Former Inter forward Goran Pandev looked back on his time at the club under Jose Mourinho and felt the coach changed his perspective on football during the historic 2009/10 season.
Pandev was part of the squad that went on to win the Treble under Mourinho, as they clinched the Scudetto, Coppa Italia and Champions League.
The Macedonian, now at Genoa, comes up against his former boss tomorrow after Mourinho took charge of Roma, and in an interview published in today’s newspaper edition of Corriere dello Sport, considered their relationship.
“Two words come to mind against Roma. Lazio and Mourinho,” the ex-Lazio striker declared. “Of course it’s a special match. Roma are an opponent like no other. Their fans always boo me but now it happens with Lazio too. I managed to reach an agreement between two rival supporters!”
After a bitter dispute that saw Pandev frozen out of Lazio’s first team in 2009, Mourinho brought him to Inter the following January.
“Mourinho is the man who changed my perspectives. He phoned me immediately after my separation from Lazio, after five or six months of not playing. He asked me to go to Inter, the team that had brought me to Italy. It seemed like a dream, and then it went as well as it did.
“I have incredible memories of the Treble. Mourinho had the ability to motivate every player, even those who were on the bench. He always defended them. In my personal experience, he hardly ever used me in my role. But when I saw Eto’o work as a full-back I reflected. If someone like him adapts, I have to adapt too.”
Mourinho has struggled somewhat at Roma this season but Pandev was confident that he would come good with time, whilst expressing his surprise at seeing the Portuguese takeover at the Stadio Olimpico.
“I must admit that his arrival at Roma surprised me. I know the conditions well and it’s not easy. But I’m sure they will win again sooner or later with Mourinho. He’s the right man in the right place, if they give him the correct conditions.
“The club must follow his instructions, in the transfer market and beyond. You must give Jose carte blanche. It takes time, in all things. But if he has accepted Roma it is because he wants to make history.
“He phoned me after the end of the Euros when my international teammates paid tribute to me at the time of my substitution. But we hear from him occasionally on the Treble chat. We are still very close, a big family.”
At 38, Pandev is the fifth-oldest player in Serie A and conceded that he had considered retiring after leading North Macedonia to a first ever tournament appearance at Euro 2020.
“I decided to continue playing for the fans. I would have been sorry to end with empty stadiums. The Genoa fans have always supported me and deserve my thanks. As well, I have to thank [Genoa President Enrico] Preziosi who convinced me to stay.
“It’s harder now. Especially this year, because I was unable to prepare after the Euros. You have to work more and more. Certain whims that you can indulge in at 20 are impossible at my age. Luckily I don’t like rest, if I don’t train I feel bad,” he added.