Fresh from his unprecedented success with FC Internazionale Milano, new Real Madrid CF coach José Mourinho has his sights on winning the UEFA Champions League with a third club.
Article top media content
His nickname has become so ubiquitous and perhaps so apt many forget José Mourinho only christened himself 'the Special One' because he guided FC Porto to the UEFA Champions League title in 2004.
Mourinho arrived at Chelsea FC on the back of a brilliant run that culminated in Porto's 3-0 victory over AS Monaco FC in Gelsenkirchen. In such a context his special claim could be seen as legitimate. Now he has inherited the hot seat at the Santiago Bernabéu, again walking through the doors of a new club as a European champion.
Deep-rooted foundation work, he says, is almost as important as promising to deliver trophies. As such, the excitement generated by the draw for this season's group stage – which placed Madrid in Group G with AC Milan, AFC Ajax and AJ Auxerre – was matched by a groan and a gritting of teeth by Mourinho.
"To tell you the truth I'm not lucky with draws," he told UEFA.com. "I always get the European champions. At Chelsea we played Porto, then the second year we played Barcelona and Liverpool. At Inter we played Manchester United in the group phase and Barcelona the next year. I was hoping to continue the tradition with Inter in our group. Instead it is Milan and Ajax, clubs with great history and football culture, and clubs who have won many European Cups."
Mourinho hopes to have stamped his mark on Madrid by the time Ajax visit the Spanish capital on 15 September, although Kaká, Raúl Albiol and Fernando Gago will miss that game with injuries and Lassana Diarra is battling to be fit.
"Playing at home against Ajax and Milan can motivate the fans and players," Mourinho said. "To have them playing in the group phase at the Santiago Bernabéu, rather than a team from Israel or Cyprus participating for the first time, is a source of motivation. This is a short competition in the group stage. You play six matches in three months. You might lose a match, but you can't afford to lose two. Especially when you have a new team like ours. There is pressure and it will be difficult."
Typically for Mourinho, it is the home game against Ajax that makes him more jittery than the trip to seven-time winners Milan. "Ajax have their culture, their philosophy, their way of training and their way of playing," he explained. "So they are obviously an uncomfortable opponent. They have well-known World Cup players like Luis Suárez, Maarten Stekelenburg and Gregory van der Wiel, and other players of high quality like Urby Emanuelson and Eyong Enoh. They make the tie uncomfortable.
"Matchday 4 will be my first time back in Milan since winning the Champions League," Mourinho continued. "It's the San Siro, a stadium in which I haven't lost in two years so I hope it brings luck. Milan are a great rival but one I've always respected. They've always respected me too.
"I will go back to the San Siro as coach of Real Madrid, not as the ex-coach of Inter. You know people will write things like 'Inter fans will support him against Milan'. Who knows? But I go as a professional trying to achieve a result that Real Madrid needs."
Mourinho is the tenth coach at Madrid since Vicente del Bosque completed four consecutive seasons seven years ago. Presidential, media and, above all, fan pressure is inherent in the post. Yet the new man is not worried about winning over the public, saying: "Supporters aren't stupid. They immediately understand if the coach will give absolutely everything."
He added: "One of my qualities is that I don't think about myself. I don't protect myself. I'm in football to give everything to the clubs. Sometimes I find myself in problematic situations or club wars. I don't like the word but I can't find a better one. This is because when I arrive at a club, I wear the shirt.
"Even if I wasn't born a Chelsea supporter, an Inter supporter or a Real Madrid supporter, the fans immediately know I'm one of them. That, plus good results, normally builds a good relationship. I'll give everything and hope the results come." They normally do, and that is exactly what makes José special.