As Andre Villas-Boas prepares to come face-to-face with former mentor Jose Mourinho for the first time at White Hart Lane, the Tottenham Hotspur manager has acknowledged that their relationship has "broken down" since they parted company at Internazionale in 2009.
Villas-Boas spent seven years working under Mourinho as a scout, which included spells at Porto, Chelsea and Inter before he left to take up his first managerial post at Portuguese side Academica de Coimbra. The pair have hardly spoken since, with Villas-Boas revealing that Mourinho had rejected the former's request to become Mourinho's assistant while they were in Italy. Now with his compatriot back in charge at Chelsea and just two points separating the London rivals in the Premier League table, the Tottenham manager admitted the perception they are no longer friends is accurate but insisted they still retain a "mutual respect" for one another.
"We had a great personal and professional relationship before that we don't have now," said Villas-Boas. "I don't think we need explanation on friendship and personal relationships. But our relationship broke down. I think we have the mutual respect for each other. But it's not like it was before."
However when pressed over whether he regretted not being as close to Mourinho as when they worked together, Villas-Boas added: "I don't lose any sleep."
Last month's League Managers' Association meeting was the last time the two made contact, with Villas-Boas neatly sidestepping the question of whether he will share a glass of wine with his former mentor after the game because he is due to fly to a function to mark the 120th anniversary of Porto on Saturday night. However, he did elaborate on the circumstances surrounding his split from Mourinho in 2009, indicating for the first time that a difference of opinion was to blame.
"He didn't feel the need for somebody near to him or in another position as an assistant," Villas-Boas said. "I always had that ambition to coach any way. I think what it did was it made me anticipate the beginning of my career."
After successfully guiding Academica to safety from relegation, Villas-Boas was rewarded with the Porto job and won a league and Europa League double before once again following in Mourinho's footsteps by moving to Chelsea. He lasted less than eight months at Stamford Bridge but was given the opportunity to resurrect his career at Tottenham, guiding them to fifth place last season.
Now the apprentice will meet his former master with both sides fancying their chances as title contenders, although Villas-Boas was at pains to express his continued admiration for Mourinho.
"There is always an influence because, when you've worked so close together for seven years you learn methods that brought Jose so much success. You want to apply them as well," he said. "There are probably lots of things in my organisation I do similarly to him, of course."
Chelsea's purchase of Brazilian forward Willian from under Tottenham's noses in August has been widely interpreted as a deliberate ploy by Mourinho to undermine Villas-Boas. Yet after buying Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen instead, the Spurs manager insisted he bore no grudge.
"I have no idea what motivated them to sign Willian but I am sure he has strengthened an already very good squad," he said. "It is fine. Competition between clubs is aggressive and everyone strives to do the best deals possible. In the end we moved to other players and we have been extremely successful with it."
Villas-Boas also revealed that he had made an initial enquiry for Juan Mata in the summer and acknowledged that Chelsea's reluctance to sell was a signal that Tottenham have emerged as genuine rivals in the last 18 months.
He said: "Obviously when top players become available, when their situation changes at a club, and particularly for a player like Juan Mata, you enquire about the situation, but nothing went further than a simple enquiry. I suppose they wouldn't like to strengthen a rival."
Van Ginkel out for six months
Chelsea midfielder Marco van Ginkel is expected to be out for up to six months after having an operation to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The 20-year-old, making his second start following a £8.4m summer move from Vitesse Arnhem, suffered the knee injury during their Capital One Cup victory at Swindon Town.