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Sunday, Sept. 26, 2004

PREMIER REPORT

Mourinho's method wins many games, not many friends


LONDON -- Returning from Chelsea's 3-0 Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain in France last week this correspondent was the last passenger to leave the team's plane. A police officer at Gatwick Airport asked: "Did they win?"

Christopher Davies

"Yes, 3-0 . . ."

"That's what I thought. You'd think they'd smile then, wouldn't you. Miserable lot."

Jose Mourinho doesn't do smiles.

On the journey out a few journalists found themselves behind the Chelsea manager in the queue to go though passport control in Paris. We tried to engage the Portuguese in small talk . . . how he was settling down in London . . . how was he finding driving on the 'wrong' side of the road . . . Mourinho was not particularly forthcoming.

Mourinho doesn't do chit-chat.

What Mourinho does is win trophies, five of the last six available to him. The one that got away was last season's Portuguese Cup when his FC Porto was beaten by Benfica after extra time.

The ones that came his way were the Champions League, UEFA Cup, two Portuguese Championships and a Portuguese Cup, not a bad record as he will tell you.

He treads the fine line between confidence and arrogance, overstepping it at times. "The ego has landed" was one tabloid headline when Mourinho joined Chelsea this summer.

Leading with his chin as he does means that if things start to go wrong he has little goodwill to call upon, though that is pre-supposing he gives a hoot what others say.

This is, after all, the man who as FC Porto coach was returning to face his former club Benfica in 2003 and went on the pitch alone in order to be booed.

"I knew I would get a negative thunderous reception," said Mourinho. "The stadium was full. I had never been a top level player so had no idea what it was like to have 80,000 people whistling at me. It was a lovely sensation . . . fantastic. I felt like the most important person in the world hearing all the boos from the Benfica supporters. Instead of intimidating it gives one strength."

Mourinho doesn't do fear.

Upon arriving at Chelsea Mourinho wasted no time in putting the boot into his predecessor Claudio Ranieri who had led Chelsea to second place in the Premiership and the semifinals of the Champions League.

"Mr. Ranieri said it is easy to win in Portugal and I didn't like what I heard," said Mourinho. "I could say other things such as he is in football for 20 years and all he has won is the Spanish Cup. I could say that, I don't like to but I could.

"If a club isn't successful in relation to its potential then the manager has to assume he has failed. Even if he has done good work. I came to Chelsea to win things."

Mourinho doesn't do compassion.

Mourinho, it seems, simply doesn't do emotion. Even his wife Tami said: "He doesn't express his feelings too much so I've learned to decode him through a gesture or expression."

A measure of the power of his personality can be gauged from an incident against Paris Saint-Germain when Chelsea was awarded a free-kick. The referee indicated Frank Lampard should wait until the whistle was blown, but with Mourinho indicating he wanted a quick free-kick to be taken the midfielder obeyed his manager and was subsequently cautioned. Lampard probably still thought it was the better option.

JOSE MOURINHO learned his trade under Sir Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon, FC Porto and Barcelona before given his break as a coach by Benfica five years ago. Mourinho walked out after only 11 games, including six wins, when the board refused to give him an improved contract.

Mourinho doesn't do tolerance.

He returned to FC Porto in January 2002 and two years later joined the list of elite coaches who have won the Champions League.

It is a remarkable rise to fame and while humility is in short supply, Mourinho is still a class act. Listening to him speak in excellent English (the joke is he could not have picked this up from Sir Bobby) the audience is almost transfixed, Mourinho's record giving him instant respect and his refusal to duck any issue a breath of fresh air in a Premiership too often dominated by cliched manager-speak.

Whatever Mourinho thinks of Ranieri he has a hard act to follow. The only way he can better the Italian's achievements of last season is to win the Premiership and the Champions League (you can almost hear him saying "again . . .").

We were never told why Ranieri was deemed surplus to requirements but the reasons would be: (a) he is not a "sexy" person; (b) Chelsea was low on excitement after £100 million was spent on home entertainment; (c) the Tinkerman made some suicidal substitutions.

Mourinho has far more sex appeal, his dark good looks appealing to female supporters, but his FC Porto did not exactly raise the pulse and while it is too early to judge him as Chelsea manager the early signs are that the Stamford Bridge faithful are unlikely to see thrill-a-minute football.

"I don't think he gives a s--- about entertainment," said Birmingham manager Steve Bruce after his team's 1-0 defeat. "He just wants to win."

Under Mourinho FC Porto almost made an art form of gaining the lead and then strangling the life out of the game with smothering tactics which may be a coach's dream but can also be a spectator's nightmare.

He has yet to be convinced that Damien Duff, a left-winger of electric pace and the ability to beat opponents, is worthy of a place in his side, preferring a solid, "pressing" midfield with any width usually coming from left-back Wayne Bridge.

Mourinho's past and present clash at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League next Wednesday and the Portuguese club has been through managerial turmoil since he left, with Italian Luigi Del Neri lasting only a few weeks before falling out with the chairman and being replaced by Spaniard Victor Fernandez.

"My feeling is that they are now happy and have recovered their balance," said a diplomatic Mourinho, overlooking FC Porto's poor start to the season which saw it booed off the pitch at the end of the opening Champions League game, a lifeless 0-0 draw against CSKA Moscow.

Continuing his politically correct line Mourinho added that he believed his former club is now stronger than when it won the Champions League under his guidance in May.

"They have a better squad than last season," said Mourinho citing "shrewd" purchases, notably Greece defender Yourkas Seitaridis and Ricardo Quaresma from Barcelona, on the back of the £30 million sale of defenders Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira to Chelsea.

"It is always a motivation to play against the big teams and we have got the European champions so I think it is a motivation for us. I think it will be two great matches -- at Stamford Bridge for the first one and in Oporto for the second one, where there is a beautiful stadium and a beautiful crowd."

There is little animosity toward Mourinho from FC Porto, the supporters understanding that Chelsea made him an offer he could not refuse and grateful for the way he took the club to the top of the European ladder.

FC Porto's directors were pacified by receiving almost £50 million from the sale of players and compensation for Mourinho and his back-room team which moved to Chelsea with him.

Despite knowing next week's opposition better than anyone, Mourinho has left nothing to chance. His chief scout has compiled a dossier on the new "improved" FC Porto.

Whatever else he may not do, Mourinho always does preparation.

Christopher Davies covers Arsenal and the Republic of Ireland for the London Daily Telegraph.


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