Former Inter Sporting Director Marco Branca feels that former Nerazzurri coach and current Roma boss Jose Mourinho is unlike anyone else in football.
Speaking to today’s print edition of Rome-based newspaper Corriere dello Sport, the former executive gave some of his thoughts on the Portuguese tactician ahead of the Nerazzurri’s first meeting with him since he left in the summer of 2010 after winning the treble.
Mourinho arrived in Serie A for the first time since departing from the Nerazzurri this summer, taking over at the Giallorossi.
The coach has not crossed paths with the Nerazzurri since leaving, managing the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur.
How, however, a head-to-head clash has been inevitable between the former coach and club, and today the Nerazzurri will once again meet the man who guided them to historic success.
Branca recalled the period, starting with some of his signings as Sporting Director.
“At Inter I was dealing with the top players but I also found an incredible 16-year-old,” he stated. “Impressive. Right and left foot alike. It was Coutinho.”
About the treble, he stated that “I don’t feel particular nostalgia. I do feel pride, at the privilege of being in the right place at the right time, having made the right decisions.”
He described the confluence of factors that led to the historic season, stating that “The special balance of a group lies in having the right president, the right director, the right coach, the right players, in having all the right staff.”
“I was part of this chemistry,” he went on. “It was a perfect fit in which everyone was able to give their best.”
Asked whether Massimo Morratti was the last great Inter President, Branca stated “Yes, absolutely. After him it has been darkness.”
He gave his recollection of Mourinho, stating that “From our first meeting, I found him to be a stimulating and witty man, never dull.”
He went on of the coach that “The speed of thought with which he arrives at a key concept is amazing. To be stimulating, Jose needs stimulating people around. People who say what they think and not what he would like to hear.”
Branca explained that “I never told him he was wrong or not. I told him my point of view. His talent was to listen and synthesize.”
“I got on great with him,” he added. “You know how coaches are, but he never bothered me obsessively during the transfer market. Gradually we got to know each other, until nothing was left to understand each other.”
He then stated that Mourinho is “absolutely” one of the greatest coaches in football.
Branca explained that he had recently spoken to the Portuguese coach, stating that “We spoke this summer. I congratulated him myself. I really liked the choice he had made to come to Roma.”
“Roma is not easy, as everyone knows,” he continued. “However, no city makes you experience such strong emotions.”
“Jose feeds on the emotions that come to him from others,” he went on. “With him there is an owner with clear ideas and objectives. Becoming competitive. Winning is another thing.”
“He is a coach who knows how to be very affectionate with his players,he’s capable of great tenderness,” Branca added. “Mou is a broad person, with a great range.”
On how he expects Mourinho to approach his first match against Inter since leaving, Branca stated that “Nothing will change. He wants to win. There isn’t a match in which Mou doesn’t want to win completely. If he wins, he’s happy.”
He added that “He will be fiercely focused, more than ever, to get the most out of himself and his players.”
“For me, Jose is very up-to-date,” Branca continued. “He is a complete coach, certainly with his own ideas, but capable of adapting to any context. I see him at implementing schemes at Roma that we almost never did at Inter.”
He spoke about “Going down to the locker room three minutes before half-time and then watching his speeches. It was an absolute spectacle.”
Of the half-time talk during the Nerazzurri’s 0-1 defeat against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, which saw them make it to the Champions League final, Branca stated that “That was paradoxically one of the quietest.”
“The key to the match was clear: we had to suffer and be solid from a tactical point of view. Other talks were decidedly more eventful,” he explained.
As for an example of a half-time talk where Mourinho completely overturned a match, Branca named “The match in Kiev against Shevchenko’s Dynamo. We won despite a numerical disadvantage, with a goal from Sneijder two minutes from the end.”
“At half-time we were losing,” he went on. “Mou started with a calm tone, raising his voice gradually.”
Brance continued that “There was this huge steel bench, which must have weighed about seventy kilos. When his harangue was over, Jose overturned it, shouting unrepeatable things to the team. It worked.”
He explained of Mourinhi that “When he gets into a competitive trance, there’s no stopping him.”
Of the suddenness of Mourinho’s departure after the treble, Branca stated that “He probably felt that he would not have been emotionally prepared for a departure after having been heavily involved in all the treble celebrations.”
“It would have been much more difficult,” he went on. “But that’s okay. It remains the huge undertaking built together, in a sporting sense and emotionally.”
On the conversion of Samuel Eto’o from striker to defensively-minded right-winger by Mourinho, Branca stated that “They decided to do it with Mourinho in January.”
“A significant fact of the treble was that it was won with six new starters compared to the previous season,” he added.
“This is something that should not happen in the rules of football,” he added. “First he built the mentality, and then came the key signings.”
On the possibility of reuniting with Mourinho, Branca stated that “I don’t know how to think about all the things that could happen in the future. I am focused on doing well in what I do today. Tomorrow will follow.”
And on whether he’d return to Inter as a director, he stated “Never at Inter. When you have experienced such strong emotions you must never return, you must keep them as something precious.”