By Andrew Warshaw
José Mourinho was left fuming on Sunday as his Chelsea FC side were held to a goalless draw at home against Tottenham Hotspur FC, but in a sense, he only had himself to blame.
For having returned to his old club FC Porto to sign defenders Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho after being appointed as Chelsea coach, he failed to sign midfield player Pedro Mendes. And it was the anchorman, for whom Tottenham paid €3m in August, who helped keep Mourinho's millionaire assortment at bay.
While he was delighted to get the better of his old coach, Mendes remains convinced that Mourinho has a bright future in England. "Of course José will be a success at Chelsea," Mendes told uefa.com. "It was no surprise he came to England also. He's a very clever guy."
Mourinho played a major part in Mendes's move to the Premiership. The Chelsea coach's recommendation helped convince Santini to sign Mendes, despite some wariness among the White Hart Lane faithful about signing another Portuguese player after Hélder Postiga failed to settle at the club.
After spells with FC Felgueiras and Vitória Guimarães, Mendes joined Porto in 2003 to become a member of Mourinho's all-conquering Porto side. He appeared in ten of Porto's 13 UEFA Champions League games last season, including the full 90 minutes against AS Monaco FC in the final.
Moving to Tottenham meant abandoning the chance to defend his Champions League title, but it was worth the risk for Mendes. "I could have stayed in Portugal but I have come to one of the best leagues in the world," he explained. "I like the way the game is played in England - fast and physical.
I know that if I play well at Tottenham I could get into the international squad and that is one of my main ambitions," he continued, adding of Santini's multi-national squad: "I know a little about Tottenham and obviously this is a big step in their history with so many new people here."
Certainly, the new-look Tottenham have made a great start to the Premiership season after some worrying pre-season friendly results. Unbeaten after six games, they lie fifth in the table. Mendes has played in every match - something that has helped him to adapt to life in a new city.
"Moving here is no problem for me because in the day I'm with my team-mates at training," he said. However, his wife has not found the transition so easy. He explained: "My wife spends a lot of time at home with the baby and we knew it would be much more difficult for her.
"We talk with friends and family on the phone back home in Portugal and now we have one or two friends here but the big problem is that we cannot get watch Portuguese TV. But I think everything will be all right. If my wife needs to go back home to Portugal it is only two hours on a plane."
Mendes, meanwhile, does not look to be heading home for a while yet. Unlike the unfortunate Postiga, who survived just one season in the Premiership, Mendes is a fluent English speaker, and in stark contrast to his countryman he is already proving to be a terrace favourite at White Hart Lane.
If he can continue to shine for Tottenham, it could be Mendes rather than Mourinho who emerges as the big Portuguese hit of the Premiership season.
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