Champions League semi-final from 2010-13.

His reputation has taken some hits since, with spells at Chelsea and United ending in the sack. Feuds with players and concerns about a negative style of play marred his time at Old Trafford, issues prevalent in his stay at Chelsea as well.

However, Jonathan Liew of The Independent believes Mourinho has been working to repair his standing while working as an analyst for Sky Sports:

Mourinho has usually been a guarantee of trophies wherever he's been, even winning the 2016 EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League with United. The flip-side has often been a fractious atmosphere within his squads and a less-than-appealing brand of football.

Yet for all the negative attention his presence in management can attract, Mourinho is one of the most successful of his era. At 56, he's still young enough to believe he warrants another chance to prove himself afresh among the game's elite, even if it means capitalising albeit inadvertently on the misfortune of Zidane, with whom he worked during his first stint in Madrid.

Mourinho's proven track record at the biggest clubs across the continent will surely be too enticing for Real to ignore if Zidane continues to struggle.