José Mourinho has reopened old wounds on the eve of the new Premier League campaign by suggesting that rival managers such as Arsène Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini are not held to the same high standards as him.
Chelsea’s trophyless season came on the back of a barren final campaign for Mourinho at Real Madrid before his return to Stamford Bridge but the Portuguese scoffed at the notion that such a streak means he is under more pressure than any of his counterparts to deliver the title this season. “Why?” he asked before adding: “Some they have 10 years to win something, I have only two.”
That was an obvious allusion to Wenger, who has not led Arsenal to the title since 2004 and was branded a “specialist in failure” by Mourinho last season before the Frenchman collected his first silverware of any sort for eight years by winning the FA Cup.
Mourinho explained away his own lack of trophies last season by repeating that he returned to London when Chelsea werein transition. He claimed that the success that he has achieved in his career has come despite a tendency to take on such difficult assignments and contrasted his desire for challenging jobs with the opportunism of managers who accept positions where they can “collect the fruit off [others’] trees”. Manchester City had finished top of the league under Roberto Mancini in 2012, and then second only on goal difference in 2013 before Pellegrini led them back to the top last season.
“I’m not a very intelligent guy to choose teams,” said Mourinho. “I like to work. I like to build. I don’t like easy jobs. I don’t like to get clubs worked by other managers before me. I don’t like to arrive on time to collect the fruits off their trees.”
The idea that Mourinho’s career has been about defying the odds may amuse anyone who remembers that his initial success at Chelsea came after Claudio Ranieri had guided the club into the Champions League semi-finals and Roman Abramovich was preparing to bankroll an unprecedented spending spree. However, Mourinho recalled that he was appointed Porto manager at a time when they were languishing in fifth place in the Portuguese league before turning them into national and European champions within two years; he noted that Internazionale had tried in vain to be crowned kings of Europe for 45 years before he guided them to victory in the 2010 Champions League; and he pointed to his 2012 La Liga triumph with Real Madrid, which came at a time when Barcelona were being hailed as one of the best teams in history. He is confident that he is in the process of masterminding similar progress now.
“When I went to Porto, the season before they had been fifth. When I went to Madrid, where was Madrid? Where was Inter before I went there? And I came to Chelsea [last season] at a moment when one team was over and another needed to be born – and at the same time I came to the only league where four, five, six can compete for the title.
“At the end of the season you, the supporters and the players will judge my work. And most important, my boss, my owner, my board will judge my work.”
Mourinho expressed his pleasure with Chelsea’s transfer activity this summer, saying that the acquisitions of Diego Costa, Cesc Fábregas, Didier Drogba and Filipe Luís have created a squad that reminds him of the ones with which he has enjoyed his finest hours. “I like the players, the persons, the guys, I like their interaction, I like to belong to them. I have a very good feeling. During my career, the years with more success were the years where I had exactly this feeling. When I like my players, I work well.”
Chelsea’s squad has also been strengthened by the return from loan of the Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, whom Mourinho ranks among the top three goalkeepers in the world – along with Petr Cech. Mourinho will tell his players on Sunday which of the pair will start the season as first-choice. However, he indicated that the composition of the team he sends out against Burnley on Monday will be influenced by the fact that some of his players are less fit than others after reaching the latter stages of the World Cup. “Probably the first two or three matches will be more about the team that is ready than what I have in my mind as a first-team choice,” he said.