Welcome back, how are you?
I’m very happy. I had to prepare myself not to be too emotional for my arrival at the club but obviously I’m very happy.
How big a decision was it for you? It’s not common for managers to go back.
It was an easy decision. I met the boss, the owner, and I think within five minutes after some short and pragmatic questions we decided straight away. I asked the boss do you want me back, and the boss asked me do you want to come back, and in a couple of minutes the decision was made.
It worked out well in a way for both parties before. While you left and did what you wanted to do, Chelsea have continued to win things and built on what you did.
It was a difficult moment, September 2007, because I love it here and I have a big connection with the club, and also for the club it wasn’t easy. But if you analyse it in a cool way, emotions apart, it was fantastic because my career after that, I had everything I was aiming for in my career. I wanted to win the grand slam, to win in England, Spain and Italy. I did it. I got all the trophies in three countries. I got my second Champions League too.
I enjoy being in different countries, in different football cultures, and I think it’s important for my evolution as a manager and a football coach, and Chelsea Football Club got important trophies after that and had important moments in the history of the club. Now we are back together and we are getting together at a great moment for us both, so I think we are ready to marry again and be happy and successful.
What’s the plan now?
The plan is always the same, evolution and to establish the club at the highest possible level. I left Chelsea in 2007, since then I’ve spoken about the club many times, especially in my privacy. I remember the day we went to the United States in 2004 pre-season. We had open training sessions with only a couple of kids watching the sessions, nobody was following the team. It was the beginning of Roman and his second season I suppose was the beginning of Chelsea. After that Chelsea started winning the Premier League, for the first time and then the second time, and after that when we went back to the United States we found a completely different situation around the club.
I can imagine now especially after the Champions League, that was the highest point of the club’s history, that this is now a bigger club. The social mass around the club is much bigger.
I am the same, physically the same, but every day you have to think about yourself, especially the manager, and about the evolution. I have the same nature but I’m much more mature with a different approach to things, I’m more ready to be in a club and stay for a long time.
Normally you haven’t spent a lot more than about three years with a club so you are saying this is longer-term building?
I hope so. When you look at the profile of the Chelsea squad I think it’s what they need at this time. If you look from my time, there are around four or five boys and these are the older ones – very important for this football club and very important for the balance of the squad, but it’s a young squad with a lot of talent and I think they need stability to reach a high point of their evolution and for their careers. They need stability, stability I hope I can give them and between me, the owner and of course the club, we have no doubts about what we want to do and the approach we want to have. I’m very confident I can help the team and help the boys to develop.
I feel myself not just as the Chelsea manager, because this is the first time in my career that I’ve arrived at a club that I already love. Normally I love the club a couple of years after I am there. Of course I go to a club, I wear the shirt and I feel the shirt with the crest and I give everything I have to do it, but this is the first time where I love it already. To be at the same time a Chelsea fan and a Chelsea manager is a new feeling for me and it’s a fantastic feeling.
You have a head start with the fans as you are already popular.
I know I am and I know at this football club there is a culture for the fans to be loyal to somebody who gave. When I watch a Chelsea match on TV and I see, for example, a banner which says Didier Drogba, that’s fantastic, and it makes Chelsea a special club.
I know they have a special feeling for me. I played against Chelsea with Inter and it was difficult because I was feeling it wasn’t a normal situation for me, and I think the people in the stands felt the same as me, so I belong to them and they belong to me.
I think they know my nature, and they know I’m not coming here to sleep on what I did in the past and be comfortable just because we have a great feeling and we have a great relationship. Probably the first day I put my foot in Stamford Bridge again they will sing my name, but I’m not that kind of person and professional. I’m very demanding of myself. I need of course their support but I want to start from ground zero, I need to work hard again and build a different team from the team I built in the past. I want to give everything I can to the club, to the owner and to the fans, forgetting a little bit that I was a champion here. I want to have that pressure on myself like it is the first time I am here and I have to work hard to make sure they have a reason to be happy with me.
In the past six years you won the treble with Inter and had one incredible season in the league with Real Madrid. You say you are more mature now, how do you assess your development since you’ve been away from us?
Italy was something I wanted very, very much to do. Italian football is for sure the most tactical one, very difficult, especially if you are a team that wants to win, competing against teams that don’t want to lose. It was a big challenge for me.
I arrived in a club where there was an atmosphere of frustration because they couldn’t succeed in the Champions League and we got that trophy and for the first time in Italian football the treble. It helps me a lot to be more cultural. After Portugal and England I went to football with a different perspective. It was a big challenge for me, I had to challenge myself a lot and to study a lot. I think I became a better manager living in Inter.
I went to Madrid because I wanted to try to do the grand slam, the three most important championships in the world, and also because twice I had the chance to go to Real before, and I never did it because I decided to stay at Chelsea. The last one was the day after we won the FA Cup final at Wembley, and I thought “no way, I am going to stay”. The third time I wanted to go, I wanted another culture and another club with a worldwide dimension in terms of social approach and it was a fantastic experience for me. I think it was really important to get it in this period I call the last step of my formation as a manager. I’ve just turned 50 now and just finished my lap around European football. This experience in Madrid was fantastic because culturally it was hard, it was difficult. Portuguese and Spanish, and Spanish and Portuguese, and Real Madrid, a special club in a season where they have elections for the presidency, lots of politics around.
Last year we beat the record and got 100 points and 121 goals. This season everybody was focused on the Champions League. We reached the semi-finals and we all know, especially in this club, that semi-finals are a critical moment where you need that click to do it.
