In an attempt to counter suspicions that Old Trafford was the destination he really coveted on his return to England, José Mourinho has revealed that he and Sir Alex Ferguson privately confided their plans to one another months before they became public.
Mourinho said the now retired Manchester United manager told him of his intention to step down "many months ago", swearing him to secrecy, and in return that he hankered after a return to Stamford Bridge.
"I knew that Ferguson was retiring many months ago and I was so happy to have his trust. It was big news for the world. I can imagine that just a very close circle around him knew that and it was a big responsibility for me to know that," he said. "Why do I know that? Because we are friends. If I am his friend to know he is going to retire, he is also my friend to know that the club I want to coach in England is Chelsea. Of course I told him," added Mourinho. "For Chelsea, I would turn down every job in the world."
If the recent history of Chelsea has been mostly retold in recent weeks as though it were a Mills & Boon reunion of two star-crossed lovers, Mourinho also moved to insist this relationship with Roman Abramovich – or "the boss" – never cooled. Despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary, Mourinho insisted that he and Abramovich remained on good terms throughout his departure, his time away and his return. He said they remained in intermittent but regular contact, either personally or via other members of the Chelsea board.
Dismissing the persistent suggestion it was Abramovich who foisted the £30m striker Andriy Shevchenko on him during his first spell, one of the factors thought to have contributed to an increasingly poisonous atmosphere, Mourinho said he was not even their first choice. "We wanted to buy Samuel Eto'o. That was our target. He was more than ready to do everything to bring Eto'o here," said Mourinho, who believed the then Barcelona striker was the only player with the flexibility to play alongside Didier Drogba in either a 4-4-2 or his favoured 4-3-3 and later bought him for Internazionale.
"The boss did everything to bring Eto'o. At the last moment, Barcelona refused to sell. So we looked at other options. I was happy with Shevchenko," insisted the Portuguese, who swept back into Stamford Bridge preaching a mantra of serenity and stability.
The Ukrainian was simply a big money bet who did not work out, he said. "Even with the top dogs, when you buy and pay £30m, £40m, £50m, sometimes it doesn't work."
One of Mourinho's immediate tasks when he meets his players for the first time on 8 July will be to decide on the future of another expensive curate's egg who was widely believed to have been the choice of the owner. He rated the contribution of Fernando Torres to the Chelsea cause so far to be "so-so", but has resolved to give him a chance to prove himself; the Spaniard himself is keen to stay and impress. "Somebody could expect more because of what he did before. But not so bad as people sometimes try to say," said Mourinho.
The 50-year-old, who at times last week appeared to be doing his best to rewrite recent history, insisted that Abramovich had always been the model owner. "I tell you that never in my time did the owner do something like that or try to interfere in the basic things of a manager – training sessions, team selection, the profile of a player you want to bring. He never interfered," he said.
But just as Mourinho claimed to have learned many lessons in his six years away from west London in Italy and Spain, and said he was relishing the challenge of proving himself over a longer period, so he said Abramovich would have learned much over a decade that has brought him a host of trophies but at a cost of more than £1bn.
"Like everyone who doesn't belong to a football world or doesn't have a football background, you can't expect that after two clicks he knows everything. Ten years is a long time, he went through a lot of experiences and I can imagine he uses that experience in his favour."
Asked whether he was aware of the phrase "never go back", Mourinho reached instead for the example of Jupp Heynckes at Bayern Munich, joking that he should go away and come back for a third time so he could win the treble. "We know each other very well. The club knows me, I know the club. I think this should be a plus not a minus. I come here now and it's completely different from when I arrived for the first time.
"From an emotional point of view, I feel I'm coming back. It's my dugout. It's the stadium where I never lost a match. It's my dressing room, it's Cobham, it's my office, it has the same table. Emotionally, you get it," he said. "But from a purely professional point of view it's no different to arriving at a new club. It's the same ambition. I don't want people to think that this is comfortable for me. It's difficult. And that's what I want."
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