|Mourinho at his office|
Do you feel comfortable at your office in Valdebebas? It’s a very cosy…
Welcome to my home, welcome to Valdebebas. We’re all very close although it’s only temporary. Our hotel and the new facilities are almost done. In fact, we’ll be enjoying wonderful working conditions, but right now, here, we’ve got everything we need.
We’re at a competition standstill, with 19 international players overseas. How do you take advantage of time these days?
We do take advantage. We do things that later on are important. For example, right now I’m focusing on the Borussia Dortmund match, which I wouldn’t be able to do under normal conditions. If we played against the Celta this weekend, I’d be focusing only on the Celta. This week I’m working on the Borussia match with four players in the training sessions. We bring in junior players to try to give continuity to those who are not currently playing with their national teams. We work and make plans. This morning, for example, we held some meetings with the hotel managers to make some final arrangements. But I miss competition. You don’t work the same way.
Having 19 international players is very important for the Real Madrid?
It is important. It means that they are top-of-the-line players and that they are also important for their countries. Some of them who are not full-time starters between inverted commas at the Real Madrid are key players for their individual countries. I like them to go because it’s good both for them and their self-esteem. For instance, I’m immensely happy that Kaká has come back. For us it’s important. For the real coach who enjoys being one, as well as training and playing, these are tough weeks that stir up some doubt. You don’t know how they’ll return, what they’re doing, if they’ll be lucky during their matches, if they’ll come back feeling happy or less happy, if they’ll bring back some problems with them or not... When both matches are close –mainly when national teams’ matches are also on these weeks turn out rather complicated.
Team has played 11 official matches already. Can you draw any conclusion yet?
Yes, a small one, but I think that I’ve talked about it well enough already. I’ve always said that the Supercup of Spain is the less important competition. However, the Barcelona’s being the rival, it acquires a different meaning and significance. We won it and we deserved to be the winner. It was important because the Real Madrid had not defeated the Barcelona at the Bernabéu stadium for several seasons in a row. Now, the Champions League is the best of all. Besides, the match against the Manchester City, despite all the trouble we went through, ended up being a highly special victory, in addition to a significant one. Regarding the League, I’ve said enough already. I didn’t like the team’s play nor our performance early in the match. Later on we started a period of growth, stability and, above all, of psychological improvement. Last year this team showed that when it’s at its best psychologically speaking, it has plenty of technical and tactical quality. The goal now is to maintain this series of positive results.
Have these 11 matches given you any clue as to what can be improved?
I know perfectly well that last season this team attained a good technical, tactical and mental level to face and play each match... Indeed, this team achieved an extraordinary level and that’s the only reason why it did what it did. I knew that this season we had to reach that same level because if we did so we’d be in the same footing. For different reasons, some of them beyond our control and others for our own fault, we didn’t start off well and it took us some time to find that path. We’re now on track and from the mental standpoint the match against the City was the click the team needed to feel that if you want, you can, and that when you want something dearly, quality always makes its way and overcomes anything. Then came the victory over the Rayo, a victory at home to which we got used in the previous season, a good match against the Barcelona. I believe the team is going in the direction we want. But going back to your question and my previous answer. 10-12 days without them is a long time and we’ll see how they return.
After the victory over the Manchester City and the subsequent ones, do you think the team is now eager for more and has regained its competitiveness?
That’s this team’s nature. Last season this team showed precisely that nature. If you have a look at our track record throughout different competitions, it’s quite clear that the team wants to win, and wants to win always, in every single match. We’re never left out at the beginning of the competition. We play 12 Champions League matches and another 12 in the second season. We reach the Copa del Rey final match and then some other quarter-finals. We win or end up in the second position during the championship and hold on almost to the very end. “In this team, statistics count even in friendly matches, which are sometimes more difficult to play and find motivation for, but people have always responded in a positive way. I used to think, and still do, that this responsibility is somehow part of the team’s brand image, that is, doing things right and feeling that in representing the Real Madrid, you cannot joke even in friendly matches.” However, I think that this season started out in a rather inhumane manner. League Champion, the record League. Eurocup. Five or six players win the Eurocup, other three, four, five or six make it to the semi-finals, which is also an attainment. Very short vacation. A very short pre-season. The pre-season, in addition to being short, is interrupted by the friendly national teams’ matches. It wouldn’t be illogical to think, although I have to fight against it myself, that they have between inverted commas the right to be a little bit human. But these human beings are special. They’re under a great deal of pressure and I, as their coach, prefer that those who criticise me no matter what do so for being a bit aggressive in my statements, for seeking and pulling out the players’ hidden pride. I prefer that and gradually regain those traits that have always characterised our team, rather than being quiet and politically correct, or being nice with people but lose matches and head out in a direction that for us, the Real Madrid, would be unacceptable. That’s why now I’m optimistic, despite these 10 or 15 days, because I think the team is ready to win more, equalise less, lose only a few times and battle through till the end.
