Jose Mourinho: 'Ronaldo has been by far the best player in the Premiership. But he must win a trophy'
In a rare interview, Jose Mourinho talked yesterday about what his celebrated fellow countryman needed to do to become Footballer of the Year – and how he reacted to Chelsea's late goal at Anfield this week. Sam Wallace reports from Vilamoura, Portugal
Saturday 26 April 2008
He does not look like a man who is missing the pressure. Today at 12.45pm, Jose Mourinho will settle down in front of his television at home in Setubal with a few friends and watch like the rest of us. He says he is relaxed and happy to be watching Chelsea against Manchester United from the settee rather than the dugout and, anyway, he says he knows Chelsea fans will always remember that his record against the reigning champions will take some beating.
Played 10, won 5, drawn 4, lost 1. That was Mourinho's record against United, which Avram Grant will do well to match. In all those games Chelsea scored 12 goals and conceded only five of which none, Mourinho takes great pleasure in pointing out, were scored by Cristiano Ronaldo. The man who has 38 goals this season for United, and will be crucial in today's match, is yet to put one past a Mourinho team. And it is Ronaldo whom Mourinho's successor Grant will be especially concerned about today as his Chelsea team cling desperately to what remains of their title challenge.
They are both Portuguese and they share the same agent, but Mourinho and Ronaldo never quite saw eye-to-eye. There was little doubt that around the time of Euro 2004, after Ronaldo's first season in the Premier League, there were moves made by Chelsea to explore the possibility of signing the then-teenager. However, last April, embroiled in a row with United over penalty decisions, Mourinho snapped back at comments from Ronaldo by accusing him of "lacking maturity and respect", a product he said of the player's "difficult childhood, no education".
So it is instructive that the former Chelsea manager has another point to make about whether Ronaldo deserves to be named the PFA and Football Writers' player of the year for the second consecutive season. He acknowledges that the winger is unsurpassed in terms of the impact he has made this season but that there is one thing that he must achieve if he is truly to be considered great.
"The player of the year must be the best of the year but he must also be a winner," Mourinho said. "I don't think he can be a player without a big trophy. Clearly what Ronaldo did in the season was magnificent. I think by far, or by some distance, he has been the best player in the Premiership but for me the best is always a winner because football is a collective sport. If Man United do something important by winning the Premiership or by winning the Champions League I would say – and not just me, the whole football world – give the trophy to him."
Mourinho will happily discuss Ronaldo, or the Champions League semi-final first leg between Chelsea and Liverpool on Tuesday; the one place he is not yet prepared to go is his feelings on his successor, Grant. Mention of the man, whose appointment as director of football he resisted until it became inevitable last summer, invites the polite but firm response, "I prefer not to answer." But take Mourinho back to football, and the business of winning matches, and he is up and running.
Mourinho has used his time off to invest the fortune he earned from Chelsea, and his subsequent pay-off in September, in some serious Algarve real estate. The man himself is thought to be worth something between £10m-£17m and some of that is being plunged into what the developers claim will be Portugal's first six-star resort. "I'm aggressive when it comes to football matches and cautious when it comes to investments," says Mourinho, although he is confident he will not be wasting his hard-earned on the Palacia da Quinta Resort and Spa outside the town of Vilamoura on the Algarve.
Yesterday Mourinho told The Independent that his sabbatical from football, more than seven months and counting, has been a pleasant experience. He watched on television as his former Chelsea players stole a 1-1 draw against Liverpool with that dramatic 94th-minute John Arne Riise own goal last Tuesday but he does not necessarily believe that there is any great advantage for Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
"It's a completely different result – 1-1 compared to 1-0 – but I am not a man who believes completely in percentages," Mourinho says. "I still think it is 50-50, I don't think it is a big advantage. This is a game of big clubs, big teams, big players, who are ready to play in this second leg with their hearts and emotions. So it is not a big, big difference.
"For example, last season the quarter-final when Chelsea [under Mourinho] drew at home 1-1 against Valencia many people thought that Valencia had an advantage. And they scored before Chelsea [in the second leg at the Mestalla] and Chelsea won [2-1]. In the four semi-finals this week, two in the Champions League, two in the Uefa Cup, there have been four draws and nobody is in a better position than anybody else."
