Jose Mourinho takes charge of the Blues for the first time since returning to the club when we open our 2013/14 Barclays Premier League campaign against Hull City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, and the Portuguese is looking forward to getting started in what he described as his favourite football country.
Since his first spell in charge of Chelsea, Mourinho has gone on to enjoy successful spells in both Italy and Spain, with Inter Milan and Real Madrid respectively.
As he prepares to go head-to-head with Steve Bruce on Sunday afternoon, however, he spoke of his love for the English game.
‘I think of myself as somebody who should be in this competition because it’s my favourite one and I can say that as I have experience in three other countries, so I’m in a good condition to say that it’s my favourite competition and my favourite country to work,’ he said. ‘So when I have this passion for this football country I think I am in my natural habitat and I want to be seen as somebody who is very much connected.
‘I feel I have to work for my club, for Chelsea Football Club, but at the same time I’m working for English football and I want to give my best. I think now I’m better than ever because experience helps us to be better, especially managers.
‘We are not like players, where sometimes it changes in a negative way. I just want to be seen as one more like anybody else, but somebody who wants to give everything for his club and for the Premier League.
‘I look forward to the salt and pepper of football; I love football, and I love the salt and pepper of football, which is the unpredictability. It’s the unpredictability of every game, the unpredictability of the result. Who is going to win? Who is going to qualify for the top four? Who is going to be relegated? I love that, so let’s go for it full of joy from all sides, I hope every fan feels the same.
‘Of course, I go to Stamford Bridge, I go to my people, but at the same time I want to say to everyone in this country who goes to football every weekend at every stadium, I want to say I am one of them, I’m not just a Blue, I’m one of them. I love this football country and I want to try to give joy to everybody.’
The biggest difference between the current group of players and the one from Mourinho’s previous spell in charge is undoubtedly the profile of the squad.
While the side which won back-to-back Premier League titles was able to call on players with a wealth of experience such as Claude Makelele and Ricardo Carvalho, the current squad are largely young and still developing. Mourinho, though, is thoroughly enjoying working with such a talented group of players.
‘I look to improve my players, and obviously give a contribution to my club for them to be better and better, not thinking in just a selfish way, because I never do that, but thinking long term,’ he said. ‘To give the club good conditions, not just for tomorrow, but especially with the kind of squad profile we have, for the long term.
‘It’s a squad I like, I’m not lying when I say that, and I’m not lying when I say that I’m very much enjoying working with these young people, some of whom it’s their first time in the Premier League. I’m enjoying this process and formation of my team, with a different profile to the team I had in my previous years.’
With only a couple of weeks remaining until the transfer window closes, speculation continues to mount over potential new arrivals, and while the manager was giving very little away with regards to signings, he insisted one player in particular, contrary to media reports, will be going nowhere.
‘I’m just a Chelsea manager; every one of us is looking always to strengthen our squad,’ he said. ‘We all say no but we lie, because until the last day when the market is open we are all waiting for something to happen.
‘Even when we say we are happy with our squad we lie because we always want to make it better, so we’ll see what happens, not just with us but with Manchester United and everybody else as well.
‘This club did fantastic work and put ourselves in a position where we have a fantastic balance, the club is in perfect conditions to say we don’t want to sell this player or that player.
‘David Luiz is one of the players in whom the club made a huge investment; he’s not been here for seven, eight, nine or 10 years, he’s only been here for a couple of years. He’s a very young player; he’s a player that signed a new contract last year, so when he signed that contract he was very happy to do it.
‘We want to keep him, we understand that a big club like Barcelona wants the best and they are trying to buy one of the best central defenders in the world, but we are being very honest in saying there is no chance David Luiz is leaving.’
Understandably, Sunday’s game will be an emotional occasion for the returning boss, as he takes charge of a competitive fixture as Chelsea manager for the first time since 2007, as well as reacquainting himself with an excited, expectant fan-base.
In order to ensure the players, and himself, are completely prepared for Sunday’s game, Mourinho will lead training on the Stamford Bridge pitch tomorrow.
‘We will train there tomorrow because I want some boys to adapt and to know where the dressing room is, where the dugout is, how to get to the pitch, where the tunnel is, because some of them have never been to Stamford Bridge,’ he explained.
‘For me, I have big experience in many countries with many big clubs, but to be back there will be a special feeling. I had it when I played at Stamford Bridge with Inter, but now, I go to my dugout, to my stadium, to my people. I have to control myself because I will feel something different for sure, but after a couple of minutes I will need to be focused on the game.
‘Before the match, the fans will focus on me and Roman; me because I’m back and Roman because he’s celebrating 10 years at the club, and the club owe him so much. But after two minutes they have to forget us, focus on the team and support the players. Our fans are great in the sense of loyalty to the people who gave something to the club in the past, but I think they have to focus on the game, and in this competition try to make Stamford Bridgea tough place to play.’
In terms of the match itself, the Blues will start as favourites against our recently-promoted opponents, looking to secure three points ahead of another home game on Wednesday, against Aston Villa.
Mourinho, however, is taking nothing for granted, and has learnt from past experiences.
‘The start is difficult, I don’t like to play against teams that come up from the lower division because they come with a fantastic mentality, they come as a team that, week after week have been winning matches, they come with a fantastic attitude,’ he explained.
‘It happened to me at Inter when we played against Bari; they came to the San Siro and drew 2-2, so these teams come with a great mentality and it’s a difficult start. We have to play two days after against Aston Villa, after that we have to go to Old Trafford, so it’s a very difficult start.’