Jose Mourinho has paid tribute to Steven Gerrard ahead of the Liverpool midfielder’s final visit to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Gerrard and his Reds team-mates are expected to provide a guard of honour for Mourinho’s Chelsea side after the London club secured the Premier League title last weekend.
But Mourinho said Friday that the match would also provide him with an opportunity to recognise Gerrard’s career at Liverpool which will come to a close at the end of the season when the former England captain joins LA Galaxy in the United States’ Major League Soccer.
The Chelsea manager admitted he tried to sign Gerrard on four different occasions at three different clubs but was denied by the player’s unstinting loyalty to Liverpool.
Friday saw the Portuguese boss say he was more concerned about acknowledging Gerrard, who has never won the Premier League title, than he was about Liverpool honouring his team.
“Liverpool is a giant club and if they want to do that (provide a guard of honour) my players will accept with respect,” Mourinho told a news conference at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground.
“But speaking about Liverpool and honouring the champions, it is my time to honour the champion.
“It’s my time to honour Steve Gerrard and say with opponents like him that I am the manager I am. I learn with my players and my best opponents.
“Steven Gerrard is for sure one of my favourite enemies and for sure my dear enemy, the one who made me a better manager,” he explained.
“I need people like him to make me a better coach.”
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Drawing comparisons with Frank Lampard’s departure from Chelsea at the end of last season, Mourinho said: “I am sad he is leaving the same as our Frank Lampard, but Frank is a Chelsea legend and it’s a different situation because Steven was always on the other side.
“I tried to bring him (Gerrard) to Chelsea, I tried to bring him to Inter, I tried to bring him to Real Madrid but he was always with the enemy. I want to honour him and I hope Stamford Bridge has the same feeling.
“It’s too late to sign him,” lamented Mourinho.
“He can’t play against Liverpool, he refused to play in other big clubs, other big leagues to play only for Liverpool.
“Who knows, I play against Steven as a Liverpool manager someday?”
Mourinho is expected to be rewarded for his success this season with a new contract but the manager insisted he did not need a new deal to commit his future to Chelsea.
“I don’t need a contract. Mr Abramovich (the Chelsea owner) has to be calm because he has me, I’m in his hands, I want to stay, I don’t want to leave,” he said.
“I’m not asking for a better contract, I’m very calm, so he doesn’t have to be worried,” Mourinho said. “He has me and if he wants me to stay Iâ€™m staying and the day he wants me to leave I leave.
“For next season we are already working, so I know I am staying but more important than a contract for two or 10 years is my desire to stay and his (Abramovich’s) desire for me to stay. When he wants me to go I go,” said Mourinho, now in his second spell as Chelsea manager.
But while Mourinho’s work is likely to be recognised by his employer, he was once again overlooked for the manager of the month award that went to Leicester’s Nigel Pearson.
The Chelsea manager has not won the award once this season despite his side leading the table from start to finish and he said: “I prefer not to comment, but I would like to know the people in the panel.
“Who are they because maybe someday I meet somebody and I want to hug him.”