Photo: ACTION IMAGES
The great irony with Jose
Mourinho’s unguarded and supposedly secret critique of his strikers
is that a camera or recording device is never usually the prompt for an
outbreak of inhibition or diplomacy.
That was again entertainingly evident on Tuesday when, ahead of tomorrow
League tie against Galatasaray, Mourinho rose to some provocation
from their manager, Roberto Mancini.
Before working for Manchester
City in the Premier
League, Mancini had been Mourinho’s predecessor at Inter Milan. And
Mancini also made a rather cheeky attempt yesterday to take much of the
credit for Mourinho’s historic ‘treble’ of 2010 when he led Inter to the
Champions League, Serie A and Italian Cup.
“Mourinho won the Champions League because he took a good team,” said Mancini.
“He took a team that, like Manchester City, I built. A team that had a
Mourinho’s response was predictably withering – and he was certainly happy for
the tapes to be running.
“It’s funny,” he said. “It’s funny because my team had Lucio, [Thiago] Motta,
[Diego] Milito, [Samuel] Eto’o, [Goran] Pandev and [Wesley] Sneijder. From
11 players, he didn’t work with six of them. So he made a five-a-side team
because I played with only five players from his team.”
Mourinho believes that he is engaged in a similar process of rebuilding and
renovation this year, although Mancini smiled knowingly when it was put to
him that Chelsea, in the eyes of their manager at least, are only “young
Mancini also made a blatant attempt to pile all the pressure back on to
“We are young,” said Mancini. “Everyone knows Chelsea are one of the best
teams in Europe. They won the Europa
League last year and the Champions League the year before. They are
top of the Premier League. They have really good players. I think they are
80 per cent to go through.”
Should that happen, it would take Mourinho to the brink of reaching the
semi-final or better in the Champions League for the eighth time in his 10
seasons managing in the competition.
Mancini also has extensive experience in the Champions League with Lazio,
Inter and then Manchester City but has progressed only once to the
quarter-finals, where Inter lost to Manuel Pellegrini’s Villarreal in 2006.
There is little comparison, then, between the respective records of the two
managers in this competition although Mourinho still knows enough about the
Champions league to be wary. Those seven previous trips to the semi-finals
ended in two victories but also five defeats.
Having accused others of making the European Cup “their obsession”, Mourinho
believes that the unpredictability of knockout football means that it would
be futile to start worrying excessively about becoming the first coach to
win it with three different clubs.
“It’s a great competition but I’ve had very bad moments,” said Mourinho. “I
had two semi-finals lost on penalties. I have the semi-final at Liverpool
lost with the goal that was not a goal.
“I had some really bad decisions against my teams that have had a big
influence. But a career is made by good moments and bad moments and I can
also say that, in the Champions League, I lived the best moments of my
career. It is great for people who are naturally competitive. The detail
makes the difference.”
Mourinho talks of “three favourites” this year – presumably Bayern Munich,
Barcelona and Real Madrid – and remains adamant that, for Chelsea, the
priority is to give players such as Eden Hazard, Willian, Oscar and César
Azpilicueta experience of club football’s biggest competition.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s match in Istanbul, three particular challenges were
highlighted. Mourinho described the atmosphere that awaits Chelsea in the
Turk Telekom Arena as “difficult” and warned that, even at Stamford Bridge
next month, the Galatasaray supporters will “put pressure on the opponents,
on referees and decisions”.
There is also some concern about the state of the pitch, particularly after
Galatasaray’s dramatic two-day win in the snow against Juventus that
eventually sealed their place in the last 16.
Chelsea opted to train about 15 miles out of town on Tuesday at Kasimpasa’s
plush training complex rather than the Turk Telekom Arena.
“Even in the first match, when there was no snow, the pitch was not in the
best condition and I think it favours them because they are a very
competitive side, very physical, very aggressive,” said Mourinho.
“They will prefer a fighting, aggressive match. They play with their know-how.
For my people like Oscar and Hazard it is an experience to catch with both
hands and learn.”
Mourinho also singled out the threat posed by Didier Drogba and Wesley
Sneijder, two past winners of the Champions League and players on whom he
has had an enormous influence.
Petr Cech described Drogba as still “one of the best strikers in the world”
and a player who Chelsea miss.
“You always miss players who leave a mark,” he said. Friendships, though, will
clearly be forgotten on Wednesday night.
“For 90 minutes, I think they will be enemies,” said Mancini. “These players
can decide this game. Unfortunately, me and Mourinho can’t play.”
Sneijder was still asked to compare the rival managers and, for all the
diplomacy in his answer, his affection for Mourinho was obvious.
“All coaches are different – they’re both good,” he said. “Of course I have
some special feelings with Mourinho because we won the treble together and
had a great year.
“We are friends outside the pitch. The tactical approach of both of them is
really strong. In the way we have to play when the opponents have the ball,
they’re quite similar. As people they’re quite different.”
It was the first understatement of the day.
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