José Mourinho at ABC
I was doubly excited to get a copy of ABC yesterday, because they featured José Mourinho on the cover, with a lengthy interview inside, plus their weekly magazine XLSemanal had an interview with Álvaro Arbeloa, which I’ve already shared with all of you. Anyway, Mou has some very interesting things to say and I love the little digs he gets in, but my favorite part is when the interviewer starts asking him about specific players.
Next to his chair, on the right, he has a tactical board so that in any moment, he can analyze any strategy of the team. In this, he’s unique. He can realize four different playing styles in a game until the scoreboard registers a comeback. A photo of the day he signed with Real Madrid hangs in his office. Karanka and Rui Faria can be found in the next room. José Mourinho has just become the champion of the Liga. He’s put the brakes on the cycle of Barcelona. He’s tranquil. He emanates security. The title is an incentive to win the Champions next year. The locker room is filled with images of the nine European Cups won by the club, and La Novena is right next to the door. La Décima should be in this locker room. The message says everything.
Seven league titles between Spain, England, Italy and Portugal. Champion in the three big leagues. Was it a challenge?
Yes. No coach has ever won the league in all three of the big leagues. It was an objective. It was a professional experience and a spectacular life experience. I hope I won’t be the only one to achieve this. In 10 years time, I hope there will be other coaches and players who have done this. My objective now is to win more Ligas with Madrid. And after my time in this club, I’ll work in one of the three big leagues, England, Italy and Spain. But at the moment, I have two more years left on my contract and my family and I are happy to have a stability that we hadn’t been able to enjoy until now, because we always moved each two to three years. We’re happy to continue with Real Madrid.
The president signed you to put an end to Barcelona’s cycle. You’ve achieved that in two years.
Florentino did a very difficult thing with me. I love Inter and the players I worked with there. And Moratti was a special person. But Florentino managed to get me excited about this project, with his mentality. They convinced me. Florentino told me that Madrid needed me. And I, in that moment of my career, after winning the Champions with Inter, needed Real Madrid so that my career would be complete. If I say today that I’m tired and I don’t want to coach anymore, my career would be perfect. I won everything I had to win, in the most important countries. I brought a Champions to my country as well. We obtained the first Ballon d’Or. If I didn’t coach in Madrid, it wouldn’t be a complete career. The important thing is not training or playing in Madrid, but winning with Madrid. I thank the presi because he convinced me to take this step. And for his support. Coaching Madrid has been and will continue to be the most difficult work of my career. And to answer the question: my objective in life isn’t to beat Barcelona. I’ve also lost to Barça. And losing to Barcelona does not hurt me more than losing to Bayern. And beating Barça does not give me more pleasure than beating Bayern in the Champions League final like I did. In the last three years, we beat (Barcelona) in the Champions (with Inter) and with Madrid we beat them in the Copa, and now we’ve won the Liga. It’s true that they’ve also beaten us in some things in these two years. But winning the Liga was very important to break their cycle. It was necessary for Madrid, as the most important club in history, to prevent this national hegemony from becoming more pronounced.
Has the cycle of your team begun?
It’s very difficult to speak about cycles. Barcelona, which is considered by everyone as the team with the most talent in recent times, was not able to win two consecutive Champions. They won one, lost against Inter, won another, and fell to Chelsea. The three consecutive Ligas were something fantastic. With me, Inter dominated for two years and then it ended. What is explicit for me is that this Madrid is much better than it was two years ago. And nothing will be the same now. Right now we have not won the European Cup, but a few years ago, we couldn’t even get to the quarterfinals and now we’ve played in two semifinals and lost one due to penalties. Madrid can’t always win but when it can’t, it should at least be close to winning.
Your critics say you’re a defensive coach and Madrid has improved on goal records. What would you say to them?
To look at my results. And how many goals Chelsea scored. And how many wins. The richness of my career is having coached in different countries. If you go to Italy and you play as you do in England, you won’t win. If you go to England and you play as they do in Spain, you don’t win. If you go to Spain and you play as they do in Italy, you don’t win. You go to a country where you don’t know anything and you have to triumph. And you need to study rivals, cultures, idiosyncrasies, the own culture of your club, the characteristics of the players. And I, someone who hopes to live for many years, will be here to see all of these phenomena coaching in different countries, cultures and clubs. I don’t think the Saudi Arabian national team, coached by Rijkaard, played like his Barcelona team. The secret to winning in different countries is that you can have your football tastes, but a coach has to win in that country and should play to win in this country.
You’ve transformed this team physically and tactically. But some still say you should play the talented players.
It’s difficult to separate the things. It’s difficult to describe players as talented because if you’re technically sound, but you don’t have the other aspect, it’s difficult to play with me. What I have done is transformed the mentality of those players who thought that being talented was enough. And with me, that’s not sufficient. Talent is fundamental, but emotion, ambition and heart are just as important. We have a great staff, wtih Rui Faria, Silvino, Morais and Karanka. And we want to have the players in the best possible playing conditions. It’s not an exercise of power, as some of those who have insulted me have said. I’ve even been called the Portuguese dictator. If I want a pre-season with three days of rest between games, it’s not to bother anyone. If I say today that there’s no contact with the sponsors and that another day we work behind closed doors, it’s done with the objective to evolve. The majority of my players – there are also examples of the complete opposite – are better than they were before they started working with me.
