He came, he saw, he conquered...

Unknown a year ago, Jose Mourinho has been quick to impress in the Premiership.
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"I don't go there to be part of your movie. My movie is another one."

"I don't go there to be part of your movie. My movie is another one."

Jose Mourinho was talking about his attitude to press conferences but it could easily apply to the Chelsea's manager's philosophy on his work. The choice of metaphor is not accidental. Mourinho loves films. On away trips he carries his Sony Vaio laptop with him - the night before last season's Champions League final he planned to watch a DVD of The Punisher starring John Travolta - and when he describes meeting Roman Abramovich it's like a scene from a James Bond flick: the French Riviera, the speedboat, the monumental yacht. And the pressure Mourinho is under? That brings another screen reference. "Worthy of Don Corleone," he says.

It is a vivid theme, one Mourinho enhances in a rare moment when he allows his guard to drop. Even Mourinho is star-struck. "I don't have many invitations to social events in London," says the workaholic, not previously known for his liking for parties. When he arrived in June he moved into a flat in Eaton Square, Belgravia, an area recently described as the "Mount Olympus" of the capital's property market.

In Eaton Square, with its Doric columns across terraced facades, his neighbours include Abramovich and the former 007 Roger Moore. "English actors know me," he says proudly. "But the Americans don't. We can meet on the street, because we all live near. It is usual to be walking down the street and cross paths with Sean Connery. One of my deputies Brito [Baltemar Brito, his assistant coach] lives in the same building as Monica Bellucci. Jeremy Irons lives near me also."

If Mourinho's life is a movie, then its pre-production has been extensive. "He's an overnight sensation who is 20 years in the making," says Andy Roxburgh, Uefa's technical director. He should know. Roxburgh has been acquainted with Mourinho all that time, through which the 42-year-old Portuguese has travelled from interpreter to assistant to coach. He has worked his way through the divisions to win the Champions' League, and five of the last six competitions he has entered (the other, he claims, he was cheated out of).

Mourinho's record is simply extraordinary especially as, even to the most global of football supporters, he was little-known until his Porto side beat Celtic in the Uefa Cup final two years ago. Indeed, many in England will only have noticed him when he did his manic jig along the Old Trafford touchline after beating Manchester United last spring. But more than the trophies and medals it is the ease with which he has so convincingly assimilated into English football, from the matches to the media, that has impressed. Mourinho has studied it all his life but, still, there is a difference between being a student and a master. Tomorrow he faces his biggest test yet as Chelsea manager, away to Arsène Wenger's champions, yet it is his side that goes into the game clear at the top of the Premiership, and the way he has approached the Arsenal match has oozed assurance.

It was through Roxburgh that Mourinho acquired his first coaching badge, when he attended a Scottish Football Association course in Largs, Ayrshire. Two weeks ago Roxburgh travelled to London to interview him for a coaching magazine. "He said something that surprised me," Roxburgh says. "We used small-sided games on that course and it had a profound effect upon him."

It is typical Mourinho. He simply stores information. Small-sided games now feature daily at Chelsea's training ground as everything is geared to working with the ball. "I know that players appreciate his training methods and attention to detail," Roxburgh says. "He is also very personable and has good communication skills."

Alexei Smertin can vouch for that, having been sought out by Mourinho the day after Russia were eliminated from Euro 2004. Smertin was down and unsure of what future he had at Chelsea, if any. Mourinho put his arm around him and spoke in French - a language they both understood - about how much he wanted him.

For Roxburgh, Mourinho was a willing, enthusiastic and, above all, interested student. His public image - ice-cool, dispassionate, detached - is misleading though even his wife, Tami, has said she had to learn to "decodify him". Indeed, he has quickly forged a strong bond with Abramovich who likes his style - from the speeches to the stubble - and the fact that he is totally unfazed by the task or its master.

Abramovich finds Mourinho good and convincing company. Travelling on the team bus, sitting in the dug-out for training sessions are things Abramovich would not have considered last season. Even a self-made billionaire wants to witness some of Mourinho's alchemy.

The admiration is reciprocated. "I'm impressed by Abramovich's passion for football," Mourinho recently told the Portuguese magazine Unica. "He wants to understand a lot. He likes to speak and ask. Normally, during the week, he does not come here, but when he does he shakes everyone's hand, from the man who takes care of the equipment to the lady who washes the clothes. He doesn't want pictures or interviews - nothing except living his life the best he can and make the best of what he has got."

It is a shared philosophy. Indeed Roxburgh says that far from the public perception Mourinho does not "need the limelight". "With big-name players you sometimes see that they do," Roxburgh adds, "but because of his background that's not the case".

That Mourinho failed to follow his father, Felix, and make it as a famous footballer is well known. Instead he learned, from an early age, every aspect of the game, and it does not take a psychologist to explain why coaches such as he, and Wenger, are so successful. Mourinho is complimentary about the Arsenal manager - even if there is a caveat. "Wenger never won anything at European level," he tells Unica, "but what he has done with Arsenal in England has to make him a great coach."

