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Mourinho at 1,000 games: The explosive start

In the context of a managerial career spanning 1,000 games, it would be easy to overlook the first 11. To many, Jose Mourinho’s rise to greatness began with his trophy-laden spell at Porto. But before that, before everything, there was Benfica.

Mourinho took over at Estadio da Luz in September 2000 and was gone just three months later. But not because of poor results. In fact, he departed with his reputation enhanced. His brief tenure, and its explosive end, sowed the seeds for what was to come.

Benfica were gripped by crisis at the time. It had been six years since their last title and their finances were in a dire state. Joao Vale e Azevedo, the club’s president, had sacked Jupp Heynckes and needed a coach to reinvigorate the side with no investment.

He settled on a 37-year-old Mourinho.

The Portuguese had spent the previous four seasons serving as assistant to Sir Bobby Robson and then Louis van Gaal at Barcelona but left the club that summer intending to strike out on his own.

His appointment at Benfica raised eyebrows in his homeland. Mourinho had become known within the game as a forward-thinking coach with a bright future but it was a huge job for a managerial novice – especially given the circumstances.

Mourinho was undeterred, however, and signed a six-month contract which would be extended for two years should Vale e Azevedo win the upcoming presidential election. Fatefully, he didn’t, paving the way for Mourinho’s exit. But a lot happened in between.

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Jose Mourinho became Benfica manager in September 2000

In Jose Mourinho, the 2005 biography written by his friend Luis Lourenco, Mourinho describes inheriting a “weak squad with no future and no ambition”. The players were “used to losing”, “worked little”, and “didn’t really care”, he added.

Mourinho’s first impressions of the squad – or, “bunch of players”, as he preferred to call them – were cemented when Benfica slumped to a meek 1-0 loss against Boavista in his opening game in charge.

Mourinho was dismayed not just by the side’s performance in that game but by the general lack of intensity and aggression in training. He soon resolved to shake things up.

There were certain senior players he felt he could trust, among them striker Pierre van Hooijdonk, whose spiky personality he loved, midfielder Maniche, who would later follow him to Porto and Chelsea, and the now deceased goalkeeper Robert Enke.

For the rest, though, he turned to the club’s academy.

Left-back Diogo Luis was one of the players he promoted.

“It was perfect for me and for all the academy players because we understood that it was possible for us to live our dream, to go to the first team,” Luis tells Sky Sports.

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Diogo Luis in action for Benfica against Sporting Lisbon

“Mourinho didn’t look at names; he looked at other qualities. For him, it wasn’t important whether you were a 28-year-old Portugal international or a young player from the B team.

“What was important to him was how you performed in the training sessions. He wanted to find a way to make the side competitive, so he pushed young players up to give blood to the team.”

The decision to promote youngsters was a bold one but it helped to change the culture around the training ground. And even at that early stage of his managerial career, Mourinho did not shy away from confronting the senior players who refused to fall in line.

During one game, he noted that former Egypt international Abdel Sattar Sabry, one of the club’s biggest talents, had taken seven minutes to put on his boots and tie his laces after being told he would be coming on as a second-half substitute.

When the player’s agent subsequently complained about his client’s lack of game-time under the new coach, Luis recalls Mourinho making an example of him both in the dressing room and publicly.

“The next day, when Sabry came into the dressing room, Mourinho said to him, in front of all of us, ‘Do you know how long you were tying your laces for? Seven minutes. Do you know when you are going to play for me again, if you have that mentality? Never.’ He then went to his press conference and said the same thing.

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Jose Mourinho previously worked with Louis van Gaal at Barcelona

“With that kind of approach, you win the dressing room,” adds Luis, “because it means everyone is treated the same way. So, if you have a guy who thinks he is better than the rest, he won’t fit.

“From then on, everyone knew that Mourinho was noticing every detail and we became stronger as a group.”

Mourinho would go on to use similar techniques throughout his managerial career and his time at Benfica was also the first example of him creating a siege mentality.

The dressing room, previously accessible to club directors, became a sacred space for the players. Any criticism from outside, of which there was plenty in the early days of his tenure, was used as fuel for the ‘us versus them’ mentality Mourinho wanted to build.

“We started to have confidence him because we understood he was protecting us and we didn’t feel the same about the board of directors, who were always speaking in the press,” says Luis.

Results soon improved – Benfica only lost one of the next 10 games under Mourinho following the defeat to Boavista – and it helped that he brought revolutionary training methods as well as discipline and togetherness.

In Lourenco’s book, Mourinho describes training at Benfica at the time of his arrival as “a group of nice guys kicking a ball about a bit and doing some running” but he soon set about changing it.

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Jose Mourinho defends his Premier League record

Instead, he applied the principles of tactical periodisation, a training methodology devised by Portuguese academic Victor Frade in which the physical, technical and tactical elements of training are integrated into shorter, more intense sessions.

It was unlike anything the players had experienced before but they quickly embraced it.

“Portuguese coaches are good and we are becoming better and better year by year, but at that time, 20 years ago, Mourinho was 10 years in front of the others,” says Luis.

“Before Mourinho, we would run around the pitch for 15 or 20 minutes but with him we didn’t run. We just had the ball. We worked for one hour with the ball and, for him, nothing more was necessary.

“You would go to the training session and the pitch would look like an airport, divided into different sections with cones. You would start in one section, then go to the next one, then the next one.

“Before, we trained for two or three hours with long breaks, but with him, we would have one minute between drills to drink water and that was it.

“You started at 10am and by 11am, you were back in the dressing room. You would think, ‘we’re not going to have the capacity to play full games’, but then the games would come and you would fly.”

Portuguese coaches are good and we are becoming better and better but at that time, Mourinho was 10 years in front of the others

Diogo Luis on Jose Mourinho

Mourinho would later overhaul training in much the same way at Chelsea, his success ultimately inspiring other managers to apply the same methods in the Premier League and beyond, and his attention to detail at Benfica did not end there.

“He prepared every detail,” says Luis. “Not just in terms of the training sessions but mentally as well. He pushed you and he made you believe you were the best player in the world.

“He had the capacity to motivate all the players – and not just the ones who were playing. If I played badly in one game, he would come into the dressing room and say, ‘Hey, Diogo, if you continue playing like that, the other guy gets your place.’

“So, I would be motivated to improve, and the other guy would be motivated too. Little details like that made the difference and he also analysed the opponents really well. Nowadays, every coach does that but 20 years ago, it was not normal.”

Mourinho carried out much of the analysis himself after an early opposition scouting report was returned to him listing 10 players rather than 11. Luis recalls him shutting himself away in hotel rooms and working “from 7am until 11pm”. It paid off.

“When we went into the games, we knew what we had to do in every moment,” he says. “When every player is focused on his task and knows what his opponent is going to do, whether he is going to try to beat you to the left or to the right, it gives you confidence.”

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Benfica won six, drew three and lost two of Jose Mourinho’s 11 games in charge

Mourinho would be criticised for negative tactics later in his career but not at Benfica. There was boldness and spontaneity to his football as well as tactical rigour.

“Even when things were not so good, he always demonstrated his confidence in us by taking risks,” says Luis.

“I think he changed in Inter Milan. There, he discovered he could have success with a really defensive approach and I think that created a different mindset in him.

“But at Benfica, he would say, ‘If we are losing, I’m going to take a defender off and we are going to play man-to-man in defence and attack them.’

“We started to grow because of that. Every game, step by step, it was like we were getting taller, standing on tip toes.

“Suddenly, instead of looking down on us, the opponents were are looking up at us. He gave us that confidence and belief in ourselves.”

It all came together in a thrilling 3-0 win over local rivals and reigning champions Sporting Lisbon in December but by that point, Vale e Azevedo had lost the presidency to Manuel Vilarinho, who was eager to appoint former player Toni as his manager.

We were going to the match with the whole country thinking that the champion would dominate the derby, but we won, and we won in such a fantastic way

Jose Mourinho, to Sky Sports, on beating Sporting

A game that should have secured Mourinho’s future at Benfica instead caused his tenure to unravel spectacularly.

“The new president wasn’t Mourinho’s guy,” says Luis. “Mourinho felt he wasn’t going to have an easy life at Benfica but he decided to continue, to win games and show he had the quality to put the club back where it belongs, then talk to the new president.”

He did the first part – the win over Sporting was Benfica’s fourth in a row – but it was the manner in which he approached the subsequent conversation with the president that did for him.

Mourinho had been irked by Vilarinho’s public comments on Toni and felt the club’s hierarchy had been deliberately trying to provoke him by changing hotel bookings at short notice and interfering in other logistical matters without his consent.

His frustration spilled over in the aftermath of the Sporting game.

As his jubilant players celebrated the victory in the dressing room at Estadio da Luz, Mourinho was in his office speaking to his wife on the phone when Vilarinho appeared at his door.

The president waited patiently to be ushered inside but Mourinho, emboldened by a resounding victory which had put Benfica back within reach of the league’s summit, ignored him.

After driving home from Lisbon to Setubal that night, he decided to take it further, informing Vilarinho he would leave unless his contract was extended for another year there and then.

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Jose Mourinho became Porto manager two years after leaving Benfica

His request was rejected. Mourinho’s abrasiveness had cost him his job – and it wouldn’t be the last time. He left Benfica under a cloud, just days after the victory over Sporting.

It was an episode he would regret – he later admitted to Lourenco he had used a form of blackmail on Vilarinho and apologised for his behaviour – although not as much as everyone at Benfica.

“We were doing really well, both in terms of our performances and the environment we had in the dressing room,” says Luis. “If Mourinho had continued at Benfica that year, I think we could have achieved great things because we were going in the right direction.”

Instead, the club slumped to a sixth-placed finish – the lowest in their history. Mourinho took his next step in management at Uniao de Leiria. Within a few years, Benfica were watching him lead rivals Porto to UEFA Cup and Champions League glory.

His extraordinary success there propelled him to prominence and earned him his move to Chelsea. But the road to 1,000 games began before that. Both on and off the pitch, for the good and the bad, his three-month spell at Benfica set the tone for all that followed.

‘I am here to win’ – Abraham shares Jose’s Roma vision

Tammy Abraham says Jose Mourinho’s vision for Roma and their shared desire to win trophies helped convince him to join the Serie A club from Chelsea.

The striker, 23, joined Roma earlier in August for £34m on a five-year deal after finishing last season as Chelsea’s joint top scorer despite falling out of favour under Thomas Tuchel.

England international Abraham made two assists on a winning Serie A debut against Fiorentina last Sunday and has since helped his new side progress to the group stage of the inaugural Europa Conference League.

“I spoke to Jose and obviously (general manager) Thiago (Pinto) before coming here and they told me the ambition of the club,” Abraham said.

“They told me what they want from the club and how they see the club moving forward. I am someone who is very ambitious myself so when I see vision and I believe in the vision and I believe I can help in the vision I give my all.

“I am here to win – I didn’t come here just to play, to score.”

Roma have not secured a trophy since the Coppa Italia in 2008 and last won Serie A in 2001, under Fabio Capello.

Abraham, whose move to Roma includes a buy-back clause set at £68m, scored 30 goals in 82 appearances for Chelsea, after coming through the club’s academy.

“Of course, Jose the manager is very successful, he is very ambitious, very passionate and that is what I love,” said Abraham, who never played under Mourinho during his two spells as manager at Stamford Bridge.

“I am the same, but he is a manager, and I am a player. It is nice to have someone that high a calibre to be the manager of such a great team.”

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Tammy Abraham is targeting titles at Roma

Abraham, who has won six England caps, said former Chelsea team-mate Antonio Rudiger spoke highly of Roma – where the Germany international joined the Blues from – before he completed his transfer.

