Jose Mourinho on the record
Speaking prior to the 2012-13 season, the Real Madrid boss had much to say
On the eve of the 2012-13 La Liga season, Jose Mourinho is clearly in midseason form. His wit and strong opinions rarely fail to raise eyebrows across the soccer world, and in speaking with Frank Leboeuf and ESPN Press Pass (see the interview in full on ESPNUK at 11:30 p.m. BST), it's apparent that a restful summer has him primed as ever to deliver at the Bernabeu.
For example, in his mind there's only one possible candidate for the FIFA Ballon D'Or: the anchor of his side, Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 46 goals and notched 12 assists in an unstoppable solo season.
Though more importantly, he won more than just individual acclaim. "For me, the best player of a season must be one that won. What [Ronaldo] did helped the team to win something big, and I don't think in the history of the Ballon D'Or, one player own it without winning a big thing," Mourinho said. "So I don't think Messi without winning the Champions League, without winning the Spanish League, how can he be the Ballon D'Or?"
As if next season's El Clasicos needed any further tension, such was the closeness of the La Liga title race with mere weeks to play. "[Barcelona] never lose, so we can't lose."
And therein lies the Special One's motivations heading into the new season: the desire to push Real Madrid to ever-greater heights. Coming off a strong club season, one in which Los Merengues set records for most La Liga wins in a season (32), most goals scored (121) and best goal difference (plus-89) en route to a first league title in four years, there is still work to be done in his side's historic rivalry with Barcelona and in trying to lift the Champions League for the first time since 2001-02. Not that Mourinho thinks any other club can keep pace with the Spanish duo.
"What I used to say is that every team in the world goes to the Spanish league, they finish third," Mourinho said. "Man City goes there, Manchester United goes there, Chelsea goes there. Who else? They finish third because the two best teams in the world are in the same league, so of course to the others, it's a big difference."
As for his squad -- despite reports of a deal for Luka Modric, no new signings have yet been announced -- the Special One is unconcerned, confident as ever. "The team is really full of talent, and we have lots of solutions and we can play in different ways, in different systems, in different philosophies," he said. "So what I have in my hands in terms of human capital, human resources is very, very hard."
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For Mourinho, it doesn't matter that several key members of his squad had little rest this summer having won Euro 2012 with Spain. "I think it's their nature," said Jose, speaking of Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas, all pivotal to La Roja's success in Poland and the Ukraine. "It is incredible, they want to win again. They want to compete again."
With Real's summer tour of the U.S. starting up on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Galaxy (available on WatchESPN.com, 10:30 p.m. ET) before games against Mexican champs Santos Laguna, AC Milan and Celtic, Mourinho's mood is good. "I like the way we do it," he said in reference to the current MLS Cup holders. "They want to show their good football, they are not nasty, they are not aggressive. [Galaxy coach Bruce Arena] always gives us good matches."
What Real Madrid accomplishes this coming season is anyone's guess, but with Jose Mourinho looking settled and happy for the first time in his managerial career since his Chelsea heyday, it's sure to be nothing short of special.