José Mourinho is looking forward to his third season at Real Madrid after having won a league title, a Copa del Rey and a Spanish Super Cup. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper AS, conducted during his participation in the Forum for Coaches from Elite UEFA Clubs in Nyon, the coach reviews the how things are going at Real Madrid and the start of the new campaign. In the second instalment of the interview, Mourinho talks about the objectives of the team, national teams and mentions by name the likes of Modric, Kaká and Essien.
Have Real Madrid’s players, and their coach, lost the hunger for the league and only have the Champions League and matches against Barca on their mind?
I can assure you that it has not happened with me. And I don’t think it has with the team either. But a coach should not rule out the possibility of any strange feelings and should be on top of this. We also have the structure in place to stop that feeling creeping into the squad.
How do you do that?
You have to make sure the players understand that if they want to be candidates, only candidates to win the European Cup they have to play at a high level all season. I tell them that it will not do to be on top form just for a particular match or against a particular opponent. If we want to be on form for the Champions League we must be playing well in the league and cup. That’s why each match doesn’t have the one single objective of winning but we also to look to improve and progress. I don’t say that we expect perfection because it does not exist. But to get close to it, or to try to, is compulsory at Real Madrid. If I think that a player does not understand that then, as a coach, I have weapons to prevent it: for example, if I notice that someone holds back in the league with the Champions League in mind, maybe I’ll surprise him and not play him in the Champions League.
But aren’t you worried about Real Madrid’s sluggish start in the League?
In truth, no. I would worry if I saw that we are the only ones that it was happening to. But it isn’t. All of the teams that had a lot of players in the European Championship or the Olympic Games could have started better. The same has happened with Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Porto, Benfica ... almost all the big teams that did not have a full pre-season together are having difficulties.
So, you don’t feel that the yearning for the Champions League could be a distraction to Real Madrid in the league?
I'm not saying it could not happen, that it couldn’t be a hidden risk but I have not sensed it. If it does happen, which is something we cannot predict, we have to realise quickly and take necessary action. I'll be very attentive. I analyse everything, everything that relates to the players and the team. A big team cannot pick and choose their competition and Real Madrid are a big team. Of course you can end up winning or losing but you have to go out and to try to win every time. If I get the feeling that we’re not doing that then I take decisions to try to correct it. But really, I doubt that Real Madrid, with the competitive spirit we have at the moment, will go wrong because of that. This summer’s European Championship are a little to blame for the irregular start in the league. We have to have a bit of patience, although I don’t want my players to think that I am a patient coach so that they don’t relax.
Does the international calendar needing sorting out? Spain have a match in Panama on 14th November. Real Madrid will then have three days before playing Athletic and five days before the fifth group match of the Champions league, away at City. The best eleven will possibly be playing in both...
On one hand, if I were the national team coach I would defend to death every match, every FIFA date and it would seem like there weren’t many of them. I’d ask for more. But as a club coach, as I am now, I see just the opposite. I recognise that it is a problem. But we have made some progress. Now the national team will play a doubleheader, so players can return a day earlier. They’re also removing the August friendly, which is a total disaster. I think the next step will be to stop international friendlies that involve intercontinental travel during the club season. Or that if they are to be played, they are played in July, just after the season, but with holidays and pre-season in mind. This is the perfect time to put on a match in Asia, Africa, America, in continents where they also have the right to see the biggest teams in the world. It is a matter of good will, to find the balance between clubs and national associations without forgetting that the clubs are paying the players.
So you Mourinho, contrary to what people think, are not against international friendlies?
No, I'm not. But I am in favour of them being planned in an orderly and sensible manner. I'm not against it because I understand that national teams promote a good social, emotional, and national feeling and pride and we have to respect that. National teams unite countries, fans of one team with and fans of others. I understand that and support it. But I ask for a balance.
Is this reasoning not because you know that sooner or later you’ll be an international coach?
