Wednesday 20 September 2017

Mourinho now 'The Godfather'

Chelsea boss older and wiser but warns Terry 'nobody's safe' from the chop

Jose Mourinho in pensive mood as he shares his thoughts with the media
Jose Mourinho in pensive mood as he shares his thoughts with the media

Jeremy Wilson

Headlines and labels have followed Jose Mourinho throughout his Chelsea career.

He arrived as 'The Special One', returned as 'The Happy One' and it was put to him yesterday that his past success coupled with the retirement of Alex Ferguson now make him 'The Godfather' of Premier League managers.

Mourinho's first reaction was to shrug his shoulders but, by the end of an hour-long interview in which he noted that he was "the only European champion" working in England, he was sold on the idea.

"I am going to be 'The Godfather'," he said, smiling.

Like any good Don, Mourinho had earlier made it clear that sentiment will play no part in his decision-making and, for arguably the most senior member of his Chelsea 'family', there was a warning.

FUTURE

With John Terry now in the final year of his contract, Mourinho was asked whether his captain's future was "safe" with him back as manager.

"No," he said. "He's not safe and he knows he's not safe. Professionally nobody's safe. We have a saying in Portugal, 'friends are friends, but business is apart'.

"John's class is there. I know he's a very good player, but he has to prove himself like everybody else."

Mourinho, it should be remembered, had once referred to Terry as one of the "untouchable" members of his team. He stressed yesterday that players could again reach such an elevated status but that "they don't just get the stamp because I want them to get it; they get there themselves".

That will take time but, after two weeks working with this squad, opinions are becoming crystallised. Mourinho remains determined to add Wayne Rooney and another bid will be made for the Manchester United striker.

Where all this leaves Fernando Torres, Chelsea's record signing, is the obvious question but Mourinho is adamant that he does not want any player sales. Mourinho's conversations with Torres have so far been consigned to telling him to forget about football until he returns from holiday, but he was still candid yesterday about the 29-year-old's limitations and strengths.

"I think he's a striker more comfortable when he has space to get behind defenders," he said. "He has it more difficult when opponents are very close, when opponents are compact and when he has to play in small spaces."

Asked if Torres can be a £50m striker again, Mourinho said: "I think when Chelsea plays with that philosophy he can. Against some kinds of team he will be more comfortable."

Ideas are also being formed about other players. Mourinho says the team's style will be shaped by the intricate attacking variations of Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Victor Moses.

He prefers Branislav Ivanovic at right-back rather than central defence and he does not want to add to his central midfield options. Most striking of all, David Luiz's credentials at centre-back received a glowing, if still qualified, endorsement.

"For me, Luiz is a central defender," said Mourinho. "I think he has an important quality for the football we want to play. He's comfortable using the ball from the back. He's different from the other central defenders in this aspect.

"He can improve, as everybody can. From a defensive point of view, he can be much more effective, much more solid. But, for me, the potential is incredible, amazing. He has to play always."

Mourinho knows that the focus on Chelsea's style will be intense, particularly as the sometimes functional approach of his previous team was a factor in him losing his job.

Following seven managerial changes since he left in 2007, Mourinho also knows that owner Roman Abramovich will put business before friendship in decisions about Chelsea and his own future. "The point is not to be patient, the point is to be intelligent, and he (Abramovich) is," said Mourinho.

"If you want to win trophies and be successful you need stability. We cannot be changing our philosophy, our methodology, our way of playing, our way of thinking every six months.

"I'm working now with a squad whose best years are to come. They have big space in their grey matter, lots of neurons free, and are ready to absorb.

"We have some players in the attacking areas, especially the three behind the striker, with great talent, technically very very good, so we have to play (in a way that is) adapted to their qualities."

Mourinho is clearly enjoying the challenges he is facing out on the training pitch with his new charges.

"I cannot coach Marco van Ginkel the same way as I did Claude Makelele. I cannot coach Lukaku the same way I coached Didier Drogba. I cannot coach Frank Lampard at 35 years old the same way I was coaching him at 27. Even if many things look similar, everything is different."

Mourinho believes that there are as many as six teams contending for the Premier League title and he noted that Manchester City have now replaced Chelsea as the English football's big spenders.

"In my first time you were always putting pressure on me saying, 'you buy this, you spend that, you buy the title'. So I hope now it is on the other side. It's always difficult to win."

Mourinho also stressed that David Moyes would benefit greatly from the winning mentality that is already ingrained at Manchester United and pointed out that it was something he previously installed at Chelsea.

"David is in a big club and that is a big help," he said. "But I think he is experienced. When he finished fourth or fifth with Everton, it's a trophy."

Mourinho ducked the chance to take a pot-shot at Arsenal's Arsene Wenger, whose last trophy was back in 2005.

"It is their philosophy and, for some reason, they do it," he said. "For sure he is doing a good job. I think they are contenders."

Such diplomacy is a departure for Mourinho but he clearly does feel genuine responsibility in joining the elder statesmen of the Premier League.

Mourinho even stressed that he had no issue sharing his various dossiers on coaching and management with colleagues and rivals. There was, however, the caveat that no one could ever put a USB stick "in my brain" and download the knowledge.

"It is true I'm one of the guys with more time in football," he said. "Probably I have to be an example for everybody in many aspects."

Asked if that included his own conduct (Mourinho's past controversies almost outweigh his victories), he added: "Everything – conduct and support, being there for everyone when for some reason they need me. I have to answer in a positive way." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport