LISBON, Portugal, Dec 16 – Fernando Santos quit as coach of Portugal on Thursday following the team’s shock World Cup quarter-final loss to Morocco with colourful and controversial Jose Mourinho named as a leading candidate to take over.
The Portuguese football federation (FPF) said in a statement that an agreement was reached with the 68-year-old Santos “to end the journey of great success that began in September 2014”.
The FPF added that it “will now launch the process to choose the next national coach”.
Daily sports newspaper Record claims that Mourinho is the federation’s number one target to take over ahead of qualifying for Euro 2024.
They would even reportedly entertain a deal which would see Mourinho take charge of the national team on an interim basis to allow him to see out the season with club side Roma in Italy.
Asked about the national team job by journalists late Thursday afternoon when he arrived in southern Portugal for a training camp with Roma, Mourinho made no comment.
Qualifying for Euro 2024 gets underway in March.
Portuguese coaches Rui Jorge (under-21s), Abel Ferreira (Palmeiras), Paulo Fonseca (Lille), Rui Vitoria (Egypt) and Jorge Jesus (Fenerbahce) are also among the potential candidates cited by local media.
Mourinho, 59, has yet to coach at international level but has an impressive record at some of Europe’s heavyweight clubs.
He has managed Porto, Chelsea twice, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
Mourinho won three Premier League titles with Chelsea, two Serie A crowns at Inter and a Liga triumph at Real.
He also coached Porto to 2004 Champions League victory and repeated the feat with Inter Milan in 2010.
In May this year, he led Roma to the Europa Conference League title, the club’s first ever major European trophy.
That was his fifth European title and made him the first coach to win all current UEFA competitions.
Mourinho’s contract at Roma runs until 2024. The team are currently seventh in Serie A, 14 points behind leaders Napoli.
Santos had been adamant that he would not be forced out of the Portuguese job he has held for eight years despite Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to the history-making Moroccans in Qatar.
He accepted, however, that not everyone agreed with his decisions during the World Cup which included dropping Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench in the later matches.
“I’m leaving with the feeling of enormous gratitude,” he said in a video posted on the federation’s website.
“When you lead a group, you have to make some difficult decisions. It’s normal that not everyone is happy with the choices I made.”
Appointed coach of Portugal in September 2014, Santos won the country’s first major title at Euro 2016 and followed it up with the 2019 Nations League.
However, his time in charge also saw last 16 exits at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020.