Mourinho: I should still be Blues boss
Jose pays respect as he returns 'home' to complete Inter mission
JOSE MOURINHO felt so "at home'' at Stamford Bridge yesterday that he instinctively went straight to the Chelsea employee who keeps secret stashes of the Special One's beloved Custard Creams all around the Bridge.
The Special One stocked up on his favourite biscuit, even slipping some in his pocket for later. Duly fortified, the former Chelsea manager took time out before training to deliver a lengthy, rather moving homily to the club he clearly still holds very dear, only once offering a disparaging comment.
Reflecting on how his path and Chelsea's have diverged since he was dismissed in 2007, Mourinho said: "I keep winning important things. They keep winning something. They won an FA Cup.''
Otherwise respect reigned. The special relationship remained intact.
"The most important thing is the relation we have,'' said the Inter Milan coach, holding court at the Bridge in advance of tonight's Champions League tie. No regrets, no big problems. Just respect.
"Coming back to an ex-club it is important to feel like I feel. It's one of the most beautiful things in football. They move on, I move on.''
Some things don't change. Sitting near the club museum, which he helped fill with silverware during his eventful stay from 2004 to 2007, Mourinho passed a wall dedicated to the Special One. Whatever happens this evening, his title would remain.
"After the game I will be the Special One. Win or lose. Of course.
"How old is (Giovanni) Trapattoni? Seventy years old? I want to coach as long as him, but even at that age I will still have things to prove. That's my motivation.''
Mourinho enjoyed the gentle jousting, smiling at the mention that the last time he talked to reporters at the Bridge, he compared the top managers to Michelin-starred chefs.
Asked whether he felt Chelsea "let the best chef go'', Mourinho laughed.
He pointed out that Chelsea have a "good chef'' in Carlo Ancelotti.
"He is a chef with experience, with knowledge of the ingredients that football needs. Chelsea are in good hands, no problem.'' More respect.
He spoke of his hunger to reach the quarter-finals simply as "an important moment'' for Inter, a "special moment'' for his players, not as an opportunity to see the people who sacked him squirm.
"I have nothing to prove to Chelsea, to Chelsea's players, to Chelsea's fans, to Chelsea's board,'' he stressed. "The relations are great. Will I be booed? I don't believe I will be. I will be clapped.''
If Inter score, there would be no trademark dance down the touchline, no patented knee-slide. A special reason underpinned such restraint.
"Because it's Chelsea. Because it's the team where I worked for three-and-a-half years, the same people, the same players, the same supporters who made me feel incredible every time we played in this stadium.
"I feel at home here. I opened the door and walked through the door; I go to the second floor where there are people I know; to the third floor where there are people I know. Before the game I know everybody and I love them. After the game I know everybody and I love them. But for 90 minutes I know nobody.
"Don't confuse my feelings for my ex-players and my ex-club with my desire and motivation to win this game. I watched Inter v Chelsea seven times.
"A coach watches a game seven times, stopping to go back over bits, then run them again. I gave everything to prepare for this game. And during the 90 minutes, I will give everything again to help my team win.''
Amidst the special respect could be detected a certain ruefulness over his departure.
"I feel sorry,'' reflected Mourinho. He surveyed the current English landscape and saw old friends and foes.
"Of course Sir Alex (Ferguson) is above every one of us. I know (Manchester) City, Tottenham and Aston Villa are coming now but when I look at the big four teams while I was in England, they're all there. Sir Alex is there. Wenger is there. Benitez is there. I did more than enough to be here.''
They stayed. He went. Roman Abramovich dismissed him.
"The decision was made. Chelsea looked forward. I look forward. They move on. I move on.''
He wished now he had quit after a famous goal by Didier Drogba at Wembley in May 2007. "I would have left the day after the FA Cup final after my third season. The timing was wrong when I eventually did leave.''
He found the months before joining Inter "painful'' and hardly enjoys the most relaxing of times in Italy, where he has a fractious relationship with the media, the footballing authorities, many referees and some managers.
The volatility of Mourinho's situation was captured when his defender Marco Materazzi spoke of the players' passion to deliver for their coach.
"We're fortunate that Mourinho is with us at the moment and we want to keep him,'' said the Italian international. "We'll fight for him in the match.''
Mourinho readily admitted to long-term plans outside Serie A.
"I have three things to do in my career: to come back to English football, to win the Spanish championship because no one has won Italian, English and Spanish titles and, when I'm old, to coach my national team. But, for now, I would like to keep winning with Inter.''
Success this evening would be particularly special. Along with a few Custard Creams for the journey back.
Chelsea v Inter Milan,
Live, TV3, Sky Sports 2, 7.45