Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is sad to be facing “dear enemy” Steven Gerrard for the last time and credits the Liverpool stalwart for making him a better coach.
After 17 memorable years as a professional at Anfield, the Reds captain has just three matches remaining before starting a new chapter in Major League Soccer with Los Angeles Galaxy at the age of 34.
Mourinho is sad to see the former England captain make the move Stateside and is more interested in paying tribute to the midfielder this Sunday than the guard of honour the champions are set to receive.
“Liverpool is Liverpool – it is a giant club,” the Portuguese said. “If they want to do that (form a guard of honour), obviously my players are going to accept that with respect.
“But speaking about Liverpool and speaking about honouring the champions, this is my time to honour a champion. It is my time to honour Steve Gerrard.
“It is with opponents like him that I am the manager that I am, because I learn with my players and I learn with my best opponents.
“I learn with my players’ problems, my players’ doubts, my players’ qualities and I learn with my best opponent, with the problems they give me – the way they make me think, the way they make me analyse them and studying the best way to play against them.
“Steven Gerrard is for sure one of my favourite enemies – an enemy with all the good feeling I can express with that word in football.
“For sure, in England he is my dear enemy. For sure, he is the one that made me a better manager. To stop him or try and stop him has been very, very difficult.”
Mourinho spoke in the pre-match press conference about the battles he has had over the years with Gerrard – someone he has tried to sign on more than one occasion.
“I tried to bring him to Chelsea, I tried to bring him to Inter (Milan), I tried to bring him to Real Madrid but he was always a dear enemy,” he said.
“I want to honour him and I hope Stamford Bridge has the same feeling as I have, which is we need people like him as our opponents.”
Asked whether not managing Gerrard was one of his biggest regrets, Mourinho immediately responded: “No, no. I am very happy that he didn’t (leave).
“In the end I think he had an amazing career and (such) an amazing feeling with his people that he refused to play for other big clubs, he refused to play in other big leagues to play only for Liverpool.
“I think this is a feeling that stays forever. Who knows, (maybe) I will play against Steven as a Liverpool manager one day.”