By Tony Jimenez
If ‘Jose Mourinho, The Chelsea Sequel’ had been a London West End theatre production on Monday, some of the audience may have left their seats by the intermission as the ‘Special One’ turned into the ‘Cautious One’.
The outspoken Portuguese manager arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004 amid a blaze of publicity, describing himself as ‘A champion, not one of the bottle’ and arrogantly forecasting the club’s first top-flight title for 50 years.
Nine years on there was no controversy, no brashness and no headline statements as Mourinho addressed the media for the first time since leaving Real Madrid to sign a four-year contract to return to Chelsea.
The 50-year-old’s news conference attracted 250 reporters from around the world, dozens of television crews and his arrival on stage was greeted by a hail of flashing camera bulbs.
Mourinho normally revels in the spotlight but on this occasion he was low-key, giving measured responses to questions and even suggesting the whole paraphernalia surrounding news conferences was something he had little time for.
“I don’t love this but it’s part of my job,” he told reporters. “I try to give you what you want but I cannot always give you a good line.
“I try to be honest and give you what you’re expecting from me but at this moment what I want to do is work. I’m humble, sometimes it doesn’t look like I am, but I am.”
When Mourinho arrived at Chelsea the first time, his mission was to transform a bunch of nearly men into winners and he did precisely that.
The Londoners lifted back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006 and although the Portuguese left under a cloud in 2007, they continued collecting trophy after trophy until finally reaching the ‘Holy Grail’ 13 months ago by winning the Champions League for the first time.
Mourinho did not make any bold predictions about the Champions League or Premier League on Monday, preferring to set his sights on more modest targets.
“In 2004 Arsenal were the power,” said Mourinho who wore a light blue shirt and light grey tie under a charcoal grey suit.
“They had won the league without losing a game and were an absolutely fantastic team – now the picture is different.
“Manchester United are the champions, Manchester City were the champions in 2012 … you have Arsenal and Tottenham coming up and Liverpool with Brendan Rodgers will be up there for sure.
“This competition starts with everyone trying to finish in the top four, then the top three … then to try and win it. We go step by step.”
Mourinho smiled throughout, clearly delighted to be back at the club he said he had always loved.
“If I have to choose a nickname for this period I would choose ‘the Happy One’,” he declared. “Time flies, it seems like it was a couple of days but it was nine years ago when I first became manager.
“I have the same nature, I am the same person,” said the title-winning former Real and Inter Milan manager before adding he had the same heart and emotions.
“It is the first time I arrive at a club where I already love the club – before I had to build an emotional relationship and I only came to love the club a little later.”
It was widely reported his relationship with billionaire Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich broke down in 2007, a claim Mourinho rejected.
“I read and I kept listening I was fired, I was sacked,” he said. “That was not true. Many people didn’t believe it but it was by mutual agreement.
“At the time we thought it was best for both of us. Of course it was a sad moment but I don’t regret that decision.”
Since leaving Chelsea, Mourinho spent two years at Inter where he won two Serie A titles, the domestic cup and the Champions League before moving to Real where he won a La Liga title and a King’s Cup.
The Portuguese has never stayed more than three years at one club but he hopes to at least see out his new deal with Chelsea.
“I’m prepared for that,” he said when asked if he wanted more stability in his career. “Before I wasn’t.
“I have a contract for four years. I hope to go to the last day of that. If the club then wants me to stay, I’ll be more than happy.”
Mourinho inherits a side that again qualified for the Champions League, after finishing third in the Premier League. They also won the Europa League but may need some restructuring if they are to overhaul United and second-placed City.
“I didn’t choose for my career a comfortable position because I’m returning to a house where I was happy and successful and where the fans love me,” he said.
“No. I’m coming with exactly the opposite perspective. I have more responsibility because of that. The expectations are higher because people know what I can deliver.”