At the start of the season Victor Vargo sat down and interviewed Jose Mourinho. Looking back on the interview now it's clear to see the sort of pressure he put himself under and how in setting out his own ambitions and expectations he might have unwittingly been building his own gallows at Real Madrid.
Q: Do you expect to win titles in your first year at Real Madrid, or could it wait till next year?
JM: I’m fully aware that Real Madrid by nature wants to win everything in the first season. I like to have that pressure. I’m not one of those who make excuses for what they don’t do, because they didn’t have the conditions or because they were still adapting.
It won’t be easy. In the championship we’ve got Barcelona who are the best team at present, and in the Champions League there are Italian, English and German teams, as well as teams like Benfica who have shown that they want to return to the top of European football.
I tend to say that the second year is one of maturity. It was the year when Porto became European champions, it was the year when Inter became European champions, it was the year when Chelsea won the Premier League more easily, with two Champions League semi-finals in a row. It’s in the second year when you get more maturity.
Q: At a club like Real, is it possible for you to go a year without winning a trophy?
JM: Not one trophy. At least two trophies. In seven years, with the exception of when I left Chelsea in the autumn, I always won more than one trophy. I won three with Porto in my first year and another three in my second year, two with Chelsea in each of my three seasons, two at Inter in the first year and three last season. Even though I’m still a young coach, these 17 titles in three different leagues make me seem a veteran.
Q: Is there extra pressure to win the Champions League?
JM: Real Madrid have the history we all know. It was the most important club in the world as it celebrated its centenary. But it has gone two years without winning anything. It hasn’t reached a Champions League final in ten years, it hasn’t even got past the last 16 in 7 or 8 years. That may be normal for any ordinary club. But for a giant club it’s a difficult situation, almost dramatic. So we have to start winning now.
I’ve already achieved important things without the best players in the world. It’s the strength of the team which counts, the structure of the club and getting the fans behind you.
Q: Even then, winning may not be enough at Real. You are expected to do it with style.
JM: The coach has to adapt the style of play to the characteristics of the players. Real, with the players we have, has to be a team which plays good attacking football. To achieve that we have to work together as a team, and that has always been a characteristic of my teams.
Q: Cristiano Ronaldo said that Real already have some of the best players in the world, and now with the best coach in the world can go far. Do you agree?
JM: I’ve already achieved important things without the best players in the world. It’s the strength of the team which counts, the structure of the club and getting the fans behind you. All that brings success. This is the best club in the world with the best players, but that doesn’t win matches. There are opponents to take into account.
Q: Since arriving at Real, have you been in any way surprised by Ronaldo’s quality?
JM: There are few coaches I’m friends with, but Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United is one of them. He told me that the kid, as he called him, had an incredible work ethic. Having seen him, what I find impressive, for a player with his status, is that nobody works more than him.
I had my experienced players at Inter who were older and who were good examples. Zanetti, Cordoba, Materazzi showed how it’s done. Here I’ve got Ronaldo and, with the way he works, it makes it easy to make demands of other players.
As for his quality, he’s an amazing player. Physically and technically he’s absolutely impressive. Tactically I’m sure he’ll soon understand the game. He’s quick at solving problems.
Q: Have the signings you’ve made increased Real’s chances of winning the Champions League?
JM: I’m happy with the signings. Up front we could have done with another striker. We only have Higuain and Benzema, although Ronaldo can play there if needed. I just have to hope none of them get injured.
I think we are a candidate, but not the only candidates. There’s Barcelona, Inter, AC Milan who have signed top attacking players, Chelsea, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and others. The Champions League is a long tournament which depends on details and you need luck at certain times. I would love to become the first coach to win it with three different clubs.
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