He may not be managing at the World Cup but Jose Mourinho has plenty to say about it, as Ben Isaacs learns
A quiet summer off? Not for the Special One. Jose Mourinho has big plans for the next couple of months. In an exclusive interview, the Chelsea boss tells us why he will ignore his players, how to buy a player on World Cup duty and why Real Madrid banned him from taking the Portugal job when it was secretly offered to him…
Your club season may be over but you’ve got a busy summer ahead. For a start you’ve been named an Ambassador Against Hunger for the United Nations World Food Programme and you’re going to Africa as part of this. How long will you be there?
I think a week. The objective is to raise funds and we are speaking about huge numbers. Football is so powerful socially that everything we do has power, so I think I can make a difference at that level. Obviously I can’t do that all year round, but in my free time I am proud to do it.
You’re also going to be voicing your opinions on the World Cup via Yahoo. What can you tell us about that?
When I do things, I do them with passion. It means that during the World Cup I am available to them 24 hours a day for every question they have.
So you will watch every game?
I will try. If I’m at home, obviously yes. If I am on holiday in some hotel or some resort or whatever, I will. If I’m travelling in Africa then maybe not, but I will try.
Do you contact your players such as Frank Lampard during…
Not even a ‘good luck’ text?
I will do that before the World Cup, but during the tournament I don’t want to keep in contact with them. They’re not my players during that period, they belong to their national teams. I want them to be independent and I want their managers to know I won’t interfere.
How will a club such as Chelsea approach the World Cup? Will you have scouts based in Brazil or will it all be done from home?
We have scouts in South America, but in this kind of competition I think the best way to do it is at home, especially in a country as large as Brazil. Imagine I am going to Brazil, I see a game and after that I have to fly maybe five or six hours to see another game. When you are at home you have complete control of the situation.
So if you were watching a game featuring one of the smaller nations, let’s say Costa Rica for example, and there was a player we didn’t know much about...
Oh I know.
I know everything about them.
OK. Let’s say there was someone who perhaps looked even better than you thought he was, a total revelation, what would the process be? Would you then contact somebody at Chelsea and say, “This is a player we should be considering”?
I don’t think the big competitions are the ideal moments to do that.
I don’t think you should or should not buy a player because of what happens over 15 days. You can use competitions such as the World Cup to say this is a final test. For example, at Real Madrid we were following Sami Khedira but he was playing for Stuttgart and we were in doubt because of the way his team played. In Stuttgart he was the leader, in the German national team he was surrounded by other top players. After two or three matches in the group phase [of the last World Cup], I made a decision. I had no doubts he had the personality and the profile to do it for Real Madrid. But it’s not in the World Cup that we are going to find, by some miracle, somebody that we don’t know, as we know everybody.
Do you ever get nervous when you’re watching your players on international duty, worrying they’ll get injured?
During the season, yes. If they’re playing a match on Wednesday and I need them to play on the Saturday, a minor injury will stop them from playing for my club. In the World Cup, no. If they have a problem, they have one month to recover unless it’s a huge problem – that hopefully never happens or is just once in a thousand cases. For minor injuries, a player can go on holiday afterward and we would send a physio with them.
Are you ever able to watch a World Cup and just enjoy it or does it still feel like business?
It’s always business. In a manager’s eyes, watching football is always work. It was the same when I watched my son’s games [he’s now on Fulham’s books]. It’s hard to stop, but that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it. It’s just a different perspective than a normal fan.
What are your favourite World Cup memories?
I remember little things from 1970 and have clear memories of 1974, but the most important World Cup for my country was 1966 [when Portugal lost to England in the semis]. I was three years old and my parents told me I was in front of the television. After that was a period where my country never brought the emotion to our houses because we did not qualify for a long time and when we did qualify, we didn’t do so well. There is always frustration when the team you want to support is not there, but I love football so I was watching every game.
How do you think Portugal, and particularly Ronaldo, will do in this year’s tournament?
He can be a phenomenal player, but in two other World Cups and the European Championships he was not able to give us what everybody was dreaming of. So now he has another chance – I don’t think it’s the last one because I think he can reach another World Cup. But this one arrives at a moment where he is the best player in the world and every Portuguese is waiting for him.
Do you ever harbour ambitions of being manager of Portugal?
Yes. I just have to choose the moment to do it. Right now I don’t want to play every four years, I want to play every four days. It has to be something for when I’m tired [laughs] and I’m not tired yet.
Could international management be a part-time job while you’re also at a club?
I was invited by Portugal to do that once and I immediately wanted to say yes. But when my club at the time, Real Madrid, refused, I understood why. You can’t do both things at the same time. Football at club level is something that absorbs you completely, they need you almost 24 hours per day. If you are between two teams there is a big risk you won’t do well in one of them. So I was disappointed but a couple of days later after a lot of thought, I felt they were right to come to that decision.
Jose Mourinho is an exclusive analyst for Yahoo’s worldwide football coverage. Yahoo.co.uk/worldcup is the only place to read his expert opinions during Fifa World Cup 2014
(Images: Ben Duffy for Yahoo; PA)