Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho couldn't resist taking a swipe at his former club Chelsea despite trying his best to insist he won't be motivated by revenge in Tuesday's UEFA Champions League showdown.
Mourinho is back at Stamford Bridge for the first time since being sacked in September 2007 after losing a power struggle with owner Roman Abramovich. The Portguese coach, whose side lead 2-1 going into the last 16 second leg clash, spent much of his pre-match press conference making a convincing case that he has no burning desire to get his own back on Abramovich for the brutal nature of his exit.
But the mask slipped for just a second as he highlighted Chelsea's relative lack of success since his departure. As Mourinho pointedly made clear, since he was axed Chelsea have won just the FA Cup, while he landed the Serie A title in his first season at Inter.
"I feel sorry when I think about leaving Chelsea because when I look to Manchester, Liverpool and Arsenal, Sir Alex is still there, Wenger is there, Benitez is there. I did more than enough to be here but the decision was made," Mourinho said. "Chelsea looked forward, I looked forward. I keep winning important things, they won something...they won the FA Cup.
"I have nothing to prove to Chelsea, to the Chelsea players, the Chelsea fans or the Chelsea board. The most important thing is the relation you have, no regrets, just respect."
Mourinho had no qualms about revealing that returning to Chelsea has been an emotional experience. He has spent time catching up with old faces from the past and expects a rapturous reception from Chelsea's fans on Tuesday. But he is adamant his trip down memory lane won't distract him from doing everything he can to help Inter reach the quarter-finals.
"I feel at home here," he said. "I open the door and when I go to the second floor where there are people I know. The same on the third floor. Some people came to see me. It is the team where I worked for three and a half years. It is the same people, players and fans. It is the same people who made me feel incredible every time I was in this stadium.
"Before the game I know everybody and I love them. But for 90 minutes I know nobody," he added. "When it is possible, happiness for Chelsea and for me is the perfect situation. I know it is the same for them but Tuesday's game is a different situation.
"Don't confuse my respect and feeling for my ex-club with the desire and motivation I have to win the game," the coach went on. "I watched Inter v Chelsea seven times on DVD. I watched seven times and stopped the film, go back, watch more and stop again. I gave everything to prepare this game."
Tougher times in Italy
After becoming a cult hero during his time in England, Mourinho has found life in Italy rather more trying. He is currently serving a touchline ban and has been fined for rowing with a journalist, so it was hardly surprising that he expressed a desire to return to the English Premier League in the future. "I have always said I have three things to do in my career; one thing is to come back to English football, another is to win the Spanish championship because nobody won Italian, English and Spanish titles. And when I am old to coach my national team," he said.
Pressed several times on how much knocking out Chelsea would mean to him, Mourinho reverted to his respectful tone and said: "Special for me would be bring Inter over that barrier that they have had for the last few years of not even going to the quarter-finals. It is a difficult barrier to break. It would be special to bring my team to the final stage. Beating Chelsea? No, that is not special."
Mourinho, who famously announced his arrival at Chelsea by describing himself as the "special one," also tried to defuse questions about a reported bust-up with Inter striker Mario Balotelli, who has been left out of the squad for Tuesday's game.
"That is not my problem, Other people will create a scandal. It is better for other people if we lose on Tuesday," he said. "When I am 70 years old I will still have things to prove. After Tuesday's game I will still be the special one, win or lose."