Whoever was the comedian shouting in Gabriel Clarke’s ear to curtail his interview with Jose Mourinho last night after Real Madrid had been eliminated from the Champions League, you can bet the Professional Footballers Association have already booked him for next year’s annual dinner.
Just as the great man was about to tell us where he was heading next year, Clarke was obliged to cut him off. There were adverts to be shown, after all. It is not often anyone leaves Mourinho speechless. But Clarke’s savage cut left him perfecting his goldfish impression.
Or at least that was how it looked. I’m not so sure Mourinho, who has spent much of his career engaging in the tease, will have been too mortified. Cut off just as he might be about to say something really, really revealing? He will not have been too upset by that. If nothing else, it meant he remained at the centre of the wider conversation. Which – if Paolo Di Canio leaves any oxygen spare for others – is precisely where he always wants to be.
Besides, in the press conference later, where there were no demands from the sponsors to be met and time was limited only by how willing the manager was to keep talking, there was no such restriction. Mourinho was as clear about as his future plans as he possibly could be in the circumstances. He is, after all, still under contract at the Bernabeu.
“I know in England I'm loved,” he said. “I'm loved by the fans, I'm loved by the media that treats me in a fair way, criticising me but giving me credit when I deserve it. I know I'm loved by some clubs, especially one."
From a man who used to make his living translating, there is only one legitimate interpretation for that: he is coming back to Chelsea.
And what a welcome he would get on his return. How the fans would relish his presence in the dug out, especially after the bloke who has been there this past six months. The moment he walks out on to the Stamford Bridge pitch you will be able to hear the cheer at the Emirates. And that will just be from the press box. How the media would love the soap opera plotlines he will generate. There is no guarantee that it would be as good as last time, in fact it could all implode horribly, but of this we can be certain where Mourinho is concerned: it would be great while it lasts.
It is that possibility which so appeals to him. Coming back to England would plunge him once more into a football environment where he will be admired, loved. Which was never going to happen in Italy or Spain. Why? Because in England we have an entirely different attitude to the foreign coach.
When Mourinho went to Inter he was the only non-Italian managing in Serie A. Sure, he spoke the language brilliantly. But the suspicion was always there: why do we need him when we are perfectly capable of producing our own? And a man with an ego of his scale needed it constantly massaged, not undermined. The divorce was almost immediate.
In Spain, it was not quite like that. Madrid, especially, have a long history of employing outsiders. The first manager in their history was an Englishman called Arthur Johnson. Thereafter, from Guus Hiddink through to Fabio Capello, John Toshack and Bernd Schuster, they have all embraced expertise from abroad. But even so, just as Mourinho won the La Liga title, there was a suspicion – not entirely without foundation - that when it came to coaching, Spanish was best. He not only sensed it, he bridled against it.
In England there is no such prejudice. Our attitude is one born of an inferiority complex. Here we revere the foreign coach, to the point where only five of the current Premier League clubs are managed by Englishmen (two of whom have presided over a relegation this season). Here, the Premier League title has never been won by an Englishman.
Here, we are so mesmerised by the idea of the foreign expert that an average coach is elevated into the guru. Just look at the ordinary coaches who have come here under the impression they were extraordinary: Juande Ramos, Josef Venglos, Christian Gross. We love a foreign coach here. Which is why Manuel Pelligrini is currently so coveted. His record is no more stellar than that of David Moyes. Yet he is regarded by many a club chairman as being the next big thing. As a result, his chances of landing one of the top jobs in the Premier League are far higher than Moyes's.
And the point about Mourinho is that he really is extraordinary. Sure, he can scheme. Sure he can politic. Sure you wouldn’t necessarily trust him to mind your car. But boy can he build a football team. It would be great if he did come back. If nothing else, there is unfinished business here: Gabriel Clarke has some questions to ask him.