Following Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid on Wednesday night in Miami, the majority of the focus of Jose’s Mourinho’s post match press conference was on his former life as Real Madrid boss. Given the context of this match, it was not surprising considering that Real Madrid was egged on by a partisan crowd in Miami whose bitter booing and hissing when Mourinho and John Terry were introduced pre-game reminded many why Real Madrid is so hated by many across the European continent.
Much of the press that flooded into “The Special One’s” presser represented the Spanish language media in both Spain and the United States. Unlike the other press conferences during the final two days of the Guinness International Champions Cup, English-language translations were not provided with Mourinho opting to answer Spanish language questions in English and not allowing for translation into Spanish, something which greatly annoyed many in the room.
As someone who has a great deal of reverence for Jose Mourinho’s managerial ability but has found him to be, at times, arrogant and narcissistic in his public posture, I was impressed and entertained by the way he dealt with reporters whose only goal was to sling mud and spread gossip.
The first question concerned Mourinho’s feelings for Real Madrid and the staff there. He answered it the following way:
“I work for Chelsea, I give everything to Chelsea, I love to be here and I’m so happy to be back. I wish the best to Real Madrid. I have so many people that I like in the club starting with the president and finishing with the most humble employee. I have no problems to say that I hope they win La Liga. I won’t say Champions League, because we also play in the Champions League. In La Liga, I hope they win because I’m not there anymore, but I didn’t change for the enemy.”
Following this answer the remaining early questioning centered on Cristiano Ronaldo and Mourinho’s relationship with him. Mourinho answered this way:
“He’s a great player. He’s scored goals all his life, so when he scores it’s not big news and when he doesn’t score, it’s big news. We made two mistakes for his goals. On the first we gave a free kick in a position where he’s happy to have it, and on the second goal I told them that every cross he tries to get into space because he’s very good in the air. For me it’s perfect because we have mistakes to speak about and to work on.”
But when a follow-up question was posed about Mourinho’s comment that he had referred to the Brazilian Ronaldo, the all-time leading goal scorer in the FIFA World Cup, as the real Ronaldo, the Chelsea manager was prepared to explain himself:
“Is Gerd Müller or Thomas Müller the real Muller? Gerd Müller came first therefore for me his the real Müller.”
At this point the Spanish language media would not let go of trying to wind up Mourinho. Next came a question about celebrations directed at him after every Real Madrid goal:
“You see things that I don’t see. I came here today to work and analyze my team. Not even to analyze the opponent. We need to work and we need these kind of experiences. We came to the [United] States searching for good matches. We took Inter, Real, Milan and now Roma. We have these matches that we want and need so much. I don’t come here to see reactions. You see what you see, but you don’t see how many players come into my dressing room at the end of the match.”
Next came a question about his losing to his former club, Real Madrid. The answer was predictable.
“My former club plays in a competition different than my competition. They play in La Liga, we play in the Premier [League]. I always wish good to my previous clubs, so there is no difference and the friendly doesn’t hurt. If we meet them in the Champions League and we lose, that is a different story.”
After a few softer questions, one about Mario Balotelli, which Mourinho seemed to appreciate, the press conference ended with a few questions that redirected back to the gossipy side of the media.
The last question of the press conference (from an ESPN Deportes reporter) irked Mourinho so much he ended the conference saying the following:
“You have to speak less and ask a question if you want the opinion of the other person in the conversation.”
At that point, the overflowing conference room broke into laughter and Mourinho got up and walked out with a smile on his face knowing he hadn’t given his tormenters any further ammunition to go after him with.
Mourinho’s body language and control during the press conference were admirable and spoke loudly about his confidence and his ability now to control the message more effectively than when he was with Real Madrid. The press conference was a master class in how to deal with gossipy reporters who want to sling mud but have little ability to actually shape the behavior and reaction of the subject. If only more people had Mourinho’s confidence, language mastery skills (his ability to process complicated questions asked in Spanish and immediately give detailed answers in English is impressive even for someone who was once known simply as the “translator”) and determination to deal with a provocative media inquest.
As a final note, no one dared ask Mourinho about the future of David Luiz as a Chelsea footballer.