Mourinho's teacher's pet? 'A difficult personality, big ego, respect!'

Jose Mourinho Chelsea

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has spoken highly of a man oft-claimed to be tough to manage.

It is only a matter of time before players who hold a special place in Jose Mourinho's heart are outed.

When the charismatic Portuguese first arrived in London, not long after proclaiming himself The Special One, he walked into the showers in order to speak to a naked Frank Lampard. Mourinho, meanwhile, was suited and booted and stared at Frank in the eye, before telling him over and over, 'you are the best in the world in your position'.

At Internazionale, too, he had his favourites. While any member of the historic treble winners of the 2010 team will live long in Mourinho's memory - "I like winners" - he made no hesitation in reuniting itself with Samuel Eto'o when the opportunity presented himself, still speaks highly of Wesley Sneijder but polarising striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic may top the lot.

While the Swede transferred to Barcelona the summer before Inter's greatest ever campaign, Ibra went on to win a league title in Spain, another title in Italy (this time with AC Milan) and now has one in France.

The nature of that departure hurt Mourinho at the time, as he wanted to retain the services of a player who turned into a "friend".

He told the club's official website: "We connected very well. The only time we disagreed was obvious because I wanted him to stay in Inter and he wanted to leave for Barcelona, but that's normal. During one year our relationship was phenomenal."

Ibrahimovic is not like other footballers.

Paris Saint Germain are his seventh professional club, he is a scorer of highlight-reel goals, is a physically-impressive athlete (6ft 5in) yet is seemingly prone to episodes of violence, is seen as hot-headed, was embroiled in a dressing-room bust-up with Pep Guardiola, has been accused of headbutting his own team-mates, is arrogant but is one of sport's most compelling characters as his autobiography I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic testifies.

Continued Mourinho in an attempt to quell the notion that Ibrahimovic is tough to manage: "When people say that he's a difficult personality, for me the difficult personalities are the players that don't want to win, don't want to work, and don't want to be the best.

"He wants to work and he wants to be best. He has a big ego, a big self-esteem, and he knows he's a really top player, so for me to be his coach was fantastic."

Recently, Ibrahimovic asserted that Paris will be his last stop on his journey through elite-level European clubs, meaning that the Premier League has never and will never be a Zlatan showcase. 

"We are friends and we respect each other," added Mourinho. "He has to be where he is happy and if he is happy in Paris - and I know he is - I think he has to stay.

"At the same time it's a pity for him when he finishes his career that he didn't play in the best league in the world and he never won the best league in the world. However his career is so rich and so full of success he can be considered one of the greatest players even if he never played in the Premier League."

As fond as Mourinho is of his friend Ibra, he will no doubt wish that the 32-year-old's streak of success is interrupted this evening at the Parc des Princes as Gary Cahill and John Terry attempt to nullify any and all of the PSG front-man's attacks.

Chelsea contest the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal examination this evening, six days ahead of the return leg in Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, April 8.

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