September 23, 2019
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Mourinho: "Messi made me a better coach"

 Soccer head coach Jose Mourinho attends the presentation of the sports application LiveScore in Madrid, Spain, 12 September 2019. EPA-EFE/RODRIGO JIMENEZ

Soccer head coach Jose Mourinho attends the presentation of the sports application LiveScore in Madrid, Spain, 12 September 2019. EPA-EFE/RODRIGO JIMENEZ

By Luis Villarejo

Madrid, Sep 13 (EFE).- It’s been six years since José Mourinho said adiós to Real Madrid. Speaking to Efe, the Portuguese star reflected on his time there and said he had “fantastic memories” of his time with the top Spanish side and confessed that Leo Messi made him “a better coach” because his talents pushed him to pull his own best tricks out of the bag.

Mourinho still has fond memories of all the clubs he’s been involved in and maintains friendships with their former presidents.

Question: Do you miss Spain and La Liga?

Answer: Madrid, Milan, London, Porto. Every time I come back, I come back happy. I enjoyed my work there, people treated me well and I’ve always left clubs on good terms, even when it was the club’s decision, like in the case of Chelsea and Manchester United. I’ve always left the club on good terms so I’m always thrilled to come back, in this case to Madrid.

At Madrid there were three good years, obviously, there were difficulties and problems, but that’s part of professional life, which isn’t easy. I’ve got fantastic memories. And they were years I felt my children grow, they stopped being children and became teenagers.

Q: It’s been Cristiano and Messi’s decade. How do you think they have been able to be one better than the other every week?

A: I think it’s their nature (...) Messi never played in my team but I played against him and he made me a better coach for having to plan matches, having to organize my team. When I say Messi I’m also talking about all the great players I’ve played against.

I think in the case of the players this type of situation helps them. You can already see that one day when they finish playing they’ll be friends, they’ll have a good relationship and they’ll enjoy what they’ve done. But for now, you’ve got to have the fire, the ambition, the rivalry.

This doesn’t only feed the players, but also the fans.

Over in England, people say it’s the best league in the world, and perhaps they don’t have the best teams in the world, but what it has is a lot of competitiveness. We need these more intense rivalries, maybe more adapted to today’s society.

Q: You talk about Sporting Clube de Portugal for bringing a competitive edge to La Liga and in Spain we’ve got Atlético de Madrid as an emerging club. How do you see Diego Simeone’s method and what will Joao Félix bring to the game?

A: I don’t think Atlético de Madrid is an emerging team. It’s a team that has won La Liga in the last decade, it’s won Cups, Europa Leagues, reached the finals of the Champions League, makes incredible investments, has a new stadium whereby all of us who love soccer have lost the Calderón but football has acquired a fantastic stadium. Atlético now for me is a strong candidate, and when I say strong I mean really strong, to win the Spanish league.

When you talk about Félix, it’s hard for people to look at him without thinking about the money, it’s something that has to be put up with for a certain time before these figures start to become normal.

I don’t know him but he seems to have a personality, very stable, very determined, he seems to have the physique to carry a load of this size and pressure, he’s got fantastic qualities.

Atlético loses Griezmann, but the way he’s built it, invested, it has to be highlighted. It loses Griezmann, Godín, but all the investment it does, it does well.

And Simeone is like a fish in water, I think it’s the perfect club for him and he’s the perfect coach for Atlético.

I see Atlético capable of winning La Liga, it can win it.

Q: I don’t know if there’s been a change in trend in the last season, how do you think Ajax has burst onto the European landscape with such determination?

A: I don’t see it as an innovator, I see it as a team of quality players and with this kind of people looking for two or three players that could be fundamental for its balance, or like Tadic who came and changed things for the better. They’ve got their own style and they don’t have big responsibilities. I played against them in the final of the Europa League last season and I think the reason they lost that final is for exactly the same reason they lost the Champions League semi-final - the team has its way of thinking and lacks pragmatism. The people love it and its style of play but there are times when you have to win and you have to say “to win I have to do this” or “to win I can’t do this,” and it looks like they didn’t manage that in two key moments. They didn’t manage that mental and tactical adaptation to say “ok, we’re here and we’re going to win.”

Q: You left Real Madrid with the doors open, do you ever think you could return to the club?

A: I would love to be in Madrid more, go to the stadium and see a match. I’ve been traveling a lot and I see a lot of games, I follow different sports that I love and I’d like to be in Madrid more to see my friends, but I don’t do it. I don’t do it because I want to protect the situation, which are always situations I don’t want to feed.

But like you said about open doors, I felt that the moment I left. I felt it with Madrid, with Chelsea, with Inter, with all of them.

I’m someone who’s had the ability in all of my exits, either of my own accord or if it was the club’s decision, I’ve always left seriously, honestly, given it my all and left doors open. I’m friends with my presidents, even presidents who let me go, and that’s how I like it.

I have no problem telling you that when you leave after three years at Madrid, you’re a madridista. That’s it. Things don’t change. In Italy, I’m an Interista. I don’t see another way of living soccer. But professional always. If you have to coach another team in the same league then you train it, if you have to play against Inter or Chelsea as I’ve done, you do it with professionalism. But when you dedicate yourself as I’ve done at all my clubs you get hooked.

Q: Looking at the Premier League, is Pep Guardiola’s City the top candidate for the title?

A: The panorama is easy. At the start of the season, I said City, Liverpool and Tottenham would tussle for the title. Now I’ll change a little and say that Tottenham is the third best club in the league and City and Liverpool will fight it out for the title. They’re two strong sides and I see Tottenham as a little bit behind. Then it’ll be between Chelsea, United and Arsenal for fourth place and looking back you’ve got to be a bit fearful of teams like Everton and Leicester fighting to get into the top six spots. But this Premier League, with four, five or six teams fighting for the title, it’s pretty obvious that this year it’s not going to be like that and it’s going to be a battle between two. EFE

LV/sh/ch

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