Saturday 20 January 2018

Mother hen Mourinho to nurture Blues legacy by putting faith in 'young eggs'

Jose Mourinho will start a number of younger players tonight
Jose Mourinho will start a number of younger players tonight

Jonathan Liew

"Omelettes, eggs. No eggs, no omelette. And it depends on the quality of the eggs. In the supermarket, you have eggs class one, class two, class three. Some are more expensive than others and some give you better omelettes. So when the class one eggs are in Waitrose and you cannot go, there you have a problem."

Thus spoke Jose Mourinho on September 17, 2007, before Chelsea's Champions League game against Rosenborg.

He had a problem, all right. The following day, his side could only draw 1-1 at home. The day after that, he attended a meeting with Roman Abramovich, at the end of which their three-year relationship was on toast.

Six years on and Mourinho is in a marginally less scrambled frame of mind.

White and yolk have been reunited, and tonight the 50-year-old faces the first Champions League match of his second spell at Chelsea, at home against Basel.

Europe's leading club competition has always brought him out of his shell, and he faced the world's media yesterday sunny-side-up. So, how did he like his eggs these days?

"Beautiful, young eggs," he replied, with a glint in his eye. "Eggs that need a mum – or in this case a dad – to take care of them, to keep them warm during the winter, to bring the blanket and work and improve them.

"One day the moment will arrive when the weather changes, the sun rises, you break the eggs and the eggs are ready to go for life at the top level."

Mourinho said he would start with four players aged 22 or under tonight, with Oscar, Kevin De Bruyne, Marco van Ginkel and Eden Hazard likely to be the four. The renewed focus on youth – with due deference to elder statesmen like Frank Lampard, who will also start – is part of Mourinho's ongoing preoccupation with his legacy.

"When you work in a club," he explained, "your business doesn't finish the day you leave. Your business finishes the day everything you did disappears.

"For example, the other day I was looking at Real Madrid's team, and Real Madrid played the same system (as when he was in charge last season).

"The same players, and (Gareth) Bale changed for (Mesut) Özil. I'm not there, but I left something there. With Chelsea, it's a bit the same.

"I have no obsessions in football. I never have. I don't like my teams to have them. Objectives are one thing. Obsessions are another.

"The first objective of this team is a process that has to end with a team, a philosophy, an identity, a style of play.

"This is the first part of the first part of it. If we win a match, we're happy. But if we win the match and don't go in the direction we're trying to build, it's one step up the table but one step back in the direction of our work."

If Mourinho is a man with no obsessions, he hides it wonderfully well. This is a man, after all, who in homage to Real Madrid's quest for a 10th European Cup – the Decima – would always sit in airline seat 10D when he flew with the team.

This is a man who yesterday, completely unprompted, reeled off the precise number of Champions League games he had managed – 108. Two of those were winning finals, with Porto and Inter Milan. Two were agonising semi-final defeats to Liverpool.

"108 matches is a lot of matches, a lot of matches, in quite a short period of time," he said. "So my relationship with the competition is not so bad.

"But I felt during these 108 matches that many strange things happened. As I was saying, no obsession for me. No obsession for Chelsea. But I want to win it for a third time. I want Chelsea to win it for a second time."

Note the order of those last two sentences, by the way. Mourinho's current obsession may be Chelsea, but his overarching obsession has always been himself.

"I want to qualify, for now, for the next phase. That would be important for everyone, not least for this team of kids."

Mourinho knows that like the best omelettes, the best sides need time and care. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Chelsea v Basel,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 7.45

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