Mourinho on life in Spain and Italy
In an interview with Corriere Della Serra, Real Madrid boss José Mourinho speaks about life in both Spain and Italy, his wishes for the future, and the respect shown between himself and his players.
José Mourinho. How’s it going in Madrid?
Very well. We are leading La Liga and have an excellent chance of reaching the Champions League semi-finals. It’s going well.
Yet you still get criticism.
We are used to it. In football you get criticised if you say white is white or black is black, even if you speak after a game or are quiet. Sometimes I feel lost because I don’t know what direction I should take: I’m always criticised in any case.
Is that normal?
Yes, it’s my job, although sometimes I am certainly shown a lack of respect.
Do people notice it?
The players certainly do and so does my wife and family.
How do you earn respect from players?
Footballers are people who have everything. They have status. They have intelligence and are studious, with access to everything. They know when a Coach has prepared well. They also know when a Coach is not so well prepared, and what honesty in a Coach is. They know everything about us and I think the way to gain their respect is to earn it. And I respect players more than anything else in football.
You have coached and won things in different countries. How have you passed on this winning mentality in different cultures?
Firstly, you need to be very lucky.
Do you consider yourself a lucky man?
Very lucky. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great people.
Tell us about your teams.
I don’t think you can completely change people’s personality. When you join a club you try to bring out the best in the people you work with. When you buy a player you try to get information about him, his personality and his character, but you must be lucky. I get to know him only when we work together.
And what are the people like with whom you have worked.?
Fantastic. At Chelsea half the team was African and that was something unique. Twelve African players alongside 11 Europeans created a fantastic team. At Inter we had seven or eight Argentines, an amazing family. I’ve never heard, never even heard of, a family such as that.
It seems as if you still miss that group of players..
And they miss me.
How do you build a winning team?
The important thing is to communicate with them in the local language. Spanish in Spain, English in England. You can’t use any other language. At the same time I think it’s good to speak different languages for private conversations with players. When you are with them in private and not in a group, communicating with them in their language is really important in building a different relationship.
Do you feel like a winner?
I am a winner.
What makes you special compared to other coaches?
I think a Coach should concentrate on victories, titles, results. That’s what makes history. Over the last 10 years nobody has won as many titles as I have, so I must be special.
Does the ‘Special One’ nickname weigh you down?
It’s just a nickname and not a negative one, so it doesn’t weigh me down.
So what’s so special about José Mourinho?
Being special means to win football matches. People forget the losers. I said that last season when we lost to Barcelona in the semi-final. Supporters said to me that people would never forget we lost the game, because of Higuaín’s disallowed goal, the red cards....And I answered yes, people will forget. In a couple of years they won’t remember what happened, just who won. So if you can win then you do, and then you win, win, and win again. Winning is not everything but if you do it regularly it becomes part of history.
How did you become a winner?
I don’t know. I think I was competitive as a child. I was all for competition, even the simplest things, and when you compete you want to win. I think it’s something with which we are born.
Who do you compete with?
I challenge myself more than challenge others. I always set difficult targets and I think I’m always competing with myself.
I heard you say you can hear the ‘noise of the enemy’. Do you remember that phrase?
Do you need enemies so you can give your maximum?
It’s better. I don’t think it’s crucial but it’s better, especially when you have had some success and tend to relax. If you hear that noise, if you feel you can take advantage of a difficult period, then it helps. So yes, I would rather have enemies.
Do you have many?
Look, I want to clarify that the word enemy is not one I use in my personal life: when I say enemy I mean in a football sense. From childhood we start to compete and even my friends are my enemies then. Adrenalin is something your body needs to relax and to avoid that I prefer to hear ‘the noise of enemies’.
About famous phrases let’s, talk of ‘zero titles’.
What did you plan to say in that Press conference?
I always plan Press conferences. When you are focused on the game, when there is training to talk about, I always know what I mean when I speak.
That phrase has become a mantra in Italy. How did it come about?
We were at a crucial moment of the season. We could have won everything or nothing. Roma, Juventus and Milan were behind us in the league. We had to play the Italian cup final against Roma and were in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, still far from winning it. I needed to put some pressure on the others and make them realise it could happen to them that they won ‘zero titles’.
