Jose Mourinho has been assessing the change in nature of the Barclays Premier League since his previous spell in charge of Chelsea, and the Portuguese believes there are now more teams better equipped to sustain a title challenge.
Mourinho led the Blues to back-to-back titles in his first two years at the club, finishing ahead of Arsenal in 2004/05 and with Manchester United beaten into second place the following season.
Looking ahead to the 2013/14 campaign, however, the Blues boss acknowledged the threat posed by teams who have improved during his time away.
‘In terms of quality, I don’t think it’s better,’ said the Blues boss. ‘I think in terms of quality we all have to work together to raise the level, but in terms of competitiveness it’s harder.
‘In my time there were three teams. Everybody knew that between us, United and Arsenal, one is first, one is second and one is third.
‘At this moment, [Manchester] City have appeared with fantastic economical power which has helped them go up as fast as they did.
‘Tottenham had a very good period with Harry [Redknapp], reaching fourth and playing Champions League, going up and up and up.
‘Andre [Villas Boas] did a good job by keeping them at that level and they have conditions to fight for the Premier League, not just for a Champions League spot.
‘Liverpool, I know Brendan, I know he can do it. Now, I don’t speak with him so much on the phone, but last year I did, and I know his project, ideas and what he wants to do, so there are about six teams.
‘Who’s going to be first? Who’s going to be sixth? I don’t know, but for sure, of the more important leagues, it is the one with the most contenders.’
Mourinho went on to stress the importance of stability throughout the club as a new era is ushered in.
‘I think you need stability for identity and I think identity is becoming more important in football,’ he explained. ‘You need stability if you want to go in this profile direction.
‘If Chelsea in past years bought lots of young players, young players need to be developed. At a certain point that development and evolution can be by being on loan and can be as a natural evolution, but another thing is the evolution and development inside your club, and for that you need stability in methods, philosophy and principles.’