The fact that professional footballers aren’t actually playing professional football at the moment (did you know????) means that they have a lot more time for other activities, such as conducting interviews with football journalists. Lucas Moura jumped online to conduct an online interview with ESPN Brazil lately, and was asked numerous questions about his relationship to Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho.
The interview itself is in Portuguese (and is region-blocked to Brazil at any rate) but Sport Witness has the transcript. And from what Lucas says, Mourinho’s approach to player management is refreshing and positive.
“I am a little wary to talk about [Mourinho], because he’s praised me in interviews and has given me moral support that I have never had since I arrived in Europe. He’s given me an incredible game sequence as well, which did very well for me. A player needs that confidence, it’s crucial in football.
“And he’s one of the greatest managers in the history of football. It’s not me who’s saying that, it’s the numbers, it’s the facts, for everything he’s accomplished, everything he’s ever done.”
Mourinho did give Lucas numerous opportunities to play before the COVID-19 crisis ground all of sport — and much of society — to a halt. You could argue that Lucas’ minutes had a bit more to do with Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min being injured than actual merit, but it’s true that Lucas did play a ton of minutes late. And he has a point — players want to play, and being given an extended run in the team is great for the confidence, so long as they play well.
Lucas went on to talk about the difference between how the media perceives Mourinho and his relationship to his players, and what actually happens in training, and obliquely referenced the differences between Mourinho and former Tottenham manger Mauricio Pochettino.
“What I can say is that on a daily basis, [Mourinho is] very different. Both in training, in the way he gives training, how much he gets involved in training, in the tactical part, in the technical part, even in the warm-up. He’s a guy who lives football, he breathes football 24 hours a day, I think. He’s always motivating us. Even when the training is at the gym, for weight training, he’s always there.
“And in dealing with the players, on a daily basis, he’s very, very, very sincere, very transparent. And I’ve said this in other interviews, when he needs to criticize, he will criticie. Regardless of who it is. He’ll speak to the player’s face, ‘you didn’t play anything today’. I’m being a little modest here, because sometimes the words are different. But then, the next day, everything is fine, it’s normal, because he says he is for the good of the player.
“He knows that we’re professionals, we are mostly fathers of families. Then he will say ‘you didn’t play anything, you did this and this’. The next day he’ll play with you, he’ll smile, he’ll tell a joke. He makes everyone comfortable. Everyone who has something to say to him, he makes them very comfortable. Nobody has a flea in their ear, with one foot behind to be able to talk to him, to knock on his door. He gives that opening.
“So the day-to-day life with him is very pleasant, very fun. It’s really been a fantastic experience to work with him.”
The “flea in the ear” bit is interesting and it’s probably a Portuguese idiom, but I assume Lucas means that Mourinho doesn’t have favorites when it comes to who gets to talk to him — Lucas says that Mourinho’s door is always open to his players. (One wonders if Tanguy Ndombele agrees.)
It’s an interesting insight into Mourinho from the mouth of a current player. Lucas isn’t as outspoken as, say, Danny Rose, but he’s also never been one to dissemble and if he didn’t believe what he was saying I highly doubt he’d have gone on as long as he did above. It’s a helpful sign if you’re someone who hopes Mourinho brings a positive atmosphere (and positive results) to Tottenham during his tenure, and it’s another data point that suggests that maybe, just maybe Jose has turned over a new leaf.