© foto di Acero/Alterphotos/Image Sport
José Mourinho is looking forward to his third season at Real Madrid after having won a league title, a Copa del Rey and a Spanish Super Cup. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper AS, conducted during his participation in the Forum for Coaches from Elite UEFA Clubs in Nyon, the coach reviews the how things are going at Real Madrid and the start of the new campaign. In the second instalment of the interview, Mourinho talks about the objectives of the team, national teams and mentions by name the likes of Modric, Kaká and Essien.
Have Real Madrid’s players, and their coach, lost the hunger for the league and only have the Champions League and matches against Barca on their mind?
I can assure you that it has not happened with me. And I don’t think it has with the team either. But a coach should not rule out the possibility of any strange feelings and should be on top of this. We also have the structure in place to stop that feeling creeping into the squad.
How do you do that?
You have to make sure the players understand that if they want to be candidates, only candidates to win the European Cup they have to play at a high level all season. I tell them that it will not do to be on top form just for a particular match or against a particular opponent. If we want to be on form for the Champions League we must be playing well in the league and cup. That’s why each match doesn’t have the one single objective of winning but we also to look to improve and progress. I don’t say that we expect perfection because it does not exist. But to get close to it, or to try to, is compulsory at Real Madrid. If I think that a player does not understand that then, as a coach, I have weapons to prevent it: for example, if I notice that someone holds back in the league with the Champions League in mind, maybe I’ll surprise him and not play him in the Champions League.
But aren’t you worried about Real Madrid’s sluggish start in the League?
In truth, no. I would worry if I saw that we are the only ones that it was happening to. But it isn’t. All of the teams that had a lot of players in the European Championship or the Olympic Games could have started better. The same has happened with Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Porto, Benfica ... almost all the big teams that did not have a full pre-season together are having difficulties.
So, you don’t feel that the yearning for the Champions League could be a distraction to Real Madrid in the league?
I'm not saying it could not happen, that it couldn’t be a hidden risk but I have not sensed it. If it does happen, which is something we cannot predict, we have to realise quickly and take necessary action. I'll be very attentive. I analyse everything, everything that relates to the players and the team. A big team cannot pick and choose their competition and Real Madrid are a big team. Of course you can end up winning or losing but you have to go out and to try to win every time. If I get the feeling that we’re not doing that then I take decisions to try to correct it. But really, I doubt that Real Madrid, with the competitive spirit we have at the moment, will go wrong because of that. This summer’s European Championship are a little to blame for the irregular start in the league. We have to have a bit of patience, although I don’t want my players to think that I am a patient coach so that they don’t relax.
Does the international calendar needing sorting out? Spain have a match in Panama on 14th November. Real Madrid will then have three days before playing Athletic and five days before the fifth group match of the Champions league, away at City. The best eleven will possibly be playing in both...
On one hand, if I were the national team coach I would defend to death every match, every FIFA date and it would seem like there weren’t many of them. I’d ask for more. But as a club coach, as I am now, I see just the opposite. I recognise that it is a problem. But we have made some progress. Now the national team will play a doubleheader, so players can return a day earlier. They’re also removing the August friendly, which is a total disaster. I think the next step will be to stop international friendlies that involve intercontinental travel during the club season. Or that if they are to be played, they are played in July, just after the season, but with holidays and pre-season in mind. This is the perfect time to put on a match in Asia, Africa, America, in continents where they also have the right to see the biggest teams in the world. It is a matter of good will, to find the balance between clubs and national associations without forgetting that the clubs are paying the players.
So you Mourinho, contrary to what people think, are not against international friendlies?
No, I'm not. But I am in favour of them being planned in an orderly and sensible manner. I'm not against it because I understand that national teams promote a good social, emotional, and national feeling and pride and we have to respect that. National teams unite countries, fans of one team with and fans of others. I understand that and support it. But I ask for a balance.