With Juventus ace Paul Pogba’s move back to Manchester United no more than hours/days/weeks away, it’s past time to start figuring out where football’s next world record transfer (in all likelihood) will be best suited in Jose Mourinho’s XI.
The 53-year-old tactician has left plenty of blueprints in his wake during more than a decade at the top of football, so we’ve scanned through 13 years of Mourinho’s thinking to try and solve this riddle.
The Deco role
Mourinho inherited this Brazil-born maestro, ditched from Benfica as a youngster by renowned managerial genius Graeme Souness, when the current Old Trafford gaffer took over at Porto in 2002.
With classy supporting acts Maniche and Pedro Mendes doing much of the donkey work, Deco was left to flourish as a creative force, managing the most Champions League assists in 2003/04 as Porto snatched the trophy, and claiming UEFA’s Club Footballer of the Year award.
The Robben role
Portugal’s finest coaching export often fielded rock-solid midfield pair Claude Makelele and Michael Essien during his first spell at Chelsea, leaving Frank Lampard to operate around opponents’ penalty areas, from where he rewarded the boss with 40 Premier League goals over three seasons.
The creativity was provided from the wings, with Arjen Robben, Damien Duff and Joe Cole tasked with providing the bullets for Lampard and superstar striker Didier Drogba.
The Sneijder role
Mourinho went back to a packed midfield with little width at Inter, generally using at least two from Patrick Vieira, Dejan Stankovic, Sulley Muntari and Esteban Cambiasso, each of whom could perform in a holding role.
Wesley Sneijder was handed the task of creator-in-chief after signing midway through Mourinho’s two-year San Siro reign, aided by a powerful front three of Goran Pandev, Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o.
The Ozil role
Arsenal’s record signing made at least 35 combined La Liga and Champions League appearances in each of Mourinho’s three terms at the Bernabeu, with the midfield spots alongside and behind Mesut Ozil switching between Essien, Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, and eventually Luka Modric.
This strategy relied on another stellar forward trio in Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo
The Fabregas role
The evolution of Mourinho settled on a 4-2-3-1 during his second stint at Stamford Bridge, particularly during their Premier League-winning 2014/15 campaign.
Apparent number ten Cesc Fabregas was pushed into the middle of the park alongside anchorman Nemanja Matic, which worked, for a season at least, with the Spaniard laying on a whopping 18 top-flight assists.
Incidentally, that was twice as many as nominal number ten Eden Hazard, who managed to lay on six more chances for teammates, though evidently they weren’t of as high a standard.
With Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan and possibly Marcus Rashford to accommodate in the three positions behind likely striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in United’s line-up, the furthest-forward of the central-midfield spots seems Pogba’s likeliest destination.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.