Do you like beautiful football or efficiency?
I love the beautiful football of Real Madrid. I don’t like it when the rival wears you down with ball possession. I like direct football that is dynamic, rapid, intense, with strong transitions. I like a football with a specific technique, with a physical and psychological condition adapted to this style. I love the football that Madrid has played. There are similarities with the Oporto that won the Champions League and UEFA Cup with me.
You protect your players. But there’s a Mourinho with the image of a tough guy. Do the two Mourinhos co-exist?
Yes, the two Mourinhos co-exist with the same players. Leading is difficult. You have to stimulate. And you should have two faces. Casillas told me, “Joder, throughout the season there were moments when you put a lot of pressure on us, where you were a bit of a bastard with the group.” I laughed with him, but I knew what I did, what I wanted to provoke. In certain moments, I wanted to elevate the levels of pressure, concentration, motivation. Afterward, there was also the moment when it was the opposite. After falling to Bayern, they saw a more affectionate coach. I said, “calm down, the championship is won.” You should get the best out of everyone. A coach that does not like to do this will not stay for very long.
Guardiola said there were some strange things with the refereeing. Now that he’s lost, have we seen the real Pep?
I’ve known Guardiola since he was a player and I was an assistant. I have very good memories of him. Afterward, life changed, people changed. It’s very different being a player than a coach. We commit errors, we have bad moments with the things that we say. What is not normal is to sell an image of perfection and afterward, in the end, nothing is perfect. I’ve never tried to hide my defects. On the other hand, there are people who have different personalities, who hide it, but in the end, time will show everything. No one is perfect, not in football nor in life.
You wished Pep to be happy in his new life. You were criticized. They didn’t believe you. If you had said nothing, you would have been called nasty. Do they always look for the bad side?
Yes, but personal attacks no longer faze me. It hurts me a bit if one of my children see it and say, “look papá, look what they said about you.” It hurts me because they’re hurt, and they think that it hurt me. I tell them not to worry, that nothing happened. Perhaps it’s my fault, because I love football, but I don’t love the environment that surrounds football. I eat at home, I don’t go to eat at certain restaurants where you can cultivate fake friendships. I’ve always enjoyed my independence. I’ve never renounced it. And that’s how I got to where I am. I’m 49, I’m not going to change. I’m not the kind of person who knows how to cultivate those parallel aspects of the career of a public person like me.
What has Madrid taught you, and what have you taught Madrid?
You have to have a special personality to be a player or coach of Madrid, but if you have this personality, they help you to grow a lot. When Florentino spoke with me for the first time, he told me, “if you want to be one of the best coaches in history, you need to manage Real Madrid.” I agree. I have a saying: whoever works in football should love football and Real Madrid or the club where you work. When you aren’t born in love with the club where you work, because you were born in another country, you should assimilate its culture, its history, so that you’re transformed into one more. I want the equipment managers to love football and Madrid, for the fisios to work like crazy to help a player recover to play on Sunday. Look at Óscar (Ribot), after his family, the thing he loves most is Real Madrid. That’s what the people who work with me have to be like. And whoever is not like that needs to be taught how to become like that. If you don’t have an atmosphere of ambition, it’s very difficult to achieve objectives. Here, everyone has contributed to the title. In order to feel this ambition to win, many months ago I told the presi and JAS that I was going to continue, that I didn’t have anything to do with any other club that wanted me.
Are you counting on Higuaín?
Higuaín is going to continue. He’s going to continue because I don’t want to let him go. And Madrid doesn’t want to let him go. And he has an optimal contract, and for many more years. He’s not a player who just arrived one year ago and makes little money. He earns on the same level as the others. An offer can come of 40, 50, 60 millions or whatever, and Madrid won’t want to sell him. That’s why the only problem he should have is in explaining to those who want to take him from here that he’s not going to leave! I have no problem: my two center forwards for the next season are going to be Higuaín and Benzema. So there’s nothing to the stories. And if there were something, well, you wouldn’t play a footballer that you don’t want or whom you believe is not going to continue. But that is the case with Adán.
We were going to ask you about that.
If Madrid is looking in the market for a goalkeeper, it’s because Adán doesn’t want to continue. My work is to convince Antonio to stay. I’ve asked Iker for help! I said, “help me to convince him to stay…”
Well, it’s been said that Mourinho is looking for a goalkeeper to get rid of Iker…
Yes, that, to get rid of Iker. And I asked Iker to help me!
There’s no problems with Iker?
There are no problems whatsoever. There’s no story. We have Tomás and Jesús after Adán, but they can’t be the second goalkeeper of Madrid yet. They play in Castilla and they’re evolving well. We also have Pacheco in RMC, whom I like a lot. But Adán is the second goalkeeper and if we are unable to convince him to stay, we have to find a solution. We should give him more games, promise him that he’ll play in the Copa. I admire his ambition in telling me, “I would love to stay in Madrid, but I want to play every Sunday.” That became “we want to get rid of Casillas.”