“I would like to say it is not just because of Jose that I am here,” he added.

“Of course, he has a big impact on why I am here. Growing up I used to watch Roma on the TV in the Champions League, so I have known about Roma for a very long time.

“I had the pleasure of playing with guys like Toni Rudiger and Emerson who have obviously been at this club as well. Rudiger has told me so many good things about Roma and so that was another impact on my decision [to come] here.”

Despite only playing in one Serie A fixture so far, Abraham is already impressed by the level of the top-tier Italian clubs and is looking forward to the challenge of scoring goals.

“I always knew Italians were very tactical,” Abraham said ahead of facing newly-promoted Salernitana on Sunday.

“They defend well as a team, they have a good structure when they play. It is always tough to break them down and to score past the Italians.

“One thing I have learned coming here is every team is very good. Compared to the Premier League where if you are at a good team you have the ball a lot, you dominate the smaller teams but here everyone is equal.

“Everyone likes to keep the ball, everyone likes to have a compact shape and it is hard to break teams down. You have to find ways to break teams down and that is the difference between Italian football and English football.”

Pedro swaps Roma for Lazio

Former Chelsea winger Pedro has completed a move from Roma to Lazio in what is the first transfer between the cross-city rivals in 40 years.

The 34-year-old signed a three-year deal with Roma last summer after arriving on a free transfer from Chelsea, but was deemed surplus to requirements by new boss Jose Mourinho and was left out of the team’s pre-season preparations.

Lazio manager Maurizio Sarri was keen to reunite with Pedro after having coached him at Chelsea in the 2018/19 season.

Roma were keen to offload the forward to a foreign club but would have lost out on around 3.5m euros due to Italian state laws on tax benefits.

Lazio will not have to pay Roma any transfer fee but will take on the Spaniard’s current wages of around 4m euros per year pre-tax, plus bonuses depending on team performances next season.

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Pedro scored for Roma against his current employers Lazio in their latest 2-0 derby win in May

Over the years, a host of different players wore both jerseys – including Aleksandar Kolarov, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Angelo Peruzzi – but direct transfers between the two Italian capital clubs have been very rare.

The last transfer between the two capital rivals took place in 1981 when Carlo Perrone swapped Lazio for Roma before returning to his former club the following year.

Pedro, who took up the No 9 at Lazio, endured a turbulent year with Roma with six goals in 40 appearances but scored in the side’s 2-0 derby win over his current employers in May.

He spent five years at Chelsea between 2015 and 2020 after arriving from Barcelona and scored 29 goals in 137 appearances during his time in west London.

Abraham joins Roma from Chelsea for £34m

Tammy Abraham has joined Roma from Chelsea on a five-year contract for £34m.

The 23-year-old England striker was Chelsea’s joint-top goalscorer with 12 in all competitions last season but found first-team opportunities limited following the arrival of head coach Thomas Tuchel in January.

Champions League winners Chelsea re-signed Romelu Lukaku for a club-record £97.5m from Inter Milan on Thursday.

Chelsea have a £68m buyback option on their academy graduate, which can be triggered in the summer of 2023, while Abraham will wear the No 9 shirt at Roma.

“You can sense when a club really wants you – and Roma made their interest clear immediately,” said Abraham.

“Roma is a club that deserves to be fighting for titles and trophies. I’ve had the experience of winning major trophies and I want to be in those competitions again – so I want to help this team to achieve that and get to the level where Roma should be.

“It’s a massive honour to be the No. 9 at this club and I just can’t wait to get started and to help the team.”

Abraham, an unused substitute in Chelsea’s Super Cup win against Villarreal in midweek and Premier League victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday, underwent a medical in Rome on Sunday.

Roma, managed by former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, open their Serie A campaign against Fiorentina at the Stadio Olympico on August 22.

Mourinho says signing Abraham is a “real coup” for Roma and has praised the England international for choosing a move away from the Premier League.