You finished the match against the Barcelona with a 2-goal draw, certain that if we win at the Bernabéu we take four points away from our number one rival. Is that 2-2 tying result important?
I’ve already said, and I when I say something is because I believe it, that the most important thing about this match was the team, rather than being 5, 8 or 11 points ahead. For example, you could be 5 points ahead but win without knowing how, with an extraordinary run of good luck, or you could be 11 points ahead playing a superb match. And although it may seem paradoxical, for me, at this phase of mental reconstruction of the team, rather than the difference in points, what really mattered was how we would play and stand during that match. That’s why, eventually, we’ve struck a balance where we’re neither 5 nor 11 points ahead. We’re in the same position but with a much stronger team. We’re certain that we are back on track and that we’ll be a solid team till the end.
Were you really happy with the result?
Thanks God I’ve always coached leading teams and I refuse saying, as a coach, that one competition is more important than another one. I cannot admit and do not accept that my team is now fighting for the Champions title while being 15 points outside the League. I refuse giving away the Copa del Rey so that three days after we can be better off for some League match, I don’t accept it. That’s why competitions just lie out there. The Supercup is nice, right, but still far away. It’s nice and important, but it’s still far away and we have three matches ahead to get it. In a unique Champions League: Real Madrid, Borussia, Ajax and City make up a unique group. If you have a look at other groups it seems that there are friendly matches to play, some foreseen winners, that some people are playing matches in the middle of the week and are more concentrated on weekends. We are part of a terrific group. We started out on the right foot; however, and thinking that we play the last match at home and that 6 points and 3 in extremis add up 9, maybe 9 points are not enough in this group. Have a look, for example, at the next three Champions matches: Dortmund-Madrid, Madrid-Dortmund and City-Madrid. It’s amazing. But it’s highly motivating and people want it and they enjoy it. So do I. Despite some difficulties, we’re on our way.
Modric and Essien are the new faces. How are they evolving?
First of all, I’d like people to leave them alone, but I know that will not happen. Mainly with Luka, he’s just a kid. Nice and easy... let the boy grow inside the team, not individually speaking because we know he’s a great player. Let him grow within the team. People wanted him to play against Barcelona. He needs to enhance his tactical play and learn what he’s expected to do inside the team and how to position himself among his mates, what to do when Benzema pushes hard on one of the midfielders and what to do when Cristiano is alone... there are many things he has to learn to do as a team member, which some people ignore and some others know but pretend they don’t, and that is knowing how to play with his team. Let the kid alone, let him grow within the team little by little. He’s a terrific player. I believe that the Bernabéu fans have already had a taste of what a great player he is, but now leave him alone. Michael is different. He’s been with me for three years now. He knows virtually all about football and his coach. He has a more stable position in the field and that’s why it’s easier for Michael to blend into the team. We’re all alright. There are few players in the team right now but this is a team open to the Moratas, the Nachos... I like this team very much. Last year we used to say that the team still had some leeway to grow given the players’ young age. This year we keep on saying the same, it’s still a children’s team.
On September 18th, the Real Madrid regained some ground after beating the Manchester City. During the press conference, you said that: “True domain is shown when you die in the field.”
First of all, let me tell you that pickup was only because the entire team wanted it. Second, because the Bernabéu fans were fair. The team was losing and that was fine. Some people were seen leaving the stadium back home. There was disappointment, but without criticism. There was the feeling that the team deserved more. The fans were fair with the team, they were nice with them –between inverted commas when they were about to lose the match, and the team kept calm. When you combine outside calmness –which you can feel, smell and hear– with ambition, with the will to make things happen, then things happen indeed. Winning is great. The emotion of winning a match, which was nothing but the encounter between two teams of a group of six where you could still either lose or make it to the classification, was virtually stronger than winning a playoff that you think is already lost but that you win at the last gasp. That’s why it was so great. My words tell exactly what I think. I’ve said, and continue to believe humbly, that in the Real Madrid’s history I’m nothing or very little. I’m just the coach that has won 32 championships and a Cup after many years. But that’s very little in the great history of the Real Madrid, very little. However, I deeply regret the fact of having dared say that there are some domain concepts due to some people, many of whom are no longer with the club, but who have publicised, in my opinion, an erroneous concept of domain. To me, domain means, among other things, that in the field of play a Real Madrid player has to die, metaphorically speaking. My feeling was that the players reached the end of that match really exhausted. And to me that’s the way it should be. A Real Madrid player must reach the end exhausted.
