I will do it my way or not at all, warns Mourinho

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Jose Mourinho, the brilliant coach Liverpool like and who likes Liverpool ­ but who is believed to have been already bought by Chelsea ­ made it clear that he was still his own man here last night on eve of his greatest challenge.

Jose Mourinho, the brilliant coach Liverpool like and who likes Liverpool ­ but who is believed to have been already bought by Chelsea ­ made it clear that he was still his own man here last night on eve of his greatest challenge.

The 41-year-old Porto coach said that he would reveal his future only after tonight's Champions' League final with a Monaco team coached by the equally desired young football man, Didier Deschamps. But if Mourinho did not plan it as an advertisement for his exceptional football values, that was very much the effect.

In a few crisp sentences he maybe explained why Liverpool would see him as the passionate original who might restore the old Anfield empire ­ and why, in the end, even Roman Abramovich might not have enough money to persuade him to do his kind of business.

The question that provoked Mourinho's vision of how a football club should be run came from the heart of that speculation that he is already the Russian's man. What, he was asked, would he do if, perhaps like Claudio Ranieri, he was obliged to work with players who were signed over his head. "That is a wonderful question to ask me on Thursday," said Mourinho. "I will have an answer then. But I do believe all success in a football club comes when there is a good relationship between the manager and the board. There was a problem when I was coach at Benfica ­ and I walked out."

Recently Mourinho said how much he admired the Liverpool operation ­ the freedom of the manager to sign his players and do his work with full authority. The firing of Gérard Houllier suggests a marriage made in the football heavens for a player of modest achievement but a coach who has spectacularly reasserted the value of a driven football man with a passionate belief of how the game should be played. Though Chelsea sources insist they have a done deal, they were also confident that they had corralled the services of Sven Goran Eriksson ­ as were Blackburn Rovers when they were still awash with the late Sir Jack Walker's money.

Mourinho insisted that his decision was still a private matter concerning himself and his club president, the devoted Jorge Nuño Pinta da Costa, who has already railed against the overtures of Chelsea, declaring: "We will go to war with Chelsea ­ the attitude of the Russian is the worst I've seen in the world of football." Whether he would give his blessing to Mourinho's departure for Anfield is not on the record, but the more the coach talked the more he sounded like a man impervious to the ultimate temptation of huge money.

"I want happiness in my football club ­ I want players who I trust and who trust me. The greatest thing in my life is when, after I have lost, my children say, 'you are the best daddy.' But then I also like to win football matches."

He believes that tonight's game will be a testament to the boldest and best of football. "In the past we have had the great teams like Milan and Juventus producing a final that in the end was playing for penalties. I respect Monaco, they have shown great character in beating a team like Real Madrid. We also have survived difficulties. Maybe people didn't expect Porto and Monaco in the final, but they are teams who will play with character. I told my players today, all I want is for you to play with your real identity. It is not a matter of tactics. We may play 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 but we will be the same model. Maybe Deschamps would like to know all the details of my team; maybe I would like to know if [Ludovic] Giuly [Monaco's diminutive inspiration] is going to play wide right or as a striker. But in the end it is about how your players go out."

Porto's veteran Carlos Secretario, who played for Real Madrid, says: "Mourinho is brilliant because of his human qualities. He knows how to extract everything a player has." Most strikingly, he has nurtured the talent of the Brazilian-born midfielder Deco. "He is at the heart of our team, and I think he will have a very big game," said the coach.

Deco is expected to join Mourinho wherever he goes. He is a Mourinho player, and he arrived because of the judgement of the coach not an order from upstairs.

The word is that Mourinho will be able to go ­ along with his protégé ­ almost wherever he wants in Europe if he delivers victory tonight. Everywhere, that is, except Juventus, who are said to have already reclaimed their old European Cup-winner Deschamps.

Rarely has the biggest game in European club football attracted such attention to two young coaches. But Mourinho insists: "Always, a good coach is only as good as his players." And, perhaps, the respect he gets from the boardroom.

* Claudio Ranieri received unexpected news yesterday ­ he is still Chelsea's manager. The Italian had feared that a meeting with the club's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, at Stamford Bridge was to tell him he was being dismissed. Surprisingly, rather than discussing Ranieri's future, Kenyon simply wanted to discuss possible transfer dealings during the summer.