Those Chelsea players who aren’t still on international duty are now away resting and recovering after a season of record-breaking intensity in terms of match action, and it is just such extreme tests that Jose Mourinho missed during his time away from England.
The Portuguese was the manager when the previous record for games played was set – 64 in 2006/07 – which was beaten by five matches in the campaign recently completed, and he knows full well what the demands are on a top club in England. Some say those hold the game back in some ways, especially when it comes to contesting World Cups and European Championships in the summer months, and they do reduce time on the training pitch, but Mourinho is embracing the challenge on his return.
‘I’m not saying it’s right, I’m saying I love it, and sometimes you love things that aren’t right,’ he says.
‘Would I prefer to have a week’s holiday over Christmas, like I had in my time in Spain when I went to New York or Brazil? That’s fantastic but I prefer to play. Give me three matches at Christmas!
‘I was at home one week over Christmas watching Premier League football with envy. Is it right to play three consecutive matches? Maybe not but I love it.
‘English football is the mother country of football, there’s no doubt about that and the competitiveness is very high,’ he adds as further explanation why he wanted to come back to these shores.
‘I don’t enjoy very much winning 6-0, I don’t enjoy too much playing a league where you know you are playing against one other team and you know this is about 90 points, 92, 96, 100 points, 100 goals, 110 goals, 120 goals. If you make a little mistake and you lose a match you are in big trouble because your direct opponent doesn’t lose any matches, and it’s the same for them.
‘The season before last, Barcelona with the number of points they had would have won every league, and they finished second. The same with Real Madrid this season. It’s a two-horse race and that’s a big difference from English football.
‘Also the mentality of enjoying the 90 minutes of the game and pushing everybody to the maximum of their possibilities, and playing the extra competition of the Capital One Cup. Playing every three days with the Christmas period, the Easter period, the accumulation of matches, pushing people to the limit, I think that is fantastic.’
One of the players yet to go on holiday is Fernando Torres, a veteran of 64 Chelsea matches last season. He is still with Spain and Mourinho spoke yesterday about the need to meet and work with players before making decisions.
‘While Fernando, Juan Mata and Cesar Azpilicueta are with the national team I don’t want to contact them as I don’t want to be misinterpreted. I have to wait until the end of the Confederations Cup, after that I will speak with him.
‘He’s a Chelsea player, he has a contract and he expressed himself already and said he wants to stay and work hard. He deserves that respect from me and from the club especially. The respect starts with speaking to him face to face and deciding what is best for all of us. If the best for all of us is for Fernando to stay then we will help him and get the best out of him.’
Mourinho did confirm when asked that John Terry’s captaincy, which began full-time at the start of the manager’s first season in 2004, continues.
‘Last time John was the captain by a club decision, because he was born in the club and because of his personality on the pitch. I did a simple consultation with the players trying to feel opinions and everybody agreed.
‘At this moment, when you say “my captain”, it’s not the real word. It’s more Chelsea captain, because Chelsea captain is my captain, the board’s captain, the fans’ captain.
‘John is the club captain; I’m more than happy he’s the captain, the fans are more than happy he’s the captain, so I think he has to be.
‘Has he the armband? Only if he plays. If he isn’t in the starting 11 he doesn’t have the armband, but he’s the captain. I didn’t think for one second before on this but he has to be and he deserves to be, I’m happy for him to be.’