It is curious that, only later in our conversation when he is discussing how he prepared them to beat Manchester United five out of the 10 times the two teams met, does Mourinho refers to Chelsea with the collective "we". Otherwise he maintains a detachment from his former club. But when you ask him to contrast Grant's good fortune in Riise's own goal with his own bad luck with Luis Garcia's controversial winner in 2005, he points out that he had his own good memories of Anfield too.
"To be fair, one of my most enjoyable football results – and I have so many – was at Anfield when we beat them 4-1 [in October, 2005]," Mourinho says. "I think Liverpool have a glorious history, I don't think they lost many matches at home by the margin of 4-1. So it was a great result for us. And of course I don't remember only the good moments, I also remember the bad ones. In the semi-final where we lost 1-0 to the ghost goal [by Garcia] was a sad moment but now, in this moment, I can laugh about it.
"That happened in exactly the same goal [as the Riise own goal], the same goal which has that incredible – I love it – crowd in the Kop that Liverpool have. It was exactly in the same goal so I think it is fair. Liverpool were lucky that time and Chelsea were lucky this time."
By beating Liverpool in the Champions League, however, Grant has an opportunity to do something that Mourinho never achieved although do not expect the Portuguese coach to be the first in line to dish out the credit if his successor does pull it off. He said that when it came to games like this it was "the details that made the difference" between winning and losing although he added that those details were unlikely to be dictated by Grant or Rafael Benítez.
"I don't think it is because of a good manager or a bad manager that Riise scored an own goal, it is nothing to do with managers," he said. "The goal, for example, that Costinha scored for my Porto team at Old Trafford [they drew 1-1, won 3-2 on aggregate in the last 16 round] when we won the Champions League in 2005 was nothing to do with the manager. It is the details and it is the moment of luck, a crucial moment. And in these big matches that is part of the game. But I think Liverpool and Chelsea supporters both have to understand the unpredictability of football."
He says that he has been in contact with Frank Lampard and his father Frank senior during the illness of Lampard's mother Pat and her subsequent death this week. "The whole Lampard family know how I feel and know the way I tried to support them in this difficult moment," Mourinho says. "I don't think I should say anything else. This is a very private situation. Unfortunately it's not the first time it has happened to a player and unfortunately it won't be the last time it happens to a player. It is a very personal issue, the way in which players react to something like that."
So when he sits down to watch today's game will Mourinho be struck by the desire to be in charge of Chelsea again? Like he was when they beat United 1-0 at home in August 2004, Mourinho's first competitive game in charge of the club. Or that 3-1 win on 10 May, 2005 at Old Trafford as Chelsea sealed their first title in 50 years. Or his last big victory, the 1-0 win at Wembley in May last year when he completed his set of all three domestic trophies with the FA Cup.
"You know if I was there now it would be nothing new to me," Mourinho said. "I was in that situation quite a few times. For example I have played a Champions League semi-final three times, so six matches. I also played crucial matches to be champion a few times.
"I played Chelsea v Man United to decide the champions two years ago so it is nothing new to me, it won't be a new experience to me. I cannot say I miss it a lot. If you ask me 'Do you look forward to my next challenge?' Yes, I look forward to it. I don't know when and I don't know where, I don't even know if it is immediately, this next season. But, yes, I look forward to my next challenge and I prepare myself for that. During these last few months I have not been sleeping 24 hours and not only enjoying my free time. I have also been studying and preparing myself for the next step.
"Football is part of my life. I don't forget these incredible experiences and moments I had with my previous clubs – and not just Chelsea – but I am not a person to miss the past. I am more a person who looks forward to the next challenge. If history repeats itself during my next challenge I will have the same kind of moments that I had with Porto and Chelsea. So that means I will, once again, be involved in these big matches that decide titles."
Special One's: Special Record
*JOSE MOURINHO Born 26 January 1963
Belenenses, Rio Ave, Sesimbra
2001-02 ......... União de Leiria
2002-04 ......... Porto
2004-07 ......... Chelsea
2003, 04 Portuguese League
2003 Portuguese Cup
2003 Portuguese Super Cup
2003 Uefa Cup
2004 Champions League
2005, 06 Premier League
2005, 07 League Cup
2007 FA Cup
2007 Community Shield
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