"I don't change and I cannot lose"
While Inter Milan are currently top of Serie A don't be fooled; Jose Mourinho's first season in the Italian top flight has not been without its problems.
The 46-year-old, who won the European Cup with FC Porto and the Premier League twice with Chelsea, arrived much vaunted in Milan but despite his pedigree Mourinho has faced cultural challenges both on an off the pitch as he acclimatises to the demands of Serie A.
In a typically candid interview with ESPNsoccernet Press Pass's Alison Bender, Mourinho details the differences between life and work in England and Italy, discusses Inter's success in the season so far, including the challenge of managing players like Adriano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has his say on the Kaka saga and looks ahead to February's Champions League clash with Manchester United.
Q. From a managerial perspective, how different is Italian football from English football?
A. If you start on the pitch, the style of play is completely different. The way teams think about football is completely different. In England, it's much more emotional. Here the brain works much more. Every team is much more tactical, every team is organized with very, very good defensive thinking. The games are not difficult because of the intensity; the games are difficult because of the tactical quality.
After that the job in the club is really different, because the structure of the club is a continental, typical club organization. Not like in England where the manager is not only the coach, he has other kind of responsibilities. Here, there coach is the coach and he is much more focused on the team and not focused in other areas.
Q. And what about the Italian media? Do you enjoy dealing with them?
A. Yes, Italian media is the Italian media. Like every media, they do their job. I don't blame them for problems. The club has to be a strong family and not be influenced by what the media does. The media does its job. I understand that sometimes speculation is part of it, its part of the game.
For me it's not a problem, for me the only problem is that after the game I like a quick interview and then go home. And here in Italy I have one and a half hours of live interviews with five different TV channels. That is really difficult because you finish the games tired, sometimes exhausted and you want to finish, but you have to go to the media. But for me, Italian media is like every media, no problem.
Q. Do you miss the English media? The relationship you had with them.
A. Nah, I miss England. I cannot say the English media, the English media is like Italian media, the relation I have is the relation I have. Sometimes controversial, but it's part of the game, it's the rule of the game. That is a kind of problem that starts today and finishes tomorrow.
I went back to England last week and I was with the English media like friends, because we had a relationship for three years. I have no problems in England, I have no problems here and that's the way I want it.
Q. How would you summarize the season so far in Serie A?
A. In this moment we are more or less mid-competition. We are top of the Seria A, we won the Supercup, we are in the semi-finals of the cup, and we are in the last 16 of the Champions League. We lost nothing. So I would say that the season is positive, but the season finishes in May. In May, we will see what happened.
Q. You've spoken about the disappointing Serie A defeat against Atalanta. Do you think things have turned the corner after the subsequent Coppa Italia win over Roma?
A. The cup success was important, because it was against Roma. It leaves the team in the semi-finals, the semi-finals are in two legs. We play Sampdoria. I'm not saying it's easy, because it's not. We have a chance to be in the final. Roma is important, because last year every game against Roma was very difficult. At the San Siro Inter couldn't beat Roma in different competitions.
This season we beat them already three times, which is important from a psychological point of view because Roma are one of my favourite teams in Italy, because of the way they play. The defeat against Atalanta is a defeat. But because we don't lose many times the reaction to it is stronger.
But I don't change, year after year I don't change and I cannot lose. And when I lose I am not happy and when I lose I don't like happy people around me. We had against Roma the reaction I was expecting.
Q. After the cup game, you said that Adriano was on the right track. Do you feel that he is rediscovering his form?
A. I prefer not to make a lot of noise. Who knows? I prefer to play defensive is this way. It is fair to say since his return from Brazil he's been a top professional. Working hard, playing very well for the team, leaving in a proper way and the consequences are easy to watch. He's scoring goals and he's playing very well for the team.
Q. Is he part of your plans?
A. Yeah, he's a part of my plans. The transfer market closes in a couple of weeks and there are not many strikers that can play Champions League. He's one of the best strikers in the world when he is on the right track.
Q. Speaking of strikers, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, just how good is he?
He's the best striker. He's the most complete striker. He is fantastic and in this moment I think he has the right to dream with something special for his career, because he's top.
Q. Why do you think he's so under appreciated outside of Sweden and Italy? He said perhaps it was because he hasn't won the Champions League.
A. When you look at the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards, he's 8th and 12th. I can only imagine that the people voting don't watch football around the world and are more focused on other markets. Or there are some lobbies and he doesn't belong to the lobby. The boy was born in Bosnia, he plays for Sweden and he plays for Inter Milan, perhaps if he was born in another place with a stronger lobby around, maybe he could get it [the appreciation he deserves].
Q. We're in the midst of the January transfer window. Lots of players are said to be exiting Inter, such as Burdisso and Crespo. Do you expect there to be some movement?
A. No, It's still open. [But] as I've said since July working with 29 players is not possible. I'm doing the impossible working with 29 players. The impossible in terms of training organization, because they are too much. The impossible in terms of motivation, because they are too much. The impossible in terms of the group stability, because they are too much.
In that point, I will be happy if somebody is leaving, because I want to work with a highly motivated group and that is only possible when the group is small and everybody is really involved.
Q. Were you surprised by the amount of money that Manchester City offered AC Milan to sign Kaka?
A. You know, football is like this. The world can be economic crisis, but football is an area of big passion and when somebody with such amount of money gets into the game, you can expect everything.
And for me the problem in football is when you offer, but you don't pay. If they were ready to pay this amount of money, I don't see a problem. In the same way I don't see a problem that Kaka didn't accept to go. It's his decision, which I respect, and for which I'm very happy, because I work in Serie A and I want the best players to be in Serie A, so I'm really happy that his decision is to remain here, because I want the league to be as strong as possible.
Q. Moving onto the Champions League, Manchester United, a team you know a lot about, and you've had a good record against them as well, both at Porto and with Chelsea. Does that give you confidence and how do you feel that you can win against them?
A. With Porto when we beat them, we were European Champions; we had a fantastic team. With Chelsea we beat them so many times, because we were a fantastic team. We were champions this season; we won six domestic competitions. We beat them in the Premiership, in the Cup final, in the Carling Cup semi-finals. We were a fantastic team. Inter Milan is team from a completely different culture. We have our motivations, we have our dreams, but of course we realize the Man United team and the power they have. And we know that'll be very, very difficult for us. And for them.
Q. What is the key way? How do you feel that you can beat them right now?
A. Score one goal more than them. (Laughs)
Q. Cristiano Ronaldo, just how dangerous is he and do you believe that he is the main threat in their team?
A. He's a fantastic player. He's a player that can decide the game, so no doubts about it. Of course we are worried about him, of course we will think about him and of course we will try to make a difficult game for himself. But in this Man United team you go player by player, starting on him and going through all the other attackers, all of them are top players and anyone on the pitch is a dangerous player.