Jose Mourinho, in his first interview after returning as Chelsea manager last month, said he wished pre-season preparations were beginning right there and then. His wait came to an end on Monday and after three days of work with the squad at Cobham, and before travelling to Asia tomorrow (Thursday), he tells the official Chelsea website whether training so far has matched his expectations, and gives views on the three recent signings.
Participation in the recent Confederations Cup means Brazilian, Spanish and Nigerian members of the Chelsea squad are currently enjoying a well-earned rest, but everyone else is back and raring to go according to the manager.
‘Especially for a new manager with a new group it is a pity when you cannot start with all of your players, and I have six that are not here, but I am so happy to be back,’ Mourinho says.
‘I feel the same happiness in every player. It is not just about commitment and great attitude, because they are professional expectations, I think they are also showing great pleasure, they are working with passion and with enthusiasm and that is the best thing for a manager.
‘I spent a long time in the holiday period preparing these training sessions but after that it is up to the players to make them great or not so great. To make every training session a great period they are working very, very well and I am very, very pleased.
‘I have in the same group the guys that were with me before, I have the players from the first team that came here after 2007 and I am working with them for the first time, and I am having a third group which is a very special one,’ he adds.
‘The good part of the bad thing of not having the players from the Confederations Cup is that some kids have the chance to be with us training, and I see that not just as a learning period for them, I see that also as a good message for the other young players that are not with us now.
‘We have here six of them and for sure during the season all of them from the Under-21s and even some from the youth team will come and be part of our group. This club is going well in that direction by investing in them, and believes they can be important for the future – so I am very happy.
‘It has been very enjoyable these first three days with all these guys. It is good to be back and it is good also for me to work with this passion, with this enthusiasm. It is something that I always need.’
The last month has seen reinforcements to the attacking, midfield and goalkeeping departments of the squad with new signings made, and Mourinho gives his thoughts on all three.
‘Andre Schurrle is still so young but he already has great history because he plays in his national team, he has played Champions League and he played three complete seasons for Leverkusen,’ he says about the 22-year-old.
‘So he is a player who is absolutely ready and he gives us more than one position in attack and adds quality. He will be important for us.
‘Marco van Ginkel is one of the best prospects. He is not yet like Schurrle – close to being a finished product – but he is a player with great potential.
‘Of course he needs to play and he will, because he is a player with great potential and physically he is more than ready. He is a natural athlete. By the technical and the tactical point of view of course he is a kid, he has to learn, but I think he is very open-minded and we analysed him for quite a long time. The Chelsea scouting department did it for quite a long time and I did it in the last five or six months, and we made a collective decision to bring the kid here.
‘Mark Schwarzer is what we need. I never say this one is the first choice and this one is the second and this one is the third, but of course as a starting point Petr Cech is Petr Cech – he is the best in the world with deference to all the others and Mark knows that he comes to be an important member of the squad, to compete with Petr and to give us in that position what we have in any other position where we have competition and options, giving protection to each other.
‘With Mark we have a goalkeeper who has played an incredible number of matches in the last 10 years in the Premier League and he is more than ready for this.’
Mourinho confirms that three additions to the squad for next season are Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Tomas Kalas, after their successful respective loans at West Brom, Werder Bremen and Vitesse.
‘They are good players with a very good value in the market and we have these players this season for free, after an investment that the club did before,’ he says.
‘After the development of the players on loan it is the right moment for them to be back. They are very young with space to develop, they will be better year after year and I can imagine in five years they are much better than today – but what they have today is more than enough to belong to this squad.
‘So we are a very young squad. We have an average age of 26.3 and that includes Schwarzer who is 40 years old and JT, Cech and Lampard in their 30s, so if we don’t involve these players we drop to almost an Under-21 team.
‘We have a team to develop, we have a team to work. Of course we know there are expectations already and we want to create expectations for ourselves, we don’t need other people to create them – but the reality is the best period of this team has yet to arrive because they are very young and in five, six, seven years’ time is when this team will be in the best moment of their careers.’
– In part two of the interview tomorrow Mourinho will talk further about the development of young players and about touring Asia.