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Bobby Robson set benchmark for English managers abroad: Mourinho

London (AFP) – English football managers should take a leaf out of the late Bobby Robson’s book, Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho told the Mail on Sunday.

Mourinho formed a close friendship with Robson — who died in 2009 from cancer — first as his interpreter at Sporting Lisbon and then at Porto whilst at the same time becoming a tactical analyst, the duo’s time together peaking at Barcelona.

Mourinho, who later Sunday tackles Arsenal in a pivotal match in the race to finish in the Premier League top four and earn Champions League qualification, spoke to the newspaper as part of the 20th anniversary of Robson coaching Barcelona to a Cup Winners Cup victory over holders Paris Saint-Germain.

Robson, who guided England to the 1990 World Cup semi-finals where they lost to the then-West Germany on penalties, was able to adapt to European football, said Mourinho, and handled the fallout of replacing Dutch legend Johan Cruyff at the helm brilliantly.  

“Sir Bobby’s mentality was to be very open-minded,” Mourinho told the newspaper.

“He enjoyed living and coaching abroad, meeting different people.

“He was humble despite his experience.

“He wanted to learn the differences between the leagues and didn’t mind asking for advice or asking for help.

“He changed and improved through the new experiences. He arrived in Portugal as a 4-4-2 coach when every team there played with lots of people in midfield.

“He understood that he needed to change so he became more multi-functional. Even as an older manager.”

Mourinho, who said Robson proved a rock when he lost his sister and mother-in-law in the same year as his daughter was born, said this spirit of adventure and willingness to learn new things by coaching abroad is no longer a characteristic of English managers.

“Nowadays it looks to me that English managers either don’t like to go abroad or people abroad think English managers are for the English game,” said Mourinho.

“They haven’t had someone to open the door for them in the last decade.

“To be honest, I think that myself, (Pep) Guardiola and (Carlo) Ancelotti are guilty of why it’s quite trendy to have managers from Portugal or Spain or Italy.

“Obviously the other guys then have to do well to keep it going, Leonardo Jardim at Monaco is doing phenomenal, Antonio Conte at Chelsea, others.

“Maybe also in England, they don’t have the jobs that give access to the big prizes. If you have a British manager like Tony Pulis and you are at West Bromwich Albion, it is very difficult to win a European Cup.” 

Mourinho, who has gone on to be one of the most successful managers in club football, said it was no surprise that several of the Barcelona side went on to become really successful club coache.

Amongst those are Luis Enrique, who coached Barcelona to the treble in 2015, Guardiola, who led Barcelona to two Champions League triumphs amongst a plethora of other trophies, and Juan Antonio Pizzi, who won the 2016 Copa America with Chile.   

“When you are intelligent, you learn to drink from every source and Cruyff and (Louis) Van Gaal (who replaced Robson) were also important,” Mourinho said.

“But Bobby’s leadership was phenomenal and that is a very important part of management.”

Mourinho said Robson had taught him another important lesson. 

“I would always get really upset after bad results, I am still the same, but Bobby helped me by saying if I thought of the other dressing room, that the other guys are very happy, it makes you feel less sad,” said Mourinho.

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