José Mourinho has set himself the ambitious target of remaining Chelsea's manager for another 12 years despite returning to the club on his "worst contract" of the past six seasons.
The Portuguese will seek to extend his mastery over Arsène Wenger's Arsenal to 10 games at the Emirates Stadium on Monday as the visitors attempt to hoist themselves above the early pace-setters. Wenger is entering his 18th year in charge across the capital, longevity envied by Mourinho who has noticed a more long-term approach in Roman Abramovich since returning to English football in the summer.
Mourinho signed a four-year contract worth around £10m a season, considerably less than he was earning at Real Madrid, to oversee a Chelsea team in transition. "Realistically I hope at the end of those four years we sit, analyse the situation and that will be the point where we both – club and me – are happy to carry on or happy to separate," he said. "But I would like [to stay for], say, 12 years. I'm 51 next month. I'd say 12 years, and then two to go to a World Cup with a national team. I would prefer the Portuguese national team. England second [choice], yes.
"The best way to [run a club] is to do it with stability. For the players, if you want to help them grow up, you do that much better with stability: in ideas, philosophy, model of play, style of leadership. This all comes from stability at the highest level: with the owners and board and, after that, the manager. The second line of the hierarchy. That stability is very important. You look, for example, to Manchester United and everybody feels David [Moyes] will have his time to do his work in a calm way. I think that's fantastic."
Abramovich had been through five permanent managers and two interims since that divorce from Mourinho in 2007, a turnover that has not checked the flow of trophies into Stamford Bridge. He returned for Mourinho in June and found a manager eager to take on a very different kind of project, and on relatively reduced terms compared with those he had enjoyed with Internazionale and Real. "There were a lot of teams [offered to me] who could be successful immediately in my hands," Mourinho said.
"I had Real Madrid: I left them because I wanted to, not because they wanted me to. I had other clubs in other countries where it would be easier to go and find an 'easy' job immediately. If I was here for financial reasons, I wouldn't be here getting a lot less money than I had at Real Madrid, where I had three more years on my contract.
"I didn't come here because the job was easy, or because I had a team ready to attack the title, or because I was coming here for the best contract of my life. It's the worst of my last six years. I'm here because I love the club, I love the project. It's a different project."
The manager expects the team at his disposal next season to be "phenomenal" after their development this term and further additions next summer. Yet they remain in contention to win the league this time and can go joint top if they defeat Arsenal. Mourinho's once acrimonious relationship with Wenger has improved in the years since the pair last clashed in the Premier League, their verbal sniping having prompted the infamous accusation that the Arsenal manager was "a voyeur" in October 2005.
"He was speaking about Chelsea all the time, always making criticisms and jibes, about the money and this and that … it was too much," recalled Mourinho. "At this moment he's totally focused on his team and his club. He's not looking to us. Peacefully, we are living without any kind of problems. I don't regret [the comments]. These are football fallouts, not personal fall-outs. Football fallouts you have today and forget tomorrow. I'm not big friends with him because, to be friends, you need to be close and time to develop that relation, but we have a lot of respect for each other."
Asked whether a manager would have been permitted to go eight years without claiming a trophy at another club of Arsenal's stature, Mourinho added: "Maybe Arsène was also loyal to the club in many periods where he could leave to go to other teams, and for sure he had these moments in his career. And he always decided to stay. When a manager is loyal to his club, there is a natural reason for the club to be loyal with him. They deserve each other."