In our club there’s the semi-final we lost on penalties against Liverpool; the semi-final we lost with Guus Hiddink against Barcelona. You have the semi-final that took us to the final when we won with Roberto [Di Matteo], and we know in the Champions League semi-final you need that click. We [Real Madrid] didn’t have that click and couldn’t get the 10th European Cup that was an ambition for the club, but it was a fantastic experience for me and I think I arrived in my club, in my Chelsea, in the best moment of my career – of my stability as a manager, my stability as a person – always with my incredible family supporting me. I think I arrived in my best moment ready to give everything I have to try to make the club happy.
It seemed towards the end you lost your smile a little but in Madrid, but you’re happier now?
I’m not happy, I am very happy. As I was saying I was preparing myself in the last couple of days to control emotions, to come here in a cool way but I’m really emotional. I try to hide it a little bit but I am so happy and so proud because I think when you return to a place it is for some reason, not just because you have good results in the past or because the fans like you very much, it’s also because as a human point of view you left something here. People know the person I am, I kept a fantastic relationship with the owner and the club, and it’s something that makes me proud to be back. Not just because of the professional I am, I believe also because of the person I am.
The top three clubs in England will all be under new management next season. It is a very exciting time.
I think the Premier League is the Premier League. This season in terms of the Champions League, which is normally a thermometer of world football, I think English football was too early outside the competition. People were speaking about the level of the Premier League moving down comparing it with other countries, but I don’t believe so much on that. Sometimes things happen and there are no really firm reasons. I still think the Premier League is a fantastic competition and I don’t know but I believe there will be five or six teams very strong. In my time here in 2004 it was more about us, Man United and Arsenal, and after that a gap to the other teams. In this moment I think you can put five or six teams in the same plan, aiming at the start to reach the Champions League spots which is very difficult, and with more ambition to win the Premier League, and so the competition will be fantastic. I hope I can beat the competition.
Will the Premier League be the priority?
We have to improve the team, and when I say improve the team people are already thinking about how many millions Chelsea are going to spend, and when I say improve the team I am saying improving by work. My work has to improve players and improve the team. If I don’t do that I am not happy with myself. If after that we can improve the team by buying a couple of players it is fantastic but I have to improve the team and the players with my work. That’s a priority, improve.
In the last two years you were struggling in the Premier League. If you didn’t win the Champions League you would be out of the Champions League this year. This year you had to fight until the last match to qualify. We have to try of course to improve, but the priority in a club that reached the level is exactly that – improve individually, improve collectively and improve the structure of the club around the football team, and try to win the next match. Which one is the next match? The Premier League? Let’s go for the Premier League. If the next match is the FA Cup, let’s go for the FA Cup. It is difficult for me to say something is the priority. The priority is to work hard, work professionally and make the team better.
There is a lot of new talent for you to work with, exciting, flair players. How are you thinking about the style of the side right now?
First of all I need to work with them. I like the profile. I like the fact we have three, four or five players from the beginning of the winning Chelsea, and I think they have to be always a part of the Chelsea soul, so I’m so happy we kept some of these boys.
But the profile of the younger players with long-term space for improvement and development, I like very much that kind of profile. I’ve come with a four-year contract so with the age of Eden Hazard, Oscar, David Luiz and these boys, I think it will be good for me to work with them and good for them to work with me. Together we can improve and make a better team than we have now.
Can you tell us what the staff you are bring with you are going to do?
Rui Faria (pictured below left) as you know is my methodology right arm, the guy that understands best my information and the way I work. He’s been with me since the beginning, the same as Silvino. [Jose] Morais started working with me at Inter, at the time Andre [Villas-Boas] went to coach in Portugal. Morais does the same work Andre was doing – scouting and analysing, working hand in hand with [ Chelsea match analyst] James Melbourne. He’s been a friend for a long time and has been coaching in many countries, in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Tunisia, Sweden, Morocco. He’s a guy with fantastic experience and he’s working in that area.
From the previous staff I get Christophe Lollichon, Steve Holland and Chris Jones. They are people who have been here a long time and are very much trusted internally, and I’m happy to have them in my staff. From this moment they become only one staff, which is Chelsea staff, and we are going to work together and work hard to try to give what everybody is waiting for.
Presumably you need a holiday?
I am sorry we don’t start training tomorrow. I say to the players during the season when sometimes they look tired, victories make miracles. When you win, win, win, you are never tired. In my case, it’s not about winning, it’s about moving, moving to a place I love and happiness. I’m so happy to be back. The players need a holiday, I don’t. I’m waiting for them and when we start they will find somebody with great motivation, in spite of my white hair, which I didn’t have in 2004.
We go to Asia, then America and then play the Super Cup. You against Pep Guardiola, that’s a good start.
It’s not Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, it’s Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Mourinho did nothing to play this match, and Guardiola did nothing to play this match. The players did it, and the previous managers did it, so I will be in that match just by trying to help my club and my players win the trophy, nothing else. It’s not going to be crucial to our work or our season. We have to go to pre-season, work hard in pre-season. We have club commitments, that’s also important, and socially it’s important to go to areas such as Asia and the States, and give what the club need us to give, but we have to work hard.
Nine years ago in the Chelsea TV studio you looked in the camera and you said I can promise you quality, work and love and passion to bring success to the club. Would that be the same message you give today?
It is exactly the same message but now I can say I am one of you and that makes a little bit of a difference, I have never had that in football. I had in my career two great passions, Inter and Chelsea, and Chelsea is more than important for me. It was very, very hard to play against Chelsea and I did it only twice which was not so bad so now I promise exactly the same things I promised in 2004, with this difference which is I’m one of you.