“I’ve known him since he was a boy. He’s never played for me, because he was a 14-, 15-, 16-year-old boy when I was at Chelsea, but I know him very well,” Mourinho told Roma’s website.

“I know him as a person, a player and in terms of his mentality. I know how he made the decision to leave the Premier League, which is always tough for an English player.

“That tells me so much about him, because when you leave the Premier League, you do so because you’re ambitious.

“You leave because you want to get back into your national team, because you want to play at the World Cup, because you want success outside of England, where not many English players have had brilliant careers.

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Roma boss Jose Mourinho has praised Abraham for choosing a move away from the Premier League

“He comes here with that ambition and we hope to see his best qualities as a player.”

Atalanta and Arsenal also expressed an interest in Abraham, but Chelsea’s preference was always to sell him to a foreign club.

Tiago Pinto, Roma’s general manager, said: “Despite still being very young, with a huge amount of potential to keep improving, Tammy has already played more than 200 games in his career and scored over 100 goals – and won a number of major trophies too.

“Choosing to leave the Premier League, and the club he grew up at, demonstrates very clearly just how much he believes in this opportunity to develop his own game and show what he can do at Roma.

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Good Morning Transfers’ Kyle Walker believes Abraham could flourish under Jose Mourinho at Roma

“Bringing in players that have such a hunger and desire to play for our club is hugely important in helping to build the identity and sense of belonging that is a fundamental part of our overall vision for this team.”

‘One of our own’

Abraham joined Chelsea’s academy at the age of seven, and Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said his contributions will “never be forgotten”.

“Tammy will always be welcomed back at Stamford Bridge as one of our own,” Granovskaia said.

“We have all enjoyed watching his progress through our Academy and into the first-team squad, and are grateful for his contribution to our successes at senior and youth level.

“His many goals in a Chelsea shirt and, of course, his part in our Champions League triumph last season will never be forgotten. I’m sure all Chelsea supporters will join me in wishing Tammy a long and successful career.”

Follow the summer transfer window with Sky Sports

You can follow all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms, as well as keeping track of all the developments on Sky Sports News.

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Abraham completes medical ahead of Roma move

Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham has completed a medical ahead of joining Roma for £34m.

Talks progressed positively after Roma general manager Tiago Pinto met the striker in London on Thursday, and the Serie A side believe he will be a key part of boss Jose Mourinho’s plans.

Abraham is expected to sign a five-year contract worth £4m a year after tax.

Chelsea will have €80m buyback option on the 23-year-old, which can be triggered in the summer of 2023.

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Good Morning Transfers’ Kyle Walker believes Abraham could flourish under Jose Mourinho at Roma

Abraham fell out of favour at Chelsea once Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge, despite finishing last season as the club’s joint-top scorer with 12 goals.

The arrival of Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan for a club-record £97.5m pushed the player further down the pecking order and all but ended the possibility of him staying in the Premier League.

Fellow Serie A side Atalanta and Arsenal also expressed an interest in Abraham, but Chelsea’s preference was always to sell him to a foreign club.

Tuchel: My fault for not trusting Abraham

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has accepted some responsibility for Tammy Abraham’s lack of opportunities last season as the striker’s future at Stamford Bridge lies in the balance.

Although Tuchel refused to directly address Roma’s offer during his press conference ahead of the Super Cup final, the head coach said: “Tammy is right now in the squad. He did some good preparation matches.

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As Tammy Abraham looks set to leave Chelsea for Roma, we take a look at some of his greatest goals in the Premier League

“He was clearly not happy with the last half a year and maybe he has reason also not to be happy and maybe it was also my fault not to push him, not to trust him on the same level I maybe trusted other players.

“I can absolutely understand that he wants more minutes. So the decision will be ‘how do we plan, what are Tammy’s plans, does he fight his way back into the team from the position where he ended last season or does he want to change club to have the chance of being a regular starter?'”

Follow the summer transfer window with Sky Sports

You can follow all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms, as well as keeping track of all the developments on Sky Sports News.