Congratulations on reaching your first final as Real Madrid coach and in your first season here no less. The fans are delighted, the team seems to be united, focused and hungry for titles. But how did you feel to lead them to that final?
I think it’s just a little step, not what I want from my team. If you tell me the highest moment during my period at Real Madrid was reaching the Copa del Rey final I would be very disappointed. It’s just a step, the first step. When I was at Chelsea, the first step was playing the Carling Cup final, also in mid-season. It’s just a step. I want more from my team. I want my players to be motivated about playing this final, but we can’t have it be the peak we strive for.
Nine games were played in January, two a week for your men. That’s intense and difficult. But do you think if you put a positive spin on things, this period may have accelerated the progression of the unity within the team?
I think the team’s been united from the beginning. I believe the best thing we’ve had so far was facing Sevilla and Atletico in two difficult ties. They weren’t good in terms of the championship, but they were in terms of gaining experience in knockout rounds. The Champions League awaits, and to play against Sevilla and Atletico isn’t very different to playing Champions League knockout rounds. I think it was good for the team, in terms of experience, to play the first game at home against Atletico and defeating them, in order to be able to have the victory advantage at the Vicente Calderon. We won the first leg in Seville 1-0, so we also had the advantage in the second game. I believe this may have been good training for us before the Champions League.
The last 16 is coming up in the Champions League, and judging from what we’ve seen in the Copa del Rey run, your players have shown an appetite for knockout games. Is this a good sign going into the tie with Lyon?
I love knockout stages. Love them. I think they are designed for people who are mentally strong because the pressure is there all the time. Details make all the difference: having to score one more goal, or to concede one less… A small mistake can make all the difference. I remember, for example, when Real Madrid faced Olympique Lyonnais last season, everyone thought the 1-0 result of the match in Lyon was good enough for the second match. It probably isn’t good enough. You never know when a 1-0 defeat is good enough. I remember Real had a chance to score a second goal in the return leg at home and they didn’t, so in the second half Lyon drew 1-1, and after that the game was over. This sort of pressure is something I feel comfortable with. I don’t feel pressure because the Champions League is arriving, but rather an appetite to play it.
You’re renowned as a cup specialist. What is it that makes you successful in knockout games?
As I said, you need to be mentally strong in knockouts and, at the same time, you need to analyse your opponents very well because small details can make a real difference. I’m used to playing first legs (whether at home or away) to win. It doesn’t matter if you’re home or away: the first match is one you must try to win. You don’t sometimes, but that’s the direction you must take. You shouldn’t wait for the second match to resolve the situation. Is the first match at home? OK then, let’s try to win. Is it away? OK, let’s try to win that too. I think that’s a good approach.
You work with players like Mesut Ozil, Ronaldo, Kaka and Di Maria to name but a few. Despite having managed for a number of years now, are you still impressed with the technical ability and talents these players possess?
Yes. These are players everyone likes to see in action. Naturally, I am the coach, but I’m also a football lover, so when I’m on the bench you could say I have time to enjoy some aspects of the game. Naturally, I build the team. These players are working for the team and I’m lucky in that respect. Whatever way you choose to describe their talent, they are team players who work for the team. That’s good.
Which player has impressed you most?
I can say, for example, that Arbeloa is the kind of player who doesn’t impress people because he’s not Maradona, Zidane or that sort of player, but he’s the kind of footballer that impresses coaches. And he impresses me because, on a scale from 0 to 10, he is not a 10, but he’s never a 6 either. He’s always between 7 and 9. You can always rely on him. He usually faces the best player on the opposing team and keeps him in his pocket. I’m very calm on the bench whenever he plays down either wing. Of course, he can’t attack down the left because it’s not his natural position, but he’s the kind of player you need on a team.
You have managed and achieved success with teams in Portugal, England and Italy. After half a season as coach of Real Madrid, how do you deal with the pressure that comes with managing big clubs?
I don’t deal (laughs). I don’t feel it. It’s the same responsibility to coach Real Madrid against Atletico Madrid than it is to coach Uniao Leiria playing against another small team in Portugal. You have to give as much as you can in every match and try to win and enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if your opponent is a small or a big team. You just have to enjoy it and feel privileged to be there.
You’ve have worked with, and come up against, many big names in football. Who would you say has been your biggest influence as a coach?
I think I'd say myself. Thinking alone, asking questions to myself, studying reactions I had, studying decisions I made, studying what happened during the match, what I felt during the match, what I thought during the match… Trying to devise training exercises to work on things we need to explore… I think it’s me against myself.
Away from football, who has been your biggest influence?
I’ve been married more than 20 years, so you can imagine my wife and I share a lot. She doesn’t like football nor understand much about it, but she knows me well, so I can say she’s always been a good influence on me.
Who is the real Mourinho? Who really knows you?
A circle of family, which isn’t big; a circle of friends outside football, which isn’t big either; and the people who I’ve worked with at every club, and there are many between players, directors and staff. I open myself completely to these people and they know exactly who I am and how I am. Those are the people who know me better.
How would you like to be remembered in football?
I’m not worried about that. I just want to live in my kids’ greatest memories. In football you make history with results, so I’m not worried about it. In 50 years, someone will ask “Who was the first coach to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or?” Jose Mourinho. “Who was one of the three coaches to win two Champions League titles with two different teams?” I was one of them. “Who was one of those who won championships in three different countries?” I was one of them. History is written by what you do, and I don’t care about it.
What do you hope to achieve at Real Madrid?
You know, I give my best. And when I give my best because I trust my work, I feel results will arrive. That’s what I want. I don’t want to be able to just say I coached Real Madrid once. I want to be able to say I coached Real Madrid and, during my period on the team, we won this and that. That’s my objective.
If you had to describe Real Madrid in just one word, what would it be?
Huge… and so difficult (laughs).
And one word to describe yourself?
...So difficult, too (laughs).
How would you like someone to describe you to someone who doesn't know you?
As a good guy and a very good coach.