Jose Mourinho has spent the weekend considering whether to continue with his candidacy for the England manager's job with the Football Association hoping to decide upon the replacement for Steve McClaren in the next few days.
The FA held talks on Friday with Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes, who then returned to Portugal to speak to his client. However, it is understood that the former Chelsea manager has received a strong offer from a leading European club which may sway his thinking.
If he rules himself out of the running it would appear to confirm the suspicion, shared for a while by the FA, that Mourinho was simply using the publicity surrounding the England job to leverage an offer elsewhere. However, he does appear to have become genuinely enthused about the prospect of taking over England, and is torn as to what to do. He had even boasted to friends that he would win the 2010 World Cup and become a "hero".
Mourinho also produced, with typical attention to detail, a master-plan as to how he would take the team forward which included building a dedicated training facility, creating a more professional and expanded medical and physiotherapy department and having greater contact with players and clubs. Mourinho has also talked about appointing a former England international, someone such as Tony Adams perhaps, as his assistant to work alongside his Portuguese staff.
If he decides to pull out of the race it will strengthen the position of the Italians, Fabio Capello, in particular, and Marcello Lippi, while the FA has been keen to hold discussions with Jürgen Klinsmann, who is prepared to move from the United States to England. They also want to speak to Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill, who is understood to have always been the preferred candidate of the FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, even though he has ruled himself out of the running.
Tellingly the FA's director of communications, Adrian Bevington, said yesterday, "The only way you find out where someone is on the England job is when you actually ask them a direct question. You can't work on the basis of what is said through the media. People often have a different opinion of what they say publically than what they say privately."
Sources close to Capello, 61, have claimed that he has already been interviewed – although that has been strongly denied by the FA – but yesterday Franco Baldini, his right-hand man who would join him if he got the job, spoke about the situation. He confirmed that "people who say they are agents for the FA have contacted Mr Capello. He would be interested in talking to them but first they have to proceed. It is difficult to say anything concrete, but Mr Capello would take pleasure in it [the England job], but so far there is no serious contact."
Baldini may not be being entirely truthful and the level of contact with Capello, who would appear to be the preferred alternative to Mourinho, is understood to have been greater than has been admitted. He is increasingly appearing to be the outstanding available candidate with the FA determined to make an appointment before Christmas. Yesterday they said they would be "moving forward with individuals".
"We are determined to get the right man, the right calibre of individual and someone who has a real success record in football," Bevington said. "I don't think it's appropriate to say we are talking to one individual or another."