José Mourinho and Didier Drogba meet again when Galatasaray face Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu on Wednesday night, with the coach insisting that the pair have formed a bond that goes deeper than football.
"I don't say Didier was the greatest player I have worked with because I have had so many great players," Mourinho said. "But he was a great player, a great friend and somebody who will be part of my life forever. He would say the exact same about me. We created the kind of emotional links that are more than football."
Asked if his willingness to talk so highly of Drogba and of Galatasaray's playmaker Wesley Sneijder, whom he coached when he won the 2010 Champions League with Internazionale, was a tactic used to "soften" his opponents in the buildup to this quarter-final, Mourinho said: "Maybe you know of a culture where you crawl up to people, where that is an art, but that is not my culture. My culture is a culture where you are not afraid to say your true feelings, where you do not have to hide.
"They were my players, we love each other and we respect each other. But we have completely conflicting objectives. They want to win and I want to win. I have to make help my players to make sure that they do not have a great game.
"They are two great players in my career, two important players. But now they are not my players – they are my friends."
Mourinho refused to be drawn on his future, postponing discussion about his next move until the end of this season – even though his contract at Madrid runs until 2016.
In the buildup to this game it was confirmed that a pro-Mourinho demonstration planned by some Real Madrid fans for Saturday had been cancelled. The demonstration had been designed to show Mourinho that he has the backing of supporters and persuade him not to leave the club. Mourinho said he was grateful for the gesture but that he did not like the idea and, asked again about his future, he refused to commit himself beyond the end of the season. "I am not important," he said.
"I appreciate [the demonstration] but I don't like it," he said.
"Football is what happens in the stadium, support should be shown in the stadium and it should be shown to the team not to specific people. I don't like individual support because football is a collective sport. The club is more important than us. The support that I really want are the players in the pitch and they are the ones that have to fight and win for us, that's the support that I really want.
"I am not important. The results are important for Real Madrid, that's the most important thing. That is what matters, not me and not my future. We have two possible objectives: the Super Cup is too small to feed a club like Madrid but we have the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. Let's see if we can finish the season in a way that is worthy of a club this size. At the end of the season, we'll see what will happen. But I repeat: what matters is Real Madrid."
Among the points of conflicts that has characterised Mourinho's time at Real Madrid has been his difficult relationship with Iker Casillas and the confrontation that has created with parts of the media, who have come out in vociferous support of Spain's World Cup winning captain.
Casillas has been given the all-clear by doctors following a broken finger but Mourinho has not included him in the squad for this match. And when the coach was asked by a radio journalist considered close to Casillas about the fact that Madrid have kept only one clean sheet in the past 12 games without the captain, he saw it as a leading question and pulled out a piece of paper and quoted the reporter's words back at him from a previous era at Madrid.
"This goalkeeper [Diego López, Casillas's replacement] is playing in a way that only someone who is not impartial could criticise," Mourinho said. "I have some words of yours from some years ago."
He then read: "Player X plays by decree. I do not accept players playing by decree or others not playing however well or badly they are playing. A coach cannot do that. A player cannot be starter because of his status. The medals he has won in the past cannot mean that he is in the lineup. It should not be a problem for the players who aren't the best form to play, no matter what they are called. We should play with those on the best form, not those with the longest history."
Mourinho folded up the paper, looked at the journalist and concluded: "We all know that you are not impartial in your analysis."