Many Real Madrid people truly appreciate that gesture at the very end, when you cheered Cristiano Ronaldo’s score so passionately. Others have tried to look for troubles but the Real Madrid fans were touched by that gesture and that scene which, by the way, was applauded at the Assembly meeting.
I’ve never cared about what others think, not even when I started as a coach. Now that I’m about to turn 50 and to celebrate my 12th anniversary as a coach, I’m not going to worry about what others say about my reactions or my work. It all came out of my heart and that was it. The other day, in Barcelona, I didn’t celebrate the first goal at all. I didn’t even stand up. I’ll feel in many different ways. In that particular match it just came out like that because of the way in which the team had reacted, the defeat in Seville, a lot of history, the fact that this club is the best one in the world in many respects and historically speaking the number one by far. That’s all.
Do you think that the Real Madrid fans like you?
In general terms, I think so. I’m sure that some people don’t, but I find that absolutely normal. The more I get to know the Real Madrid the more I think that there are some Real Madrid fans in disguise, some people who are not true Real Madrid supporters, who don’t have much of the club’s character. But the ordinary fans on the streets, in the stadium, the ones wearing the RM scarf, the ones I run into and pass by my car... I feel confident about those. When it comes to the tough times of losing matches, I’m still self-confident. I feel that, at least, people appreciate the way in which I have given myself away from the very first day and the way in which I work trying to do things right.
After three years with the team, are you surprised at the sometimes disrespectful comments made about you?
I don’t really care about disrespectful comments regarding my professional work or some others that I clearly see as a strategy. I don’t even read them. If someone tells me about something that someone has said about me, I couldn’t care less. I’ve learned not to judge, not to answer back. I’ve learnt not to give those pursuing some strategic intent the relevance or prominence they seek. Any sport or professional criticism made and which I may even think to be right or any opinion different from mine, that’s something absolutely normal and acceptable. Then I respect that fully and it doesn’t cause me any conflict. However, when those criticisms have to do with my personal life, I’ve made the decision, together with my family, that I was not going to tolerate it. Or else we see in court. And that’s the direction I’ve taken. That’s why I’m fully open to professional criticisms, even when I don’t agree. But when it comes to my personal life, I’m mot a child. I have children who are no longer little kids, I have a wife who suffers over things that make no sense, and since I don’t want to be publicly exposed and involved in this kind of situation and answer back those offending me by doing the same, I believe that, in a democracy like Spain, a European citizen like me, who works in Spain and fulfils all his duties in a responsible way, can then seek justice through the courts. And even if I don’t like it, I have to go in that direction.
There are many Real Madrid followers who are afraid that you might get tired and throw in the towel… Is there a solution for that thinking?
The solution does not depend on me. The solution depends on people’s conscience and the respect they should have or not towards a citizen who hasn’t invaded their country, but rather who has been invited to work here and does so with the utmost dignity and professionalism. If people want to stop, I’ll be delighted. If they want to go on, I don’t like it but I’ll have to move in that direction. Making me tired? No, it makes me upset rather. As far as my family is fine, and I enjoy being at the Real Madrid, no problem.
These are disturbing times, with lots of problems... Do you think that in the world of football there might be room in the future for a European competition, like the Champions League, but with the rank of a European Super League?
I’m not worried about football. Football is going through some tough times due to the difficult times that our countries are facing. Almost the whole of Europe, the world at large, is going through difficult times. Football is a micro-world. I’m more worried about the global world. I’m more concerned about the hardships people face: unemployment; social issues; terrible economic problems; people who have worked their entire life to have some peace and stability and then this time comes making them feel that all they’ve done has been completely useless; young people who in my generation used to leave college with great hope, with doors open, and filled with enthusiasm to face the professional world ahead but today graduate and become unemployed right away. That’s what I’m really worried about. People may think that I live in a micro-world, that I’m a privileged person… Ok, that’s true. Thanks God, it’s true. But I don’t live in a micro-world. I live in a global world and I’m truly worried. Football, as such, will always end up finding its own solutions. Football is an incredible phenomenon. We’re in a crisis, but football always makes its way through.