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Oct 2, 2009

Mourinho: I loathe the spotlight

Success and controversy have followed Jose Mourinho in equal measure down the years and the familiar pattern has continued in his turbulent 16-month reign as Inter Milan boss.

Touchline bans, battles with the authorities and regular clashes with Italian sports journalists may be par for the course if you are sitting in Leonardo's high-pressure coaching hot-seat at AC Milan just now, yet Mourinho's Inter side have rarely been anywhere else but at the top of Serie A throughout his time at the club and he still attracts plenty of venomous media attention.

While Champions League glory is needed to justify the confidence he has exuded from the moment he emerged from his enforced period away from the game following his departure from Chelsea in 2007, it is impossible to claim Mourinho has been anything less than a success story in his third positing as a top-level coach.

With this in mind, you have to wonder whether his regular spats with anyone who dares to confront him are all merely a sideshow Mourinho likes to indulge in. Many managers would shy away from the sort of attention this maverick attracts, yet the self-anointed 'Special One' appears to revel in his celebrity status as something of a pantomime villain.

Curiously, this 46-year-old coach claims the opposite is true as he reveals his chief regret following his rise to worldwide fame is losing his anonymity and when the constant public intrusion into his private life begins to unsettle his beloved family, Mourinho's loathing for his position becomes intolerable.

"I love being a coach and the year I had without football after leaving Chelsea was difficult, but some parts of the job are not so attractive," begins Mourinho, ahead of Inter's game against Udinese live on ESPN this Saturday night. "Football is the easy part for me because there are some aspects that are more difficult. Most of all, I don't like the fact that I lost my private life when I became a top manager. My family is paying for this and it affects my wife and my kids. My biggest job is making sure I am the best father to my children, but it can sometimes be difficult when you have this job.

"Even though people say I like being in the media and being in the newspaper, the opposite is true. If I could avoid talking to the media from this moment on, I would do it. Still, I know football is like this. Players and managers have contractual obligations to talk and so we do it.

"I don't like being a star. I don't do this job to be famous or get my picture in the paper, but this is part of what we have to do. For me, the press conference before a game is the start of the next match as you can make some points that may help you when the whistle blows. You have to make the most of every situation."

Mourinho the man is rarely put on display in front of the TV cameras, but from my experience during his time as Chelsea boss, he is a different character when the all-seeing electronic eyes are switched off.

The stony-faced assassin persona often reserved for television was regularly shed as he shared a joke with the written press in his Chelsea days and Mourinho insists the image of him as some kind of self-absorbed egotist could not be further from the truth.

"People often confuse my confidence with arrogance," he states. "I can be confident because I have a record that is impressive and I believe I am a good coach. I won the Champions League with Porto, the Premier League twice and the FA Cup with Chelsea. Then I win Serie A with Inter. I have had success everywhere I have been, so this is a record to be pleased with.

"Am I a good person to work with? I think so. I like to have close relationships with the people around me and as long as you are objective and like to discuss problems, you will enjoy spending time with me. One of the worst things in human relations is when you have doubts and you create doubts for those around you.

"I am a person who likes disagreement and a difference of opinion sometimes because I'm a communicator and there is always a solution to every problem. Also, I forgive easily if someone upsets me and I've had to do this throughout my life in football, especially at Chelsea."

Defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the last 16 stage of the Champions League last season was a setback for a coach who had promised and predicted so much more. For those waiting to judge his reign as Inter boss, not even a comfortable Serie A title triumph was viewed as adequate compensation and Mourinho accepts as much.

"I was hired by Inter to win the Champions League and that is the target this season," he says. "Everyone in Italy seems convinced that my team and every other Serie A side have no chance in Europe, but these people are fools who know nothing about the game. Some seem to just enjoy criticising and that's all they are good for. I ignore them.

"It was the same in Portugal because no one ever saw any positives when a team was doing well. It was always a case of waiting for the fall and that attitude can be found in Italy. It's a pointless position to take.

"We are still a new team at Inter this season, but I feel we have a better balance with Samuel Eto'o at the front of the side. In my mind, we have made progress, but this can only be shown in the Champions League."

A return to Premier League management, possibly as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor at Manchester United, and a spell as Portugal boss may be future ambitions for Mourinho, though he admits he occasionally pines for the days when less was more.

"One day I would love to work at a club where the resources are low and the ambition can be made big," he adds. "At Porto, my challenge was to work with no money and just Portuguese players. So I had to go through every squad, try to bring the best talent to the club, guys with no international experience, no silverware, nothing.

"The target was to be Portuguese champions and then European champions and we achieved this. Maybe this can never be done again with the same small resources, but never is a word I refuse to listen to."

The real Jose Mourinho may be a long way from the caricature we have grown to love and loathe in equal measure down the years. Whatever the truth, he remains one of the most fascinating figures in the game today.

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