In the little over ten years that have passed since his first head coaching role, Jose Mourinho has collected silverware at an astonishing rate and held the reins at European superpowers such as Benfica, FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and now Real Madrid. And it was at the helm of Italian giants Inter that Mourinho experienced his high points of 2010. The Portuguese strategist’s adaptability and tactical nous proved vital in securing victory in last season’s editions of the UEFA Champions League, Serie A and the Italian Cup.
The crowning glory of a perfect year came on Monday 10 January 2011 in Zurich. The Special One is now officially the best coach around, after being chosen as FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football. Interviewed by FIFA.com shortly after the ceremony, the charismatic supremo looked back on his fine year, touched on his special bond with his former Inter charges and summed up his career so far in his own inimitable fashion: “I’ve gone from an assistant coach to the best in the world in ten years, so what I’ve achieved is quite sensational.”
FIFA.com: Shortly before the award was announced you spoke about how hard it was to be waiting for the result. How do you feel now that you’ve won?
Jose Mourinho: What I want to do now is to go home, so I can celebrate with my family and savour the moment. But I’m such a “terrible” person, that I’m already thinking about trying to win Thursday’s game with Real Madrid. I’m going to keep this trophy safe, because it’s part of my story and the story of those people who work with me, those who I love and who love me back. It’s something that’ll make me always keep looking for more, with the same level of motivation I’ve always had.
There were some very special moments during the ceremony, such as the moving tribute to you from the Inter Milan players. Tell us about the relationship you had with them?
Without the players we coaches are nothing. The perfect team isn’t the one where the coach merely transforms the players, but one in which the players make the coach a better person too. And I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a spectacular group of people at Internazionale and it wasn’t just the players. There were wonderful people at the club. And I was lucky too to come to Real Madrid and find another group of fantastic players with which to round off a year that was packed with incredible victories.
Which moment from 2010 will live longest in your memory?
We won the Champions League which, both for a club coach and a club itself, is the ultimate achievement. And, in Inter’s case, it was something they’d not done for 50 years. For that reason, that final in the Bernabeu – which would go on to become my home ground – ended up being perfect, thanks to everything that went with it. That’s what will stick in my mind.
What I want to do now is to go home, so I can celebrate with my family and savour the moment.
You’re still a relatively young coach, yet you’ve already enjoyed a glittering career. Did you ever imagine you’d achieve so much so quickly?
It’s incredible. I’ve earned this prize after just ten years as a head coach. I’ve gone from an assistant coach to the best in the world in ten years, so what I’ve achieved is quite sensational.
And how does it feel to see three Barcelona players contesting the FIFA Ballon d’Or award?
It certainly pays tribute to what they’ve been doing in recent years. But the fact that Internazionale beat them and went on to become European and then world champions gives even greater credence to the work I did there, because Barcelona are an excellent team.
What’s your verdict on Lionel Messi being voted the world’s best for the second year in a row?
I don’t think that now’s the time to make comments or criticise anybody. We’ve had a lot of time over the last three or four months to explain our preferences as far as this subject is concerned. And, at the end of the day, now’s a moment when you must show respect for everybody.
But it’s a shame for Wesley Sneijder who, in my opinion, deserved to be here. It’s also a shame for Cristiano [Ronaldo], because both in terms of his playing ability and his performances he definitely ought to be among the candidates. It’s a shame for Xavi too, because he’s a lad I’ve known since he was small. But Messi is a fantastic player and when a fantastic player wins a prize like this we ought to simply congratulate him. And that’s what I’m doing now.
We’ve discussed how quickly you’ve progressed since the start of your career, but can you imagine when it all comes to an end? Is there anything special you’d like to do before then?
What I’d still like to do would be to coach my national team. I don’t want to go back to Portugal to coach a club side, I want to continue my career with the best teams and in the biggest leagues in the world, where the standards are highest in terms of performance and quality. But I do still dream of coaching the national team.
One final question, is it possible to envisage 2011 going even better for you than 2010?
Better would be impossible. Equally good, perhaps. Because we won everything with Inter, doing better becomes unattainable. There’s an opportunity to match that, but it’ll be extremely difficult, because we’ve got fantastic opponents blocking our path in the Champions League and an incredibly strong Barcelona side up against us in domestic competitions. It’s not easy, but we’re going to try.