(Reuters) - The Premier League may be the world’s biggest sporting soap opera but the plot twist revealed by Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday would win the admiration of even the finest script writers.
The “evil genius” is back, collar turned up on black jacket, strutting into the shiny billion pound home of a club that treasures its self-image as guardians of the beautiful game.
Jose Mourinho is not a Tottenham man and has no interest in losing the “right way”: he has won titles in Portugal, Spain, Italy and England by playing to win, with tactics focused purely on results rather than entertainment or aesthetics.
Yet one of the many sub-plots to this drama is that Mourinho heads to North London with a major point to prove after an ill-tempered and mostly unsuccessful two-and-a-half seasons in charge of Manchester United where his reputation suffered badly.
The 56-year-old Portuguese will surely know that the rants about demanding “Respect, respect, respect” and waving three fingers to show the Premier League titles he won with Chelsea are not going to cut it now.
Mourinho is great box office, always ready to prompt debate and keenly aware how controversy fuels the popularity of the sport in England as much as it does in Italy, where he restored the fortunes of Inter Milan and Spain where he was at the heart of the Real Madrid story.
The irony of taking over at Spurs from Mauricio Pochettino will not be lost on Mourinho.
The Argentine was heavily linked with Mourinho’s job at Old Trafford during his final days at United with many commentators suggesting that Pochettino’s attractive style of play was the perfect antidote to Mourinho’s increasingly dour pragmatism.
There was no shortage of pundits who portrayed Mourinho as yesterday’s man, outdated and outflanked by the younger, fresher more upbeat approach of the progressive Pochettino.
How quickly things change in football, Mourinho must be thinking to himself, but he will also know he is a very fortunate manager to inherit Pochettino’s team.
Because while at Old Trafford he took over a squad that had little identity and needed a major overhaul, he now has the job of improving the results of a team which just a few months ago reached the final of the Champions League.
He has a team led by England’s captain, the prolific striker Harry Kane, and with one of the Premier League’s most exciting attacking players in South Korea’s Son Heung-min.
Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen can create the openings for that strike force and if he can help Dele Alli rediscover his form, there is no reason why Spurs cannot rediscover the attacking verve central to the best of the Pochettino years.
It is the other side of the game though where Spurs need the most improvement. While the experienced Belgian central defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld may be reaching the end of their time at the club, they can at least offer some short-term stability.
The team spirit, so impressive earlier in Pochettino’s time at the club, has suffered in recent months and the fact that Eriksen and other key players are nearing the ends of their contracts cannot have helped.
Yet a positive dressing room was exactly what was missing under Mourinho at United where his cantankerous behaviour led to a deeply corrosive mood which improved significantly once Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced him.
There is logic behind Spurs chairman Daniel Levy’s decision to entrust the future of the team to Mourinho - Spurs are in need of so many of the qualities that the coach has shown in his career.
The real question is which Mourinho Spurs find themselves with? The energetic and enterprising Mourinho of Inter, Porto and his first spell at Chelsea, or the sullen shadow of himself that appeared at Manchester United?
Only one thing is sure - the plot has thickened.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne