Jose 'is best' says Lamps but Ballack targets win
AS THE Jose Mourinho roadshow hits town today, and the world's most charismatic if irascible coach revisits the Kings Road that he once paraded down, Frank Lampard has paid a glowing tribute to his former mentor.
"Jose is the best manager Chelsea have ever had," the midfield player said. "No one has won as many titles here as he did. Inter Milan are a team with real character."
Chelsea play Mourinho's Inter in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night and the Portuguese will be warmed by Lampard's praise.
It is not, though, as if the self-styled 'Special One' needs any help in stealing the spotlight, which undoubtedly he will as soon as he again lands on English soil. Mourinho, who led Chelsea to two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and two League Cups, will hold court today at his pre-match press conference in London. Expect wit, wisdom and possibly fireworks.
However, Michael Ballack believes that the hype should not detract from the main objective -- Chelsea seeking to overturn a 2-1 deficit.
"I try to put this (Mourinho) to the side and to be focused on myself and the team. It is really not a big theme in the dressing room," said Ballack. "It is no secret. We worked with Jose for a long time, most of the players, but it's gone now and we have to keep going. Of course it is a special moment that we play against him."
That Mourinho failed to win the Champions League during his often turbulent three-year spell with Chelsea is not lost on Ballack. It is a void that he and his team-mates are hoping to fill. "You can make history only if you win something," Ballack said. "He won two league titles, of course. That is why he is so popular here.
"But now it's another time, with a new coach, with new players. You have to carry on and you have to try to win something.
"In the Champions League, it was the competition we couldn't win. That is why we are so hungry in this competition."
On the opposite side, current Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has won the Champions League -- twice with AC Milan.
Ancelotti endured a fractious relationship with Mourinho in Milan last season, their contrasting characters adding further intrigue to the Milanese rivalry, yet he has played down the apparent mutual antipathy.
"I have never had a problem with Mourinho," Ancelotti said, with his usual disarming smile and a chuckle. "This is just a game. Chelsea against Inter, not me against Mourinho. If we play our best, we will win."