Media won't deter FA in England search
The Football Association are unlikely to be deterred from making contact with Jose Mourinho over the vacant England manager's job despite reports the former Chelsea boss is no longer interested in succeeding Steve McClaren.
Mourinho has been playing a game of cat-and-mouse since McClaren was dumped last month, pointedly refusing to declare his hand one way or another, preferring instead to offer teasing statements which could be interpreted as a hint in either direction.
However, the clearest indication of Mourinho's intentions has now emerged, with a source close to the 44-year-old revealing one of Europe's major clubs had made an offer for him to become their new manager next summer and that, after a lot of soul-searching, he had decided to withdraw his interest.
The news will have come as a major blow to FA chief executive Brian Barwick and director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking, who between them have been tasked with finding the right man to raise English fortunes following the dismal failure to reach Euro 2008.
But, as with Martin O'Neill, another strong candidate who has also publicly stated his reluctance to leave Aston Villa, Barwick and Brooking still look likely to make contact, even if it is only to have their worst fears confirmed.
'You only find out if someone is prepared to say no once you actually put it to them,' FA director of communications Adrian Bevington told BBC Radio Five Live.
'You cannot work on the basis of what is said in the media. People often have a different opinion when they speak in public than they have in private.
'The only way to find out where someone is on the England job, if you believe they are someone you want to speak to, is when you actually ask them a direct question.
'We should not rule anyone out. Why would we until we have an appointment? It would be very naive of us to do so. We have an open mind.'
The clear problem for the FA is that having seen Mourinho seemingly perform one dramatic U-turn even if they persuaded him to reignite his interest would it be possible to trust the charismatic and ambitious Portuguese coach to remain at Soho Square if one of Europe's top names did come calling.
As recently as Friday night, Mourinho spoke of his desire to take on the challenge of coaching England, aware he was the absolute first choice among the fans.
'Honestly, I just couldn't say no to this job now,' he told the News of the World. 'Yes, it is a massive job, a massive challenge. But when the English people say they want me and the players say they want me...well, I can't say no.
'It would be an honour to be manager of England and I am excited by the responsibilities of this England job.'
How quickly that apparently unambiguous statement has reportedly reversed is alarming in the extreme and can only fuel the chances of Fabio Capello, who has never made any secret of his desire to take the job, eventually being appointed.
Italy's World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi is also in the frame, as is Jurgen Klinsmann, who has indicated he would be willing to uproot his family from their California base if he was offered the job.
Bevington confirmed none of the potential candidates had met either Barwick or Brooking, although with the extensive consultation process now complete, it is only a matter of time before that situation changes.
Although it may appear an unlikely prospect given the amount of interest in the appointment, the FA are determined to conduct negotiations in private before a recommendation is put before the FA board.
A scheduled board meeting on December 19 provides an obvious opportunity for Barwick and Brooking to outline their plans.
Yet, with no game until the February 6 friendly with Switzerland and no competitive action on the horizon until the World Cup qualifying campaign begins in September, the FA are determined not to be rushed.
'Why would we put a self-imposed deadline on it?' said Bevington.
'There is no need to when we don't have a match until February and don't have a competitive one until September.
'Once we have had some initial calls and once we know what sort of numbers we are talking about, we will get on with it at a pace we feel is appropriate.
'A lot of progress has been made already. We are fully on track and we will not be caught cold.
'We are determined to get the right calibre of man. Someone who has a real success record in football.'