BANGKOK, 13 July: Jose Mourinho has warned that he is returning to Chelsea as a much better manager as he bids to win back the Premier League trophy and secure an elusive Champions League title with the London club.
Mourinho, looking greyer and weightier than English fans will remember, said his experiences at Inter Milan and Real Madrid would put him in good stead in his second stint.
"I think some white hairs in my case is a good sign because it means that I’m better now than before," he told journalists in Bangkok, where he will begin his new era with a pre-season friendly on Wednesday.
"I think I’m better now because my job is the kind of job where experience means a lot," explained the Portuguese.
"Especially like in my case after my period with Chelsea I went around Europe, I had two years in Italy, three years in Spain, so I have more football culture than before.
"I have more experience than before so I think I’m in a better condition now than before. Because I think my job is about that, it’s about learning experiences." Mourinho, 50, is a good bet to return the Premier League trophy to Chelsea after winning back-to-back titles as well as two League Cups and the FA Cup during his first stint from 2004 to 2007. At Inter Milan, he achieved the Italian treble of the Champions League, Serie A and the Coppa Italia in 2010 during another trophy-laden spell, and he also won La Liga during a more mixed time with Real Madrid.
Now Mourinho is hoping to build a lasting legacy at Chelsea and emulate his achievement at both Porto and Inter of winning the Champions League for the first time with the Blues.
Mourinho’s visit to Thailand nearly began in embarrassing fashion when, after performing a Thai bow for waiting media, he tripped on the steps to the press conference dais and almost crashed onto the stage.
But he quickly recovered his poise to speak about his enthusiasm for young signings Marco van Ginkel — "one of the best prospects in European football" — and Andre Schurrle, as well as veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Mourinho, who brashly announced himself as "the Special One" when he first arrived at Chelsea but now prefers "the Happy One", admitted he would not be smiling when the team loses for the first time. "Until the first defeat I’m very happy. When the first defeat comes I’m the same," he said. "I’m very sad when my team doesn’t win. But it’s up to them to help me and to support me and try to get a good result every match for our club."
The first loss is unlikely to come on Wednesday, when Chelsea take on the Singha All-Stars XI in Bangkok, a city plastered with giant images of their stars and where fans have turned out in force to greet them. But goalkeeper Petr Cech dismissed notions that Chelsea held the edge over English champions Manchester United and Manchester City, who also have new managers, owing to their familiarity with Mourinho.
"I think all the teams you mentioned have great teams, they have kept their players together, they improved by buying some players," he said, in answer to a question. "Although they have new managers the teams are the same, so they can have a new motivation under the new manager and they can be more dangerous. It’s difficult to predict."
Mourinho left Chelsea after an apparent breakdown with owner Roman Abramovich, and seven managers — Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafael Benitez — have come and gone in the ensuing six seasons. But Mourinho, who says he now has no problems with Russian billionaire Abramovich, spoke convincingly about his passion for the club which he believes is shared by the veteran Cech and his other players.
"It means much more than a football club. It means much more than a profession. It means a lot," he said.