THE FINISH LINE

'I am my biggest critic', says Tottenham's Jose Mourinho

'The Special One' talks about his career, how he deals with criticism, and why younger players must truly love football to make it big

WHEN it comes to having mental fortitude in sport, Jose Mourinho - the current manager of English Premier League (EPL) football club Tottenham Hotspur - is as tough as they come.

The 58-year-old Portuguese coach is widely regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time, having won a boatload of trophies with his former teams Porto, Chelsea, Inter-Milan, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United.

He could add to his long list of accolades if Tottenham can overcome runaway EPL leaders Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium on April 25.

London-based Mourinho, who joined Spurs in November 2019 on a four-year contract, took part in a virtual interview on Thursday where he opened up about his managerial career, how he deals with criticism and stress, and why younger players must love the game in order to make it big.

The 40-minute session was organised by AIA Singapore, the title sponsor of the Singapore Premier League. The initiative is part of the life insurer's efforts to leverage the power of sports to help people live healthier, longer and better lives - both physically and mentally. AIA is also Tottenham's global principal partner and official shirt partner.

This is an edited excerpt of the lively conversation with the outspoken manager famously nicknamed "The Special One".

What's the harshest but most productive piece of criticism you have gotten, and how did you respond?

I don't remember, because I don't react. I don't need criticism to react. I am my biggest critic. I am the one who analyses myself everyday. I am so used to people who think they know more about my job than myself.

Football, being the global game that it is today, and it's also a universal language, I don't think anyone is going to discuss rocket science with the guys from Nasa, but everyone around the world thinks they can discuss football with one of the most important managers in the game. And that's a beautiful thing.

With all the disruption caused by Covid-19, how do you keep yourself and your players mentally strong and motivated?

What I say to them, that with the world being what it is for the past year - with people losing jobs, having to stay at home and not be able to travel - it is a privilege to be a footballer today.

We can work, we can come to the training ground, we can have social relationships, we can travel and go to other countries even in a pandemic. We go in a bubble, of course, but we are able to do what we most like to do - to train and play, and we have our salaries too.

So, comparing ourselves to the majority of other areas of society around the world, we are very privileged. And if you don't care, or don't understand it and don't accept that you are very privileged, then you have a problem.

What's your advice to a young footballer who wants to become a professional?

You have to love football and always dream about football. Don't dream about what football can give you. Many of these young players from the new generation, they are more in love with what football can give them and the lifestyle it can give them. This is not the real motivation.

Look at some older players who are still playing, like (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic at 39. They are not in love with what football has given them. They have everything, and yet they are in love with football.

When you are 12, you have to love every moment training, playing and watching the top professionals play. That is the most important thing. After that, it's down to talent, and only you and your coaches will know the level where you are at.

How do you pick a club to work at, and a team that matches your mindset and goals?

I think it's more about the club picking you, than you picking the clubs (laughs). I always try to go to leagues and clubs where I am very motivated. I was always focused on the top three leagues in the world - England, Italy and Spain.

I realised that the EPL is the one that I probably enjoy more than others. Every match is difficult. The competition is really special, and you can lose against the team at the bottom of the table. Every point you can get is a very expensive point. I love the competition of English football. That's why in Italy, I've only been at one club. In Spain, one club also. And in England, I'm now at my third club.

With all the stress in your job, how do you switch off and unwind?

I don't need to switch off. I don't need a hobby or do anything else to relax. I don't feel stressed at all. My close family lives with me in London, but I have family members in Portugal. Do I miss them, and my friends? Of course I do. I miss the sun, the beach and my house.

What are five things that you can't live without?

My family, friends, my memories, football, and enjoying the sun a couple of weeks each year when I go back to Portugal.

And five things you don't need in your life?

Idiots, big money, flashy cars, politicians and... journalists.

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