Jose Mourinho says he expects Samuel Eto’o to make his Chelsea debut away at Everton on Saturday, a game for which he has a full squad available to choose from.
Speaking at his regular pre-match Friday press conference, Mourinho was in typical relaxed mood with the media, providing the latest team news and his plans for squad rotation, but also joking about global warming and relaying an awkward story from when he first met Deco.
The main news however is Eto’o, who Mourinho says is likely to play some part at Goodison Park in tomorrow’s tea-time kick-off.
‘He will be selected,’ confirmed Mourinho. ‘When you are selected and you’re a striker, normally you play. You start or you finish the game. My attacking players, when I select them, normally they play, because it’s an area where I make more changes during the match. Normally, he will play his first minutes for Chelsea in the Premier League.
‘I think he is adapted to the style of play we want in our team, which is a bit contradictory to the general style and philosophy in the Premier League. We are not a physical, direct team. We want to use the qualities of our attacking players in a different way and Samuel is adapted to it. Technically he is very good, his movement is very intelligent, he knows exactly the kind of movement he has to do to give continuity to the attacking game, and he has this natural appetite for goals.
‘Normally he will score a few goals for us, and he gives experience to a team that from midfield into attacking areas, Fernando is the oldest one and he is a young guy. Everybody is very young. Against Bayern, Schurrle, Oscar and Hazard were the three players behind Fernando, all of them under 22, so Samuel is a player to add some experience to a young area of the team.’
Eto’o’s signing, and Romelu Lukaku’s subsequent loan, leaves Mourinho with three senior forwards to pick from, with Fernando Torres and Demba Ba also available.
‘Normally I start with one striker,’ Mourinho said. ‘A few times I can start with two. Normally I start with one but many times I finish with two.
‘I chase results. Sometimes if I have to risk one point to get three, I do it almost every time. Against United I didn’t, because I felt it was an important point, but normally I risk one point to go for three. I like to have strikers on the bench and I like to finish matches with two of them. That’s why this group of three is fundamental. It’s very rare I don’t make changes.’
On Lukaku, who is not eligible for Everton tomorrow, he explained: ‘It was something he was very keen to do. The kid wants to play every weekend. I don’t know if Roberto [Martinez] promised him that, but the kid is more keen on that than competing every week against other big players for a position.
‘He’s a great kid and that’s why we don’t want to sell him. We didn’t sell him when we had good proposals to do it. We all believe he is a player for many years at Chelsea. When the player is happy to go and we got Samuel, it was a good way to resolve the situation because we kept three experienced players for a position that demands a lot, and at the same time we let him go, and go happy.’
We return to Barclays Premier League action for the first time since drawing at Manchester United on August 26, a three-week break, and Mourinho is looking forward to visiting Goodison Park with a full selection of players.
‘We wanted to keep playing but we had the Super Cup and after, the players went to the national team,’ said the manager. ‘But we were quite lucky because nobody came back with problems. That’s something that always worries us when so many players go to national team duty.
‘We have every player at our disposal and now is a good period. It’s a period everybody wants and feels they are going to have a chance, playing three competitions at the same time. Everton, Basel, Fulham, Swindon, Tottenham, Steaua Bucharest, so every three days we have a game. It’s very good for the players from a motivational point of view.
‘Everton is a good team. Goodison Park is a difficult place to play. Their record at home is normally better than away. I watched in my study time twice the game Everton against Chelsea from December, and the three points came in the wrong direction, they were better than Chelsea in that match, so it is difficult, but in this league no match is easy. We want to win. We go trying to win knowing they are a difficult side.
‘They have a good squad. They did very well in the last days of the market. They got two very good players for midfield, different profiles, ages, futures, but [Gareth] Barry is a very good experienced player and [James] McCarthy is a good young player.’
In Liverpool, Mourinho’s team selection will have been based not just on the 90 minutes ahead, but the games that follow.
‘With so many matches coming consecutively, sometimes I will make strange decisions “at your eyes”, but decisions where I think further than the next match, and I think about the ones that are coming,’ he explained to journalists. ‘Sometimes I will leave out of selection an important player because I want to have him at his maximum level for the next match. I want players to think only with one match [in mind] but I have to think further than that as a manager.’
The Portuguese was also asked about the prospect of a winter World Cup in Qatar in 2022. It appears it is not a pressing concern for the 50-year-old.
‘I think with the climate changes, probably at that time, summer becomes winter and winter become summer, so maybe it’s not a problem!’ he joked.
There was also a light moment when he was asked about Eto’o’s recent interview, where the Cameroonian admitted he previously vowed never to play for Mourinho.
‘You have to be experienced, you have to be smart, you have to know the football world is very small,’ Mourinho smiled. ‘Sometimes you say things and a few years later you are faced with a difficult situation. It’s fine.
‘Immediately in the beginning of my career I had a funny situation with Deco. Deco was in Porto, I was in Leiria. In November we played against Porto, we exchanged some hot words during the match, and two weeks later I was Porto manager. I came into the changing room, the first thing I did was to look at Deco and he was looking to his knees!
‘In football you have these situations but we all know when we are on the same side, everything changes. Samuel with me at Inter was a golden period, for both of us, and here he is again.’
The conference ended with Mourinho invited to join the recent debate over English football and its development of young talent for the national team.
‘This is a discussion I don’t want to participate in publicly,’ he said. ‘It’s the kind of discussion I am ready for if people think my participation can give one inch of contribution, I’m ready to have it privately.
‘Pure discussion is not good – the solutions are good. Public debate is something I’m not interested in. If the right people think my experience of being abroad in important leagues and countries, knowing English football well, if people think I can give a little contribution to solutions we all want, I am ready for that.’