Jose Mourinho claims he made Chelsea's stars the players they are today during his time at the club.
Mourinho, who quit as Chelsea boss in September 2007, seems to be missing life in England as his time in charge of Inter Milan begins to turn sour, and he was happy to spend most of yesterday's press conference reminiscing about life at Stamford Bridge.
Players like Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and John Terry thrived under Mourinho, who believes he made them the players they are today.
"Did I give them a contribution? They say yes and I think so," he said. "I thank them because they never forget to say nice words about me, but if they continue to play at this level, it is up to them because they work hard day after day.
"When I speak with somebody at the club, they always say that the culture of working very hard every day didn't change (since I left).
"The players kept a strong mentality and, as the years are going by, they are all like port wine -- the older the better."
His close relationship with Drogba was a particularly poignant example of how Mourinho, despite his robust exterior, earns and enjoys the respect of those who know him best. That respect will be put to one side for 90 minutes when Inter and Chelsea take to the field at the San Siro tonight, however.
"The most beautiful thing in football for a coach I believe is the respect from players and from the supporters of his own club," continued Mourinho.
"And that happens with me all the time. It happened in Porto, in Chelsea and in Inter and that makes me proud.
"What Didier keeps saying about myself makes me very, very proud, but I know what will happen tonight.
"I know that tonight he will break his legs for his team, and his team is Chelsea. On the other bench is a friend and somebody whom he admires, but somebody with different objectives to his own.
"I know that during the game he will give everything and that makes me also proud because that is the education I give to players. That's his education and I'll be happy to see him."
Mourinho, however, stepped up his war of words with Carlo Ancelotti by accusing the current Chelsea manager of being part of a clan determined to undermine him.
Mourinho was responding to Ancelotti's mischievous suggestion that, other than Inter fans, the whole of Italy will support Chelsea in tonight's Champions League round-of-16, first-leg tie at the San Siro.
Mourinho has made frequent complaints of a conspiracy among the Italian establishment against his club involving referees, the Italian FA and leading managers, such as Ancelotti, Claudio Ranieri and Luciano Spalletti. He returned to the theme with relish on the eve of tonight's match.
The Portuguese has become deeply unpopular in many parts of his adopted country and was even asked why the Italian flag had been removed from his club-issue sportswear, to which he pleaded ignorance.
Mourinho saw no need for such diplomacy, however, when the subject turned to Ancelotti's claims about the Italian nation's support.
"If Ancelotti says that, it's because he knows, or because somebody told him," Mourinho said. "Or because he belongs to the clan. I just do my job. I'm here to play a game of football."
Ancelotti's response was rather more measured, although he did not disguise his obvious disdain for his opposite number. "I am not interested in Mourinho," he said. "I am only interested in preparing my team well."
Mourinho, the former Chelsea manager, also weighed into the controversy surrounding Ashley Cole, revealing that he had telephoned his former player in the past few days. The Portuguese signed Cole for Chelsea in 2006 after being caught tapping up the then Arsenal left back the previous year, but claimed that he has no intention of exploiting his difficulties by taking him to Italy.
INTER MILAN v CHELSEA
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