Well, we'll see. But if it does happen it’ll be later rather than sooner. Later, much later. Because I’m 49, I’ll finish this season 50 years old, and I still think I'm at the beginning of my career. A few years ago, I spoke with my wife about stopping someday, we were going to enjoy of the children and our hobbies. Now I come home and my daughter has gone out with her friends and my son has gone to play with Canillas. I am full-time coach. After all of my experiences, I still feel the same excitement and the same joy today as I did the first day I won, and I still feel the same anger, the same disappointment as the first day that I lost. Only when I see photos of my when I started with Porto do I realise that that child has become a man who is Real Madrid’s coach. But only in the photos. Inside I feel just like I did 20 years ago. That’s why I say that, for the time being and the foreseeable future, I'm not going to be an international coach. I am patriotic and I have a great deal of respect for what national teams mean. But still, it’s not for me. I have to train 400 times a year and manage 60 or 70 matches per season. I still need to get that feeling for the players, the field and the changing room every day. I like to train every day and see my team play three times a week.
Do you feel like asking those people that are here from UEFA, who gave you the two-match suspension, how they arrived at their decision?
When that happened and they organised the coaches’ forum I did not come. I didn’t tell them that I wasn’t coming because had to go to a wedding or because I was sick. I told them that I wasn’t coming because I didn’t want to because I was disappointed and that they had not treated me well. I am consistent and honest. But time goes by and last season I had no problems, and no one had any with me. Neither they nor I went looking for them. What happened is in the past and we must let it go, because if not it would be a total disaster and it would be never-ending. During the last Champions League everything was good. The referees behaved normally with me and my team. We did not win because we did not win, because Bayern knocked us out on penalties.Platini has always had a behaved well towards me. I respect and admire him for his time as a player. I have some good friends amongst Champions League coaches and also in UEFA itself.I am here, with everyone else, to talk about the Champions League, to listen to and to respond to what is asked
In Collina’s talk he has chosen to use the famous incident involving Pepe and Alves as an example to explain refereeing decision making. What do you think?
I think it's a good example for two reasons: the case intentionality and the case of simulation. If Collina agrees that there are two sides to the story then I don’t think that he could have chosen a better example to coach his referees.
Is Modric the type of player capable getting the fans excited?
We bought him with this in mind. He is the only signing that we’ve thought about and the only signing we’ve made. That’s because I like him and I'm sure he will fit in the changing room and I know that Real Madrid fans are going to like him. He is equally gifted with talent and tactical awareness. He is a team player, who works for the team, who looks to help his team mates. He has the touch of class and magic that they like in the Bernabéu. We have signed Modric because we enjoy the way he plays and he will help us to win.
Don’t you think that Kaká, like so many other greats before him, is at that time when his fame exceeds his performance?
What has happened to Kaká has happened to a lot of great players before, a lot. Top players that for one reason or another have not managed continue in the same vein at their new clubs, in terms of their game and performance or the fantastic things that they could do before the change of clubs. Obviously there football is not an exact science. Players are not robots. Kaká arrived with injury problems, he suffered in his first season. For that reason he was in and out of the team. In his second year at Real Madrid he had surgery and had a lot of months off. When he returned he did so little by little. Last season, he was back training full time he had very, very good periods. Kaká had some key moments, like when Di María was injured and he was the solution to the problem on the wing. He did some good things. I said before the transfer market closed that if Kaká stays that it was not a problem for Mourinho. He knows, because I told him that his situation is not easy because we have other options, but he accepted the challenge. He is training well. When we think we can use him we’ll use him and try to get the best out of him. It will not be easy, but we have a small squad of only 20 players, of which two, Morata and Nacho also have to help out Castilla and I'm sure that Kaká will get his chance. Tiredness, cards, the size of the squad ... he will get a chance. I am convinced that when that time comes, Kaká will respond and help Real Madrid.
Isn’t it a bit of a pain that Essien calls you dad?
No. It's a joke. It's a sign of affection. Özil calls me dad too... it's okay. As long as he runs around the field for me as if I really were his father its fine by me.
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