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Mourinho thrilled to be back at Chelsea

Published: Wednesday 11 September 2013, 14.30CET
"This is my club," José Mourinho says of his return to Chelsea FC during an interview in the new edition of Champions Matchday. "I am the coach but I am also a supporter."
by Andy Brassell
from London

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Published: Wednesday 11 September 2013, 14.30CET

Mourinho thrilled to be back at Chelsea

"This is my club," José Mourinho says of his return to Chelsea FC during an interview in the new edition of Champions Matchday. "I am the coach but I am also a supporter."

For once José Mourinho doesn't command the room, he blends into it.

We are in an empty press conference hall at Chelsea FC's Surrey training ground, where latterly the Portuguese has delighted with his entertaining pre-match briefings. Today it is a more low-key affair as he talks about his return to the Stamford Bridge dugout.

A haul of trophies won coaching teams in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain has done nothing to slake his thirst. Continuing to learn is the crux. "It's fundamental," the 50-year-old says. "At the level we are, the only way to learn is through experience.

"We must study the experiences we have on the pitch as a coach, every day in training and on the bench during matches. At this level we don't have coaching courses, we don't have teachers, we don't even have meetings to discuss our problems and doubts. It's up to us to keep that passion, not motivation, but passion to continue studying and learning."

He expects it will be Chelsea's players, rather than their superstar boss, who will provide the energy to take the side back towards the European summit – in particular the younger contingent. "It's the talent of the young," he says. "We have to balance the team with players from other generations. We have fantastic players from the previous generation, but at this moment we have a very young squad. The main quality is that they are all kids with a lot of talent and space to improve."

Mourinho is a master at moving on – investing everything emotionally and intellectually at a club before starting over and doing the same to great effect at the next stop. This time, though, it's different. "This is my club, I am the coach but I am also a supporter," he says.

England midfielder Frank Lampard remains central to his plans. "He's a fantastic player," he says. "I don't know of another midfield player who has scored as many goals. This makes a big difference in relation to the others. [Frank] has this natural gift for scoring goals from midfield. That's amazing."

Convinced his travels have lent him a new perspective, Mourinho rejects the idea of having a trademark style. His Real Madrid CF team relished the counterattack. His FC Internazionale Milano side changed shape halfway through their second, successful, attempt at the UEFA Champions League, deploying Samuel Eto'o on the right. His 2004 FC Porto vintage could switch between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3. He reckons that increased statistical analysis in the game "doesn't at all affect" how he does his job, seeing the modern obsession with possession percentages as one-eyed.

"Possession is important when you have the players to keep possession," he says. "The problem is that sometimes people want to make possession the main quality, the main principle, and the players are not ready or don't have those kind of qualities."

If nowadays there is greater awareness of the ebb and flow of action, Mourinho doesn't believe there has been a seismic shift in the way teams are set up. "Football has found stability in terms of tactics," he says. "I don't see new tactics at this moment. I don't see changes of shape. Important [shifts] happened much more in the 1960s and 1970s.

"What managers change is in terms of principles of play," he continues. "You can play 4-4-2, another team can also play 4-4-2, but the same [shape] can be so different in terms of principles and philosophy. It is more about this than tactics."

Chelsea proved a point about possession with their 2012 UEFA Champions League victory. Roberto Di Matteo's men battled past a series of obstacles to make the final. They eliminated favourites FC Barcelona in a scintillating semi-final and then overcame FC Bayern München in Munich before lifting the most prestigious trophy in club football.

Cast in the role of spectator, Mourinho said: "When I was watching, I was with the Blues – the side was full of players from my time and you know they suffered a lot ... They deserved to win the Champions League."

Success for Mourinho and Chelsea, albeit in different seasons, in the UEFA Champions League has only whetted the manager's appetite. "It's a competition that has a special aura," he motions, circling his hands. "Everybody wants to reach the 'El Dorado' of football. It is a club competition for excellence so it has some magic."

It appears the journey is as important as the destination. "I'm at the club where I want to be," he says. "I love it at Chelsea and I'm so pleased to be [working] in these fantastic circumstances, which is not just work but also a passion, a natural habitat."

This is an edited version of an in-depth interview that appears in the new edition of Champions Matchday magazine. It is available in digital versions on Apple Newsstand or Zinio, as well as in print, and you can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.

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Last updated: 11/09/13 15.20CET

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