Jose Mourinho hoped to return to managing by June, and he had ample opportunity to do so.
Mourinho said there were "many possibilities" in the months after Manchester United fired him, but none of the offers he received were satisfactory. If he was looking for the biggest payday, he would have accepted the call from China. The temptation to jump back into the game as quickly as possible was there, but the conditions were not.
The job Mourinho wants is nothing like the ones he held at Real Madrid, Chelsea, or United, all highly political clubs with difficult owners and unrealistic expectations. Mourinho is done with the squabbling. He's waiting for a club that offers him a plan and a calm environment. Or as he calls it: structure and empathy.
That club may or may not exist. In top-level football, a manager is only as good as his most recent results. Maybe Mourinho has been unemployed for eight months because no club can give him the guarantees he craves.
The wait is agonizing but necessary. Mourinho looked miserable during his final months at United, and his negativity spread throughout the team. His experience in Manchester - living alone in a hotel room, far away from his family in London - was so bad it forced him to rethink his relationship with football. He can't accept just any job. He needs to enjoy himself again.
The last time Mourinho had any fun was in 2010 when he coached Inter to an unprecedented treble. In tune with his surroundings and in agreement with the way the club functioned, Mourinho wasn't given a reason to start a fight with anyone. He loved his players - particularly Marco Materazzi and Wesley Sneijder - and owner Massimo Moratti. It was, in his own words, a "love affair." There was no internal conflict, with only the referees and media feeling his wrath.
It's best when he's at war with the opponent, and not his own people. The bunker mentality that permeates his teams is born from camaraderie, not infighting. That's why Mourinho desires structure so much. He sees his teams as bulwarks, built to last anything that's thrown at it, but only from the outside. Paranoia and defiance from the inside destroys him.
His last three jobs ended in disgrace because he lost control. In Madrid, he felt betrayed by goalkeeper Iker Casillas' attempt to broker peace with Barcelona midfielder Xavi after a particularly heated El Clasico. Mourinho then suspected there were moles in his team leaking information to the press. The distrust festered, and Mourinho left as a war-torn man.
He returned to Chelsea in search of the things he had lost in the Spanish capital. London called because it was his second home. Mourinho didn't evaluate Chelsea's offer in technical terms. He just wanted to be loved again.
Although he won the Premier League in 2015, the club soon chased him out. He clashed with Chelsea's medical staff, allegedly calling their head doctor, Eva Carneiro, a "daughter of a whore" for disobeying his orders. Even John Terry and Eden Hazard, the captain and best player, were sent to the doghouse. Mourinho's default setting became contempt.
His time at United was even worse. It was again a job he wanted for reasons that had little to do with the project itself. Mourinho was heartbroken when David Moyes was chosen as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor. But when the opportunity finally came to take a seat in the Scot's former dugout, he gladly accepted.
What he found was a club in complete disarray - on and off the pitch.
"The structure is not right for Jose," a close friend told ESPN's Sam Borden in November 2018. "So he feels attacked. And when Jose feels attacked, he puts his fists up. That is what is happening - he is walking around with his fists up all the time at Manchester."
Coaching a disorganized team with a mishmash of players from multiple coaching regimes, Mourinho felt he had to defend his honor and pedigree. Every press conference became a sparring match. He didn't believe the players were good enough, and he largely blamed them for United's underwhelming performances. His longtime assistant, Rui Faria, left his side for the first time, and Mourinho departed Manchester in December 2018 with his stock at a career-low.
That's when his approach changed. He was no longer ready to jump at the first offer that came his way. He went scouting in France, did media work at the Champions League final, traveled back to Setubal, Portugal - his hometown where he's affectionately known as "Ze" - and spent time studying Charles Darwin.
For the first time in two decades, he was home. When July turned to August, Mourinho wasn't preparing for a new season. Instead, he was talking with the fishermen and locals of his seaside town.
It's clear that Mourinho is making specific choices while thinking loudly and clearly. He's still waiting for a job in the top five European leagues, and he's wiser for it.
"You are going to make mistakes all the time. The point is, don't make the same mistakes. But mistakes will come again and again," he told Sky Sports' Gary Cotterill.
"Victories are very important. They are the things that stay forever in your history and the history of football, but sometimes you learn more with the difficulties, and that's the feeling I have."