Chelsea FC manager Jose Mourinho was full praise for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paris Saint-Germain ahead of their Champions League quarter-final clash.
PSG are being considered to the dark horse in this tournament and on their day the French club can compete with anyone in Europe in terms of quality on the pitch. Containing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has already scored 40 goals this season, will be of prime importance for the London club and in Jose Mourinho they have a manager who is well aware of the Swedish striker’s capabilities as a footballer.
The 32-year-old has dismissed reports linking him with a move to the Premier League and Jose Mourinho believes it will be shame that a player of his quality won’t be playing in the “best league in the world” in his career. But the former Inter manager was full of praise for Zlatan and insisted that he enjoyed coaching him as a player during their stint together in Italy.
“We connected very well. The only time we disagreed was obvious because I wanted him to stay in Inter and he wanted to leave for Barcelona, but that’s normal. During one year our relationship was phenomenal.
“When people say that he’s a difficult personality, for me the difficult personalities are the players that don’t want to win, don’t want to work, and don’t want to be the best. He wants to work and he wants to be best. He has a big ego, a big self-esteem, and he knows he’s a really top player, so for me to be his coach was fantastic. We are friends and we respect each other.
“He has to be where he is happy and if he is happy in Paris – and I know he is – I think he has to stay. At the same time it’s a pity for him when he finishes his career that he didn’t play in the best league in the world and he never won the best league in the world. However his career is so rich and so full of success he can be considered one of the greatest players even if he never played in the Premier League.” – The Chelsea manager said.
Mourinho is also impressed by the ongoing project in Paris and insisted that the French side have one of the best attacks in Europe, who are capable of making the difference in the end. He also praised PSG’s manager Laurent Blanc, who took over in the summer, and how they stick to their footballing philosophy despite facing different oppositions and fielding different teams. Despite their relative inexperience in this competition as a club, Mourinho was quick to point out the fact that most of their players have a lot of experience of playing in this competition.
“Paris has a team full of fantastic attacking players, not to mention the other ones. I could speak for hours about Thiago [Motta]. The offensive players are what really make the difference at this level. Of the remaining teams in the last eight all are good, with great structures and a good philosophy. But on top of that, you have the likes of [Lionel] Messi, Zlatan [Ibrahimović], [Robert] Lewandowski, Diego Costa, [Edinson] Cavani, [Ezequiel] Lavezzi. Those are the players who make the difference, and they have a lot of them.
“I watch a lot of Paris matches, and Laurent Blanc has a clear philosophy. They keep the same philosophy, even when they change three midfielders, like against Bayer Leverkusen in the [round of 16] second leg. Same goes for us; we have a philosophy and we won’t change it. And we have faith in what we do. I do not think [experience] plays a big role. Maybe Paris as a club does not have the same experience as Chelsea in the past decades, but if you look closely it is a different picture. Lots of their players do have experience. It is almost the opposite for us. The club has a lot of experience, playing the Champions League each season, with Petr Čech who has 100 Champions League matches. But we also have a lot of young inexperienced players.” – Mourinho said in his pre-match press conference.
Mourinho also compared PSG’s ongoing project to the one at that Roman Abramovich brought at Chelsea upon his arrival at the club. He praised how and where they have invested during this period, along with the direction they are heading towards.
“You can find similarities. When Mr Abramovich bought the club he was ready and keen and the football rules were open to that so the investment was important, probably the most important investment in that period. As a consequence of that Chelsea built year after year some of the best teams in European football.
“Paris is doing the same. Some people don’t understand how because it looks like the Financial Fair Play is going to be in practice, but the reality is that in the last two years the investment was massive, the choice of the players fantastic. Leonardo [the former PSG sporting director] started a period of spending money but spending it on the right players and building the right team.
“In this moment the team is very complete, it’s full of very good players and the coach is good. The passion in this city is also good and the Parc de Princes is a beautiful place to play. Now they are dominant in France like Chelsea was dominant in England. The same way Chelsea were chasing the Champions League season after season, reaching semi-finals and finals and winning it, Paris is doing the same and now they want to win it.” – He said.