"What nicer thing than to start the season with a European final," the Chelsea manager tells UEFA.com.
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Hired as Chelsea boss in January 2021, one month after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, Thomas Tuchel has had huge highs and lows in the last 18 months.
Tuchel led Paris to their first UEFA Champions League final in 2020, losing 1-0 to Bayern München, but made amends with his new side, Chelsea beating Premier League rivals Manchester City 1-0 in the decider in Porto. After a short summer holiday, the 47-year-old German is back on the silverware trail as the Londoners take on Villarreal in Wednesday's UEFA Super Cup in Belfast. "The focus is on the future," he tells UEFA.com.Chelsea vs Villarreal: click here for live coverage
On facing Villarreal in the Super Cup
I have huge respect for Villarreal, I have huge respect for Unai Emery. I mean, they can call the [UEFA Europa League] trophy the Unai Emery trophy soon! This guy is incredible. He's played five finals and won it four times – this is crazy.
And with Spanish teams, you have to be very careful. They love this game, and they play this game for ball possession, and they play it with lots and lots of genuine courage. So I think they will approach this game [feeling that] they have nothing to lose. But what nicer thing than to start the season with a European final. We will take it very, very seriously and do as best we can to take the next trophy home.
Chelsea's Super Cup record
Chelsea have won only once in four UEFA Super Cup appearances, lifting the trophy in 1998 but missing out in 2012, 2013 and 2019.
On his summer break
First of all, I was in Paris and I helped – or disturbed – my family in the process of moving house. From there we went on holiday together and caught some sun, because it's very rare here in London and England! I've gotten better and better and it's not so hard any more to switch off for me. When I'm on holiday; I'm on holiday. And I think it's also necessary to recharge.
On hitting the ground running at Chelsea last season
How did I start so well? Maybe I don't know! Before, I would have said it's never an ideal scenario because you come in [halfway through the season], but maybe it was a good thing. Finally, I found a well-structured club, a top organisation, a very open and ambitious team, and a lot of support at the highest level, and that made things very easy for us.
[Playing with a back three] was a good fit with all of our players, and our midfield players. We decided very early that we wanted to always have two of our three midfield players on the pitch – that means N'Golo Kanté, Jorginho and Mateo Kovačić. That's the approach: to do what's good for the team and to do what suits the players' characteristics, and we had the feeling throughout the whole journey that this was a good fit.
On N'Golo Kanté
For years, I was fighting to have him in my team and now we did it the other way around – I came to his team. It's a coach's dream to have N'Golo on your side because he makes things easy for everybody on the pitch. He's such a nice guy, such a humble person and his mentality is to be everywhere on the pitch, to make things easy, to help out, to win the ball back. I'm very, very happy that this kind of player shines so brightly suddenly, on this level of performances, because this is important for football that these kinds of players, who serve a team, are in the spotlight.
On the final win against City
We came with maybe a slight psychological advantage, having already won twice against them in a short period of time. Once they get the machine running, you have to suffer for so many minutes, you have to stay together, you have to stay positive, and you always have to stay active. We needed a huge performance that night.
What was it like to celebrate with my family after the game? Well, that was simply huge because I had the feeling that it's even more [important] for them. My parents were in the stadium, my cousin was, very close friends had the chance to be in the stadium. Sometimes your family also [makes] sacrifices, and for sure my family did and for sure my parents have done for a long time since they drove me around to any football pitch when I was six years old. So it was a gift for them, it was a night to give something back to them, and it meant a lot to me that it was possible [for us] to be together.
On learning from losing the 2020 final with Paris
Losing makes you very, very humble. It's very painful and you feel a pain that's not nice to experience at this level when you're so ambitious in sport, but it's a part of it and it makes you stronger. The challenge and the target is to learn from it, so it was a gift that we could reach the Champions League final again. We were very grateful and very positive about it and it was a fantastic experience.
It's so nice that people who you meet outside and even my family and friends just keep speaking about the [Champions League] final, but the challenge now is to forget it, to forget success. What we demand from our team, what we demand from ourselves, [is] to restart, to look forward, to not drop 1% of the determination and hunger. It's the past, and the focus is on the future.