Exclusive Interview: Mourinho on Chelsea, Van Gaal and the Premier League title race

first_img“My club did a fantastic job and not just because of what we bought, a fantastic job because we did it almost in record time,” says Mourinho. “We knew the targets, the club attacked them and their clubs at a very early stage and we did exactly what we want.”Will there be more?“I don’t think so. The market is open but we are happy with what we have. We feel that our squad is what we want. We don’t want a squad of only end-products, we also want to bring to the first team three, four or five under-21s and develop players, so we are happy with the balance that we have.”There’s that whiff of red herring again. Spinning lines, raising eyebrows and offering the occasional smirk are all part of the package that has won Mourinho almost as many enemies as admirers over the last decade. His divisiveness is something of which he’s more than aware, though. As part of a recent online Q&A, Mourinho was asked what advice he would give to a young coach aspiring to work in professional football. His response: “10yrs ago i would say be yourself and believe in urself. Now, i would say be what people want you to be.”It probably wasn’t the response expected, but Mourinho clearly feels it’s an approach that would solve a lot of his problems (not to mention save him a lot of cash in FA fines).“It’s more difficult to arrive at the top being the person I am. In this moment, image plays a very important role – and not because football has changed but because the world has changed. Communication has changed a lot.” 7 This interview appears in the current edition of Sport magazine. Download the free iPad app from the Apple Newsstand, and follow on Twitter @sportmagukWhich part of the following passage is the red, absolutely stinking herring?“The first point is to congratulate my players. They did everything they could; fought from the first to last minute… Secondly, congratulations to Sunderland. It doesn’t matter how, or in which way they won, but they won… Third point, I want to congratulate again: this time Mike Dean. His performance was unbelievable and when referees have unbelievable performances it’s fair to congratulate them.”Jose Mourinho’s deadpan delivery of the words above came in the aftermath of Chelsea’s shock 2-1 defeat by Sunderland last season – a game in which a disputed penalty inflicted the Special One’s first home Premier League defeat in 78 games as Chelsea manager.His heavily sarcastic ‘praise’ of referee Mike Dean won him a £10,000 fine from the FA. A few months on, it clearly still rankles. 7 7 “That’s why I like the Premier League so much. At this moment nobody knows who is going to win the title. I know that we want to and I know that we can, but it’s the kind of competition where I can’t say. During my time in Italy, when the league started each season I knew it would be Inter first, Milan second, or Milan first, Inter second. When I went to Spain it was Barcelona first and Real Madrid second or Real first, Barcelona second. In this moment I think the league is between us, Liverpool, Arsenal, Man United and Man City. Who is going to be first? Who is going to play Europa League? I don’t know.“What I know is that I start the league playing in Burnley, which is a team that were in the Championship last season – and I have to be worried, because if we want to win the three points we have to be at the top of our game. That’s the Premier League.”And with that, Mourinho shakes us firmly by the hand and departs, his final words in this case ringing true – with not a hint of herring.Jose Mourinho is a BT Sport ambassador and football expert. This season BT Sport will show 38 Barclays Premier League matches exclusively live, plus top games from the FA Cup, UEFA Europa League and live action from more top-flight football leagues than any other UK TV provider Jose Mourinho Does that mean Mourinho would do things differently then, given his time again? “If I was to start again today I know I would be the same person,” he laughs. “I would follow exactly the same principles, having the same kind of problems I had during these years and following the same direction. That’s the problem: I am myself.“So, for example, when last season I played against Sunderland and I lost because of an unbelievable mistake by the referee, probably the best thing to do is to smile to the referee and to say to the media: “such a nice man, such a nice ref. he did a mistake but he didn’t want to do it.” Maybe that’s the right way? But I can’t do it… so it gives me some problems. But I can cope with them because I am a made man – I am a made manager. For a young manager to succeed facing these kind of situations though, it’s not the same. It is more difficult.“Being a manager, sometimes it is important that you are what people want you to be. Or at least that you pretend, so that people think you are what you aren’t. So for a young manager I would say be yourself and believe in yourself – but think a bit about the profile of the world you are working in.”Friends ReunitedWhile Mourinho might be thinking more about keeping the likes of club owners and directors on side with his comments above, over the years, various opposing managers have felt the red mist rising after their dealings with him. It’s one reason why the recent arrival of Louis van Gaal into the Premier League as manager of Manchester United could provide a fascinating sideshow to meetings between the sides this season.The Dutchman took over from Bobby Robson as Barcelona manager in 1997, by which time Mourinho had worked his way into the role of astute assistant coach. The pair worked closely together for three years, during which time Barcelona won two La Liga titles. It also became increasingly clear just how highly van Gaal regarded his young apprentice when Mourinho was entrusted with coaching duties of Barcelona’s B team.“It was a fantastic experience for me,” says Mourinho. “I was very, very young and to be assisting people of their dimension – with Bobby Robson too – was fantastic. Louis was important in my career and I’m always grateful. I never forget people that supported me in my career, and Louis was one of them.”But what becomes of that friendship now? Is it possible to maintain friendships with rival managers fighting for the same trophies, the same league positions and the same points? “It’s not impossible. It is difficult to feed that relationship every day though. So even if I have a very good feeling with some manager in London, for example, um…Big Sam. We live in the same city, we work in the same city, we like each other, do we have conditions to feed day by day that relationship? It’s very difficult. But good feelings? I have with lots of them.” 7 7 7 “Last season I played against Sunderland and I lost because of an unbelievable mistake by the referee. And probably the best thing to do in that moment is to smile to the referee and say to the media: ‘Such a nice man, such a nice ref. He did a mistake, but he didn’t want to do it.’ Maybe that’s the right way?”But you find that difficult?Mourinho laughs, shaking his head: “I can’t do it. I have to be honest. I can’t do it.”The Chelsea manager is speaking to Sport high up in the BT Tower in London, where he’s announcing his new role as an ambassador and expert for BT Sport. The timing is interesting, coming at the beginning of a season that many predict could make or break Mourinho’s return to a club where he has put his legendary status on the line. He later admits there will be some things in his broadcaster’s role he would “like to do, but can’t because I’m a manager from a top club in the Premier League and I have to protect my job; I have to protect my club”.But Mourinho says he still thinks he can help the channel to become what he calls a “winning project”, albeit in his own “humble way”. Naturally.The Special TenThe Portuguese manager’s second season at Stamford Bridge – the second time around – also marks a decade since his first arrival in west London in June 2004, when he famously announced himself as “a Special One”. Some ten years on, then, is it the same “special” Mourinho who will take Chelsea to Burnley for their first game of the season on August 18?“I am the same man, no doubts about it,” he says. “But ten years is a long time and, if you don’t change at all in that time, I think it’s bad. In the past ten years I lived so many experiences in life and in football. I worked in three different countries, in three different leagues and I learn a lot. So I am the same person, but I learn a lot – so obviously I change a little bit.“I think I’m a much better manager now than before. And at a time when I feel there is no evolution and no learning process – and I’m not using my experiences to improve myself – that’s the moment I have to stop. So I’m much more ready for an incredibly difficult job. Because it’s a very difficult job.” That difficulty is arguably of his own making, of course. Before Roman Abramovich dangled his fortunes in front of Mourinho in 2004, Chelsea hadn’t won a championship in 50 years. They’d had a sniff of glory the previous season, finishing second in the league and reaching the Champions League semi-finals under Claudio Ranieri, but Blues fans were not as expectant of silverware as they are these days.Mourinho isn’t taking the blame for this one, though: “I don’t feel the job is more difficult now because of the success. I just feel that my job at Chelsea – both times – has been in moments where Chelsea needs to build a team to be successful for a certain period of time. When I came in 2004, there was big investment and big desire of taking the club to a different level, but no team.“But we won and, not just that, Chelsea kept a team and a structure that lasted for years and years. This is the most important thing. The most important thing is not that Chelsea won the title with Mourinho or won the title with [Luiz Felipe] Scolari or won the title with [Roberto] Di Matteo or won the title with [Rafa] Benitez – the point is Chelsea wins.”Starting OverBut ten years is a long time, as Mourinho reminds us: “Now some players are finishing their careers, some are getting old, some you have to sell, some didn’t adapt. And so Chelsea arrive into a moment where in the last couple of years that team was disappearing. So I come again in a period where we need to build. I’m a better manager than before, though, and I think the club is a better club than before, too. So we are well prepared to face this moment that we started facing last season, which is a moment of rebuilding.”Enter Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, Filipe Luis, Mario Pasalic and the returning Thibaut Courtois; on their way out go David Luiz, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba – the most notable departures so far. And with van Gaal, Mourinho is even more confident that the competitive part of their relationship won’t be an issue. “You know the first time we played against each other? Champions League final,” he laughs.“We worked together, then we went our separate professional ways. He left Barcelona to be Holland coach for the first time, and when he left to go to Holland I left to be coach for the first time in Benfica and we didn’t see each other for many years – just lots of contact on the phone. A few years later we met each other in the Champions League final: Inter Milan against Bayern Munich. This is part of life.“So when in a couple of months I go to Old Trafford to play Manchester United, I think before the game: ‘Good fun.’ During the game we don’t even think about who is in the other dugout. And after the game, I don’t say ‘good fun’ because one of us will be not happy. But there will always be a fantastic relation between us. I like him a lot and I know he likes me a lot, too.”Mourinho was a more than interested listener then, when van Gaal gave his first press conference as United boss last week, surmising: “I think he was very Louis. The Louis I know. By which I mean he was very honest, very pragmatic. Sometimes people say there’s a bit of arrogance but no, when you are honest and direct and you say what you want and what you think you are not arrogant – you are just honest.”All of which sounds very familiar. But Mourinho balks at suggestions the two are anything alike, in personality terms, at least: “No. Louis is Louis and I am Jose and each one is unique. There are no points to compare us. But the training philosophy and methodology… well, I learn with him. I also developed a lot of my own ideas, but I would lie if I didn’t say I learned something with Louis, because I did.”Before that intriguing meeting takes place, Mourinho must first go to Turf Moor, where his Chelsea side begin their 2014-15 campaign. And that is as far as he’s willing to look for now, insisting that this season’s title could be heading in a number of different directions. 7last_img

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