Chelsea's Jose Mourinho tries to pile pressure on Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini
Having regularly faced accusations of buying success during his first spell at Chelsea, Mourinho has been quick to note the changing landscape in England and Manchester City’s extraordinary financial power. They have already spent almost £100 million on four seasoned internationals this summer, with Mourinho stressing that his squad was still in a developmental phase.
Asked if people should be expecting more of City’s experienced squad than Chelsea, Mourinho said: “Of course. Young players are not at the best they will be. They need to learn, they need time to get to the top.
“I know the players they’ve bought. You are talking about [Jesús] Navas and [Álvaro] Negredo, they are two world champions, two European champions.
"[Stevan] Jovetic, for more than two years, is one of the best in Italian football. He has five years of Fiorentina, playing in Serie A at the highest level. Fernandinho has more experience, a national team player.”
Chelsea’s two summer signings, André Schürrle and Marco van Ginkel, are both in their early 20s while Fernandinho, Navas, Negredo and Jovetic are respectively 28, 27, 27 and 23. Mourinho stressed that there were few risks with players in the peak years of their career.
“I think they are players without surprises,” he said. “They are more than ready. If you see their age, their maturity, they are in the perfect moment of their career to go to England, no need for adaptation, no need of work to learn the project.
“They are players at the top of their careers, experienced but still young. They bought very, very well. That doesn’t surprise me because they have the money to buy but also the knowledge. They have people in the club that know a lot about football.”
Mourinho, though, knows from experience that big spending is accompanied by pressure. He will also know that any comparison between City and the similarly extravagant early years of Chelsea under Roman Abramovich will only magnify his own achievements.
In managing Chelsea for the second, third and fourth years of Abramovich’s investment, he delivered five major trophies. City have been funded by Sheikh Mansour for five years now and have only two trophies to show for their spending spree.
“In my first time you [the media] were always putting pressure on me saying: ‘You buy this, you spend that, you buy the title’,” Mourinho said.
“So I hope now it is on the other side. It’s always difficult to win. You can have the best players but you have other kinds of problems.”
Given the age profile of his squad, it was put to Mourinho that a third Premier League title this season would represent the greatest achievement.
“It’s different. It can be better because I always say that the best trophy you have is the last one. If we win something important with this group, it will be the best for many reasons.”
Mourinho also again stressed that he was happy to be working in his “natural habitat” at Chelsea on a project that is long-term and involves building a side. He was also adamant that young players would get opportunities in his first team.
“Any time I had in my hands young players with conditions to become top players and play for the first team, I did it. In Porto, Carlos Alberto is still the youngest player to score a goal in a Champions League final.
“Maybe you don’t know the best one – [Davide] Santon, who is at Newcastle. He had two big, big injuries but at 17 years of age everybody was saying in Italy that he should be for Inter what Paulo Maldini was for Milan.
"At 17 he was playing Man United in the last 16 of the Champions League. Another kid, at Real Madrid, Raphaël Varane is in front of everybody else at 17. Here [at Chelsea] John Obi Mikel arrived and I put [Claude] Makélelé on the bench. I’m not afraid to go for it.”
Despite his belief in Chelsea’s young players, Mourinho has also repeatedly stressed the importance of his old guard and the pursuit of Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney suggests that he still wants more proven experience.
Mourinho also warned yesterday that “no club is safe” during this transfer window and, despite wanting to complete the Rooney signing as quickly as possible, has admitted that major deals could drag until the end of August.
“The sooner you have the players the better,” Mourinho said.
“You know the squad you have, you know what you have to work with, you have time for that.
“The market is open until Aug 31 and many clubs are waiting to the last moment to make their decisions, and those decisions affect a number of other clubs.
"None of my players is leaving under any circumstances. Many teams will be under pressure until the last moment without knowing how the squad is going to be.”