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What makes Mourinho tick

What makes Mourinho tick

Jose Mourinho, aiming to complete a treble triumph with Inter Milan this weekend, puts his achievements down to his work ethic, his leadership skills and his faith in God.

The Inter coach, with the Serie A title and Coppa Italia already in the bag, faces Bayern Munich in the Champions League final on Saturday, aiming to win the tournament for a second time.

When I asked Mourinho this week for the secret to his success, he said: "I pray a lot. I am Catholic, I believe in God. I try to be a good man so He can have a bit of time to give me a hand when I need it."

And with this weekend's game at the Santiago Bernabeu in mind, he added that it was important "to play the final not with an obsession but with a dream".

To find out what makes Mourinho tick, I spoke to his former professor at the University of Lisbon, his trusted fitness coach, ex-Chelsea player Arjen Robben and Inter sporting director Marco Branca.

Each one of them talked of Mourinho's dedication, his forensic preparation for each match and his unique relationship with his players.

But the man himself was just as enlightening.

"You must work hard and work well," said the 47-year-old Portuguese, who has an enviable CV after enjoying major success at Porto, Chelsea and now Inter.

"Many people work hard, but not well. You must create good leadership with the players, which is an accepted leadership, not leadership by power or status.

"You must create a positive atmosphere and make everyone feel part of the group. In this club, if you go to the barrier, the man at the door feels part of the group and success. The people who work in the kitchen feel part of this family. And I'm one of them."

Robben, currently playing some of the best football of his life for Bayern, quit Chelsea for Real Madrid in 2007 after dropping down Mourinho's pecking order at Stamford Bridge.

"He is a bit special in his approach to every game," the Netherlands international told me.

"Every player is very well prepared. They know their job. He is also very good at dealing with big-name players. He gets their respect. And it is mutual."

At the age of 20, Mourinho studied sports science at the University of Lisbon. Professor Carlos Neto, who lectured on the course, was at pains to stress that the young Jose was "a good student, but not exceptional".

"He worked hard and was never any trouble," said Neto. "He was always on time and he used to get 15 out of 20 for his work, when the average was 12. But he did not stand out from the crowd."

Was he shy, possibly even a bit dull? "He was a normal student," replied Neto. "He was popular, but quite quiet."

Those who have been part of Mourinho's journey, which really began in 1990 when he was assistant coach at Portuguese side Estrela Amadora, talk about a determined young man who knew very early on that he was not good enough to be a top player.

Instead, he concentrated all his efforts on coaching and trying to be the best.

From a coaching role at Porto, he became translator and then an assistant coach at Barcelona during Bobby Robson's reign.

Then came moves to Benfica, Uniao Leiria and the glory of that Champions League triumph with Porto in 2004. Premier League titles with Chelsea and a clean sweep of domestic honours in Italy followed.

Mourinho does not hang around at one club for long. Two seasons is about it - a statistic which could be proved again this summer if he moves from Inter to Real Madrid.

Inter sporting director Branca, whom many British football fans will remember from his brief time as a striker with Middlesbrough, has worked closely with the Portuguese over the past two years.

So what has Mourinho done that previous Inter boss Roberto Mancini did not do?

"Everything is different," said Branca. "He is complete. His approach is unique. Every phrase he uses is important. He is totally professional.

"His attention to detail, his planning and preparation, his understanding of the opposition, his tactics... everything."

But could not the same be said of Sir Alex Ferguson, Fabio Capello or Louis van Gaal, Bayern's boss and Mourinho's former mentor? What is different about Mourinho?

Branca thought for a while and said: "He is Jose. That's his secret."

Fitness coach Rui Faria, who has worked alongside Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea and Inter, added: "Every other top coach says they work hard and they prepare better than anyone else, but they can't make what Mourinho does.

"Everything he does is better. He works harder than anyone else. He knows everything about every player and every game."

Posted on Thursday 20th May 2010

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