In late 2019, it briefly looked like Arsenal might hire Jose Mourinho, but the club were reportedly never interested in the current Tottenham Hotspur boss.
In October 2019, head coach Unai Emery was struggling, and links to a potential replacement were growing. Reports started to emerge that Jose Mourinho might be keen on the job, despite his unfavourable history with Arsenal.
This quickly evolved into a rumour that Arsenal’s then-head-of-football Raul Sanllehi had met the manager for dinner (denied by the club), and he was even pictured in the stands for a game.
David Ornstein suggested that he suspected the reports were driven from Mourinho’s side to “alert clubs to his availability”, which clearly worked, as he ended up managing Spurs.
But were Arsenal ever actually interested? According to Football.London, they weren’t.
The outlet claim that Arsenal never made an approach for Mourinho and didn’t consider him as a replacement for Emery. The manager was only at the Emirates Stadium to watch his hometown club Vitoria, and probably to leverage negotiations with Spurs.
Football.London also reported at the time, “a senior figure has told football.london that the Arsenal hierarchy would be hugely reluctant to turn to Mourinho. There is an aversion to the style of football that he generally brings to his clubs, no desire to add such a potentially divisive figure to the team and the simple reality that he himself would have to accept a role where his input on transfers and a great deal of other factors beyond team selection would be limited.”
There were no talks with Arsenal and there was never any interest in Mourinho’s brand of football, so it was never anything more than internet gossip, fuelled by Mourinho’s camp with help from Duncan Castles. His report suggested Arsenal had set their sights on bringing in Jose Mourinho to replace Unai Emery.
Castles claimed Mourinho had dined with Sanllehi and was considering a move for the former Chelsea and Manchester United boss to try and bring some identity to what was clearly a talented squad underperforming with Emery.
Mourinho’s Spurs have certainly played an unattractive brand of football, and it’s not even getting them results. We all know Arsenal have had major problems, yet ‘title-contenders’ Spurs sit just two points ahead of them in the league in ninth.
Avoiding Mourinho was probably the right choice.