Pepe is having a fantastic season in terms of football, but he’s being stigmatized. Does he feel like he’s being pursued?
Pepe is having a fantastic season. People have to give in to the evidence. I don’t believe what is said is so cruel that, without forgetting some small things in the past, it doesn’t highlight that he’s a different player. His performance has a double value. Many in his place would have gone to England or Italy. There were discussions about his renewal and he always said “Madrid.” He doesn’t have the best contract that he could have signed, because one year later he was free. People have to admit that he’s done well.
What did you do to change the cat into a dog?
Benzema is great. The biggest factor in his transformation was he himself. Many people have contributed to this evolution. Óscar Ribot helped him a lot in his social life [what did he do?]. Zidane is the one who accompanied him the most to be close to him. And I was unyielding with aspects of his game. I would tell him, “I don’t accept that, you have to achieve that, you have to change.” He managed to overcome those small ghosts of his first two seasons and he’s had a fantastic season.
Will Sahin be loaned out or will he stay?
He’s staying. He didn’t have a complete pre-season with us and now he will.
Mou was also asked several questions in two other short interviews.
What do you think about the Spanish national team? Favorites in the Eurocopa?
It’s the best national team in the world. The one with the most talent. What it has done is combine a generation of incredible talent. The people of Barça and the people of Madrid, the two together. We’re speaking of a lot of talent. And I’m not forgetting the four or five players that are there, one in City, one in Málaga, another in Chelsea. But these two blocs have a lot of quality together. There’s another big advantage: only Germany also has a base, that of Bayern, but the rest of the national teams don’t. England and Portugal have their players separated amongst many teams. Spain, on the other hand, has two groups and they know each other very well. And they’re managed by a perfect coach – Del Bosque – who knows about football, who knows how to manage people, very balanced, very tranquil. I don’t know if they’re going to win the Eurocopa again, but they’re the best team.
On an individual scale, Cristiano and Messi have a rivalry among the best in the world.
Cristiano and Messi are the best players in the world, and far ahead of all others. If they belonged to different generations, they would win 10 Ballon d’Or awards. Who will receive it this year? The one that achieves the best season collectively. Last year, Cristiano set a goal record and won the Pichichi, and Messi received the Ballon because he won the Liga and Champions. In the current season, who won the most important league in the world? Cristiano. Which of the two won the Champions League? Neither. Who deserves the Ballon d’Or? Cristiano.
You want Madrid to be the greatest. Next year, you’ll go for the Champions League and Liga again.
Those are our goals. We will make two changes (signings) to make the squad better. The players that arrived this season and who suffered with the adaptation will be more comfortable. And we’re also improving the infrastructure. In that sense, hats off to the presi and JAS, because the level of the economic and institutional stability of the club is something to be praised. Real Madrid, as a company and as a business, is a special case in this European society which is having difficulties.
Why do you attract the young players?
Do you know why? Because I’m young. A young 49 years old. The boys feel my strength, my character, my ambition. I’m a person that transmits a desire to live, who isn’t politically correct. I’m discordant. A person who fights for liberties. I don’t care if I’m suspended for four games for saying something. Rui Faria told me the other day, “Joder, you always demand a high performance, you don’t conform to anything, you always criticize someone on your staff.” A few seconds later, Rui, who is very intelligent, added, “but if you weren’t like that, we wouldn’t be how we are.” People have discovered in me an old man with his characteristics.
Does the economic crisis worry you?
Of course. Sometimes I even feel a bit bad, because I live in a completely different world, economically speaking. And I don’t have to feel bad, but I do. I’m proud that my family lives in respect for others. It hurts a bit on the inside that we, those in football, live in a different world, without having the problems that the majority of people are suffering today. A few years ago, people were worried about preparing for their future. Now they are preoccupied with living day to day, just surviving to the next day. And we’re in a different dimension. We try to help those people who need it, but for my personality and that of my wife, we’ve always done this quietly. There won’t be any foundations or public donations with me. No. Quietly.
Will you coach Portugal one day?
Yes. I want to. But that’s not the life for me at this moment, with a game each month, waiting two years for a serious competition. I was on the verge of coaching the English national team in 2007… on the verge! I thought it over and I said no, because in two months time, I was going to be unhappy.
You’re very religious.
Yes, I’m very Catholic.
How can you combine being Catholic with this work, where you receive so many attacks, criticism? Can you turn the other cheek in football?
How do I combine it (smiles)? There are always contradictions in life. Turn the other cheek? Being a devout Catholic doesn’t mean that you have to follow a certain line at all times. The most important thing is that He (Mourinho points up at the heavens) knows who I am. That He knows what I feel. That He hears me when I speak with him. That He hears me when I ask for forgiveness for things that I’ve done. In the end, He knows that there are things that are sacred to me. And I’m good with Him. And I believe that He’s also good with me.