And what of Mourinho. Does he consider himself great?

"I consider myself one of the best."

Who are the others?

"The ones that win as many things as me. There is nobody who has won so much in consecutive years, but there are winning coaches in Italy."

Arrogance or justified self-belief? Both, perhaps, but Mourinho knows Abramovich will drop him like a stone if he does not bring success. He also knows that his relationship with the Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon, is not so strong. The pair have issues, it is said, and it is interesting that Mourinho abstained from the discussions as to whether or not to buy Wayne Rooney. Kenyon blocked a bid for Rooney - fearing him to be another Paul Gascoigne - which earned him a rebuke from Abramovich after the Russian had seen the teenager rattle in a hat-trick against Fenerbahce. Kenyon, who has much to prove himself, has also quipped that Chelsea will not be a club run on Mourinho's self-confidence.

The man himself would probably agree. There is little secret to his success. He calls it his "methodology". Those close to him find him incredibly hard-working, progressive, meticulous in his preparation but also, vitally, that he has an instinct to change things if they are not successful. Mourinho calls it his ability to "smell" what to do.

In Portugal they divide coaches into two types: the smart and the scientific. Sir Alex Ferguson is smart; his deputy, Carlos Queiroz, is scientific. The first is instinctive, passionate, but also intensely human. The second is analytical, detailed, a bit more programmed. Mourinho is both. "There is an impression that he is a purely analytical robot," Roxburgh says. "The enigma is that he is all that but is also very passionate and emotional." Mourinho himself appears to concur. "I have a new way of thinking the game, the players and the practice," he says. "I defend the globalisation of the work, the non-separation of the physical, technical, tactical and psychological. The psychological is fundamental."

It is easy to trace where the combination comes from. At Barcelona, Mourinho assisted the smart Sir Bobby Robson before being retained by his successor, the scientific Louis van Gaal. From the former he learned to put his arm around players, to cajole and also to shout at John Terry not to "fuck about" during training.

From Van Gaal, Mourinho honed his incredible attention to detail. "If the manager says the training session will last 90 minutes then the last play is in the 90th minute," says Eidur Gudjohnsen. "After he came in on the first day we knew our schedule for the next four, five weeks."

"He is very, very bright," says Roxburgh "Most of the top coaches are like that." What marks the "élite", he says, is the attention to detail which "minimises the possible damage to their teams". This was apparent at a conference in Nyon in September in which Roxburgh divided the coaches into groups. In the English section, chaired by Sir Alex Ferguson, sat Gérard Houllier, Wenger and Mourinho. Oh to have been a fly on that wall.

Mourinho's ideas are all stored on his laptop. He used the machine to make his famous "Powerpoint" presentation to Abramovich in which he analysed Chelsea's strengths and weaknesses with forensic detail. Also on the computer is Mourinho's "bible", an extraordinary document that contains his theories about teamwork (its first line is, "The team is more important than the player"), his philosophies, beliefs and even his definition of what the role of club chairman should be. He never shows it to anyone. It's his secret - as are the notebooks he keeps hidden in his coat and the private diary.

There is also a locked cupboard at Chelsea's training ground full of dossiers and DVDs, many of them compiled by Andre Villas Boas, a reformed addict of the Championship Manager computer game, who heads what Mourinho calls his "Opponent Observation Department". Boas takes four days at a time to compile detailed reports on forthcoming opponents. Mourinho used to do the same for his father. Sometimes each player receives a document running to 10 pages, sometimes it is simply a DVD showing which way a player turns or shoots. Boas is just 26, and is known as the "Mini Mourinho", and like all of Mourinho's staff has known his boss for several years. "With my staff things are clear in one respect - they grew up with me," says Mourinho.

It is the same with some of the players. He signed four from his homeland, but resisted the urge to acquire more. "The core had to be English. I wanted to show my players that I could build a team without the need to bring in all my 'children'."

Whatever the player's nationality, Mourinho can be brutal. There were initial fears that Damien Duff was injured too much and might not fit in. When he went to see the winger play for the Republic of Ireland in Dublin he did not even speak to him. That was calculated. But Duff responded and is now a vital part of his team. It shows that Mourinho can also be won round.

The Premiership has changed him. Mourinho claims he is calmer and, so far, there have been few of the histrionics that have studded his career. He says the football is "more honest", likes London and wants to remain here. He has spoken of the need for his children not to change schools constantly.

What strikes all that encounter him is his remarkable belief in himself, a belief that allows him, unusually among managers, to sleep easily. "I think it's normal that a coach, the night before a match doesn't sleep well," he says. "Some sleep badly because they are afraid but, since I do not sleep badly, I don't consider it to be normal."

Normal? The extraordinary Jose Mario Santos Mourinho Felix probably doesn't acknowledge the meaning of the word. After all, it doesn't make for an interesting script.