THE old rascal returns Thursday evening.
Jose Mourinho is back in an English dugout, a year after being sacked from Tottenham.
And while his powers may have faded – and seven years have passed since he last won a league title – the Roma boss retains his old swagger, charisma and ego.
It is perhaps fortunate that Mourinho, now in his 60th year, no longer operates in London.
After all, the capital’s transport network now carries warnings that ‘sexual gazing’ is illegal.
You would be afraid that he would be arrested for looking at his own reflection in the window.
When he travels to the King Power Stadium in Leicester for the Europa League semi-final first leg, Mourinho will not lack confidence.
The Roma made steady progress under the Portuguese.
His side are fifth in Serie A, two places higher than they finished last season and England striker Tammy Abraham is reborn in the Italian capital with 24 goals in all competitions.
The premier third-tier Conference League may have been ridiculed – and two-time European Cup winner Mourinho certainly doesn’t see it as his natural home.
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Next month’s final will take place in the unglamorous setting of Tirana, Albania, and Leicester chief Brendan Rodgers didn’t even realize his side had ‘qualified’ for it, having finished third in his Europa League group.
But the tie holds a certain fascination and is arguably the biggest encounter between Rodgers and Mourinho since the Demba Ba game in 2014.
Then Mourinho held a masterclass in the dark arts, Steven Gerrard fell on his jacksie and the Rodgers-orchestrated ‘Anfield Spring’ was toasted.
Rodgers was hired by Mourinho to coach Chelsea’s youth and reserve teams, during the Portuguese’s first stint at Stamford Bridge.
But the two men maintain very different coaching philosophies – Rodgers built his reputation on extreme possession football, while for Mourinho every clean sheet is as sacred as the Shroud of Turin.
In his early days, Mourinho claimed he would probably be out of club football on his 60th birthday but, as that milestone approached, he says he changed his mind.
Working as Mourinho ghostwriter for his column in The Sun during last summer’s Euros gave me a closer and more flattering view of this fascinating man.
While many top managers and players spend as little time as possible on such media work, Mourinho was committed and utterly punctual, his knowledge of the international encyclopedia of the game and his attention to forensic tactical detail.
There were also moments of humor, on those dozen Zoom calls.
When Mourinho was speaking from his Portuguese home, I spotted – on a sideboard strewn with silverware – a single replica European Cup.
“Only the ONE European Cup, Jose?” I asked. “The other is in my other house,” he replied, deadpan expertly, hammering away at the creepy Brian Clough-esque selfish act.
Mourinho’s 2010 Champions League triumph with Inter Milan remains the last European trophy won by an Italian club.
And this season, his Roma team is the last representative of Serie A in Europe.
After his 17-month stint at Spurs came to an abrupt end days before last year’s Carabao Cup final, there was a widespread feeling that Mourinho was a man left behind, in terms of tactics and management. men.
Yet he led Spurs to the top of the Premier League before an alarming fall last season and his reign at Manchester United – a top-flight runner-up, a League Cup and a Europa League title in two full seasons – looks much better in retrospect than it did then.
Neither Roma nor Mourinho are rushing to part ways – especially if they overcome Rodgers again and then collect their mitts on the 26th trophy of their extraordinary career in Albania.
He has, however, spent the majority of the past 18 years working in the Premier League.
England is a nation he calls home and a nation that also retains a certain fascination for him.
His presence will ensure that many here will tune into the Europa Conference League for the first time tomorrow night.
And Mourinho could afford a sneaky wink in the mirror at the thought of it.