Brendan Rodgers believes he would never have become Liverpool’s manager without the early guidance of Jose Mourinho.
Rodgers worked at Chelsea as a youth-team coach and later as manager of the reserves during Mourinho’s first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge, between 2004 and 2007.
The two men will be opposing managers for the first time when Liverpool visit Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday.
Rodgers left Chelsea to become Watford boss in November 2008, and then had spells in charge at Reading and Swansea before taking over from Kenny Dalglish at Anfield in June 2012.
And he credits Mourinho with setting him on the road to becoming a Premier League manager.
Rodgers said: “I probably wouldn’t be sitting here now if it wasn’t for him. When I speak about Jose, I think of him as a friend. When I first met him in September 2004 to discuss the possibility of me taking a job at Chelsea, we hit it off straight away.
“He gave me the self-esteem and confidence to be a manager, and the one thing I really learned from him was the importance of the details. When he was manager at Chelsea the first time, I used to stand at the back of the room during press conferences. I wanted to see how he dealt with the media -- obviously much better than me.
“At that time, I was preparing for the possibility that one day I would manage. And I learned from a top operator.”
The 40-year-old added: “I’ve got a huge respect for Jose Mourinho. He was brilliant for me. I was this 30-year-old nobody assigned to work with him, and he gave me the confidence to work at that level.I had the chance to watch one of the world’s best at work, and I wasn’t going to miss that.”
Rodgers goes to Stamford Bridge without captain Steven Gerrard (hamstring), full-backs Jon Flanagan (hamstring) and Jose Enrique (knee), and striker Daniel Sturridge (ankle), while he must also manage with winger Victor Moses, who is on loan from Chelsea and cannot face his parent club.
“For us, it could not be any tougher,” Rodgers said. “Our two Christmas games have pitted us against arguably the two best squads in the league, and we’re down to 16 first-team players with Victor Moses unavailable. But we will go into the game and do our best.”