José Mourinho is used to being the centre of attention, which is exactly what he was in the Amsterdam ArenA. On Monday evening, Real Madrid’s Portuguese coach gave a press conference leading up to the Ajax – Real Madrid Champions League match. The result was 22 grating minutes with The Special One.
As Mourinho (47) entered the fully packed Amsterdam ArenA press room at 7p.m., the media circus around the Portuguese coach began. Roughly an hour after arriving at Schiphol with the Real Madrid selection, he was surrounded by club supervisors, photographers, and cameras. When he finally took to the stage, the tables were clearly turned: Mourinho was the one calling the shots.
Once all of the standard questions had been asked and answered, all fifteen cameras zoomed in on Mourinho. In his flawless white training jacket, he summarized his team’s mission. On the eve of his 75th Champions League duel, Mourinho said: “We want to win, because we want to be first in the pool. If we lost on Tuesday night, it will be due to an Ajax team which is in top form”. In fact, Real Madrid already has enough points to win the pool.
Besides the injured Ricardo Carvalho, Gonzalo Higuaín en Sami Khedira, Mourinho has access to his entire star arsenal. Looking ahead to FC Barcelona – Real Madrid next Monday, he isn’t planning to make many changes against Ajax. “I’m not going to change much in the line – up. We’re building a team, and for that, stability is needed, including in the line-up.”
There is much interest in what Mourinho has to say. Dutch and Spanish journalists diligently note The Special One’s every word. World champion Xabi Alonso is among the attentive spectators. The Mourinho show is in full swing. He then reacts to the question from a Spanish journalist, who compares Suarez’s bite to the possibility of Ajax – figuratively – biting Real Madrid. “There’s a lot at stake for Ajax. They need to win in order to have a shot at the next Champions League round. Metaphorically speaking, they could indeed bite us.” He also answers with humour in response to a question about how he’s spent the last two weeks during his suspension by the Spanish league (he verbally attacked the referee during the cup match against Murcia). “I haven’t spoken to the press in twelve days. They were the best twelve days of my life. I’ve just been able to enjoy doing my work.”
With Barça – Real around the corner, many questions regarding “El Clásico” came up. Both powerhouse teams are in top form (Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 5-1 last Saturday, and Barcelona defeated Almeria 8-0), and will enjoy the football world’s spotlight next week. Mourinho and his press officer keep it under control – Ajax and Champions League are the topics of discussion today. And Mourinho speaks of ‘pride’ and ‘enjoying’. And then, exactly 22 minutes after making his entrance, Mourinho stands up abruptly. As the Spanish interpreter is still translating the last Spanish words into Dutch, the Portuguese gentleman calls it a day. He shakes the interpreter’s hand, pours himself a glass of water, and walks out of the press room. Xabi Alonso (58 CL matches, 67 Europa League performances) takes the stage. All eyes are on the world champion. With Mourinho’s shadow still distinctly in the room.