• Champions League

Neville: England desperate to welcome Mourinho back

ESPN staff
March 4, 2013

Gary Neville says that Jose Mourinho would be welcomed back to English football with open arms when he leaves his current job as Real Madrid coach.

The Madrid boss' future has been of huge debate lately, with the Portuguese widely believed to be departing from Spain in the summer.

And on the eve of Madrid's Champions League last-16 second leg against Manchester United, former United right-back-turned-pundit Neville told Monday's AS that Mourinho's charismatic personality and winning record give him a special aura that means he will be able to succeed wherever he ends up.

"If you combine a strong personality with success and a handsome face, it is a very good cocktail," Neville said. "I fail in two of these three categories. Mourinho is always achieving his objectives. He can seem a bit eccentric, but he has very clear ideas and he explains them very well.

"He has a special aura, I have no doubt about that. But without success, he would not be received as he is. He has won everything."

Neville predicted that the former Chelsea manager would return to England soon.

"People say here that United want him for the day when Ferguson leaves," he said. "City too, Chelsea. You get the feeling that he is on the point of leaving Madrid, so the speculation has started. England wants him back. The media misses him, there is an undoubted love affair with the public and the media. We like our football to be full of these type of guys who add atmosphere and passion to sport.

"He will always be seen well, what he did at Chelsea will always be remembered. He connected with the English public immediately and still does. His fighting spirit, his direct way of saying things. In England they liked him, and having become Madrid manager, and winning La Liga against the best Barcelona team in history, has just increased his reputation. Nothing damages him and he has not changed since he left the Premier League. He is still a successful, ambitious manager."

Mourinho's famous celebration of Porto's shock Champions League win in the last-16 of the 2003-04 Champions League was not remembered badly at Old Trafford, according to Neville.

"I remember when we met when Porto played at Old Trafford, the day he celebrated the goal which qualified them by throwing himself to the ground with his arms in the air," he said. "At the end of the game, I went up to him to shake his hand and congratulate him. We like that attitude, that people celebrate however they want.

"We like that a manager does not hide that personality, that enthusiasm, above all if, like Mourinho, you also show respect for your opponent, at least in England."

The ex-England international said there were many similarities between Mourinho and United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

"Two of the greatest managers in history are going to meet (in the Champions League on Tuesday)," he said. "They have an enormous respect for each other. They are very similar: their love for their work, their enthusiasm, dedication, that big personality, their honesty and the force of their message."

Tuesday's Champions League tie between United and Madrid was too tight to call, Neville said, with the Spanish side's poor domestic league performance both a motivation for them and an extra source of pressure.

"I have been asked hundreds of times and, after going back and forward on it, I believe that it is 50-50," he said. "Both teams depend a lot on their forward lines. I can see already that all [Madrid's] season depends on the Champions League. That can be a positive, it will help them to concentrate their efforts. But it also adds some extra pressure.

"If you add up the strengths and weaknesses of both sides it is very balanced. Not even the second leg being played at Old Trafford helps me to pick a winner. I am not hiding anything, but I see it very closely balanced."

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