And it happened. When did you realise you had created a catchphrase?
A couple of days after the Press conference. I arrived at Appiano Gentile (where Inter’s training complex is located) and saw a group of boys who sold t-shirts running towards me, and they gave me three of them through an open window. “Mister, mister, thanks” they said. I said: “What for?” They then showed me the t-shirt with a picture of handcuffs and with zero titles written on it. “We are selling a lot” they said, so I’m glad I responded.
Those were good times at Inter. Things have changed a little now.
I know. I am Inter’s biggest fan.
You’ve always said that. You also said Inter is your home and sooner or later you would return.
It’s true, that’s what I said.
More than one Inter fan hopes it will be sooner rather than later.
If that’s a way to ask me about my future then I will say it’s a subject on which I have nothing to say. I have a two-year contract with Real Madrid and I’ve never said I wouldn’t stay in Madrid.
Message received. Do you still feel as though you are the leader in Madrid?
Is it easy to be a leader?
More than just easy, it’s natural for me. It’s been my job for many years. When I arrive at the training ground I know who people are and what they expect from me. I know I must be in control when I am working. It’s something natural and I don’t feel the pressure. I have to operate and when I’m on holiday I miss that feeling.
You have become a celebrity because of your looks and unsurprisingly become the spokesperson for several brands.
I believe to be a good coach you need leadership and hard work. You don’t do it for a jacket or a haircut, or because you have a good ability to communicate.
Your coat is exhibited in the museum at Chelsea.
It’s a funny story. I wore that coat for two seasons, an Armani one, and I put it up for auction to raise money for a foundation that helped children with cancer, of which Mrs. Blair and I were ambassadors. A gentleman bought it, paid a good price for it, and took it home. But then he realised the coat was not his, but Chelsea’s, so he decided to donate it to the museum. Now the coat is there, with Lampard and Drogba’s boots. I’m happy it was auctioned and even more delighted this gentleman decided to donate it to the museum.
Did you construct your fashionable look?
For heaven’s sake! I don’t care to dress for others but to feel comfortable. You will see me one day in a nice suit, clean shaven, and on others as though I was in pyjamas, slippers and shorts. Adidas is perhaps my favourite brand since I was a child. I spent a lot of money before I was sponsored by them and right now they are paying me back with interest. But no, I’m not a man of fashion.
Is it ever spoken about in the dressing room?
If you were to recall one argument what would you remember?
Maybe the one with Ibrahimovic, the only one I had with him. It lasted five minutes. He wanted to go to Barcelona to win the Champions League. I was angry with him and told him he was here and under contract to Inter.
You were right.
I was sorry for Ibra because he is an amazing player and an amazing guy, the kind of guy you love, who has a great life outside football with his family. He lives for his family, for football, and is a winner.
Ibrahimovic’s detractors have pointed out he has not won anything in Europe.
I’m sorry but sometimes people forget what he has done: he has won nine championships in a row and nobody should forget that. I will say this: he still has time to win the Champions League as it’s the only trophy he doesn’t have.
Ibrahimovic only speaks well of you, like all the players you have coached.
I believe players know instinctively if you respect them, and when you respect them the question is not about playing or not playing, if they have won titles or not. The players feel you can relate to them and when you give them this respect it becomes mutual.
Do you feel more responsibility in managing players or with your children?
Definitely with my children, even though they have the easy bit.
In what sense?
I mean you need to be a parent to perform the most difficult task: to educate them. Due to my work I’m not with them much, but when I am at home rather than educate them I try to enjoy it as much as possible.
Does your boy play football?
At Real Madrid?
No, impossible. You don’t want your kids to suffer from pressure and insults because they need to have fun.
What are the next targets for José Mourinho?
In football there are three, all very difficult: being the only person to have won the Champions League with three different teams: being the only person to have won three different championships in the world’s toughest leagues, England, Italy and Spain: and being the first to have won something for a few years with the Portuguese national team.
And in life?
Just to stay healthy. I love to see people who are healthy and I want to enjoy my family, my wife, my children and my children’s children.
And how would you describe José Mourinho when you retire?
As a man of football who made the most of his work.
The original and full Italian version of this interview conducted by Roberto De Ponti and published on Corriere.it can be found here.
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