It was, at least on the surface, with humility, contentment and some far-sightedness that Jose Mourinho spoke about his return to Chelsea this afternoon.
After three years at Real Madrid of wearisome, draining internal politics he was pleased to be back at a team which – strange as this is to say about Chelsea – might just be a more stable place than where he left.
Mourinho is loved here. There were grown men with ‘Welcome Home Special One’ t-shirts outside Stamford Bridge earlier this afternoon. So, for now at least, there is no need for the old furious feuding, the bitterness, the pettiness that has characterised some of his previous work.
“I am the happy one,” were his very first words, setting the tone for a fairly agreeable if slightly repetitive re-introduction to the British media. “In this moment, if I have to describe myself, I describe myself as a very happy person. It’s the first time I have arrived in a club where I already love the club.”
As he pointed out, Mourinho is now 50 years old and there was little of the bombast of the younger man. “Back in 2000, when I was managing for the first time, I thought I knew everything. After 13 years, you realise you knew nothing and you have to learn every day.”
He looked calmer, and he felt it. “I believe so. You have to learn with experiences. Experience in life is something very, very important, especially if you visit it in the right way. I analyse myself every day.”
There were plenty of opportunities for Mourinho to tear into any of his recent rivals – Rafael Benitez, Pep Guardiola, Iker Casillas and Arsene Wenger – many of which Mourinho turned down or deflected. There were chances to dig at his likely new rivals – not least Manuel Pellegrini and David Moyes – but with not much in return.
The only times when Mourinho flickered away from his new-found mellowness, his middle-aged settlement, were to take issue with questions he did not like. When asked about repairing his broken-down relationship with Roman Abramovich, he insisted that the description was “not true”, and said that his return was testament his closeness to the Chelsea owner, whose philosophy and guidance he is willing to follow.
“Only because there was never a break of relation is it possible I am here today,” Mourinho said. “I wouldn’t be possible being here if we had had real problems.”
“We all want the same. We are in the same direction. My area is the football area but more and more you have to be deeply connected with other areas in the club. I think we have the same kind of vision. I am more than happy to follow this philosophy that we want for the team, and I am more than happy to be back. I am very calm, very relaxed.”
Now, after his grand tour of Europe, his unprecedented grand slam of English, Spanish and Italian titles and cups – about which, it must be said, he is not shy of talking – Mourinho feels like he can finally settle.
“I'm back because we feel we are in a moment of my professional life – and in the case of the owner also a moment of his career as an owner – where we are probably in the best moment of our careers, and ready to work together again and with much better conditions this time to succeed and have what this club wants: which is stability.”