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Jose Mourinho on the top Euro 2020 strikers he’s bossed… Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku & Karim Benzema


JOSE MOURINHO has worked with four of the top contenders for the Golden Boot at these Euros.

Mourinho led fellow Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo and France striker Karim Benzema to the LaLiga title at Real Madrid.


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Jose Mourinho knows four of the Euro 2020 Golden Boot contenders extremely well

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Jose Mourinho knows four of the Euro 2020 Golden Boot contenders extremely wellCredit: The Sun

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He also worked with Belgian Romelu Lukaku at Chelsea and Manchester United as well as England’s Harry Kane at Tottenham.

Ronaldo won the Euros with Portugal in 2016, while Kane took the Golden Boot at the last World Cup.

Lukaku’s goals have fired Belgium to No 1 in the world rankings, while Benzema is back after a six-year absence from Les Bleus and is capable of lifting the world champions to even greater heights.

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Here, the Special One gives his unique personal insight into four of the most lethal goalscorers in world football.

He also discusses the challenges of managing elite strikers — from massaging the egos of football’s alpha males to potential jealousy from team-mates and how to get them to  click on the pitch.

As Mourinho explained: “These guys live on goals. Their reputation is a lot about goals.”

Romelu Lukaku will be hoping to fire Belgium to Euro 2020 glory

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Romelu Lukaku will be hoping to fire Belgium to Euro 2020 gloryCredit: Getty

ROMELU LUKAKU

ROMELU LUKAKU was just a kid when I knew him at Chelsea and at Manchester United he was still developing.

But at Inter he’s become the top man. He’s become loved — a big love from the supporters, love from team-mates and he had great relations with former coach Antonio Conte.

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That’s what a guy with Lukaku’s personality needed. He’s a big guy, physically so strong, but is still a kid. A kid who needs that love, needs that support, needs to feel important.

Inter gave him everything, with them winning the Serie A title after so many years. He raised his game based on this emotional side of things.

During his time in English football, he developed from the young kid who arrived at Chelsea to the mature guy who left United. But these two years at Inter gave him the stature and self-confidence he didn’t have before.

In the national team his record is amazing — 60 goals in 93 appearances — though I always say these amazing international records depend on many easy matches against smaller teams.

It’s easy for Lukaku to make the transition to Belgium because they play the same system as Inter. It’s deja vu. So there is no doubt he will score goals and fight for the Golden Boot.



 

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With me at United he was playing normally as a No 9 with one winger that always came inside and another   always trying to attack space.

This was the kind of movement, the kind of football, we tried to develop with him.

Then he goes to Inter and they always play three at the back, with two wing-backs and with him as the striker.

A second striker, Lautaro Martinez, is always the player to drop, so Lukaku attacks spaces and I think he grew up tactically. With the national team it is very similar.

He is also taking penalties for Belgium and that’s important.

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Any team that plays five, six times will always get a couple of penalties.

So in terms of the Golden Boot, that could be crucial.

HARRY KANE

WHEN Gareth Southgate has been planning his starting XI for Sunday’s game with Croatia, he’ll have been safe in the knowledge Harry Kane can do it all.

Players like Harry are also very smart. They understand football and understand where they can affect the game more.

If Harry plays with wingers that like to attack the space, he clearly feels the way he can affect the game more is to drop and let other guys attack spaces, then he arrives in the box at a later stage of that move.

If he plays with wingers that are not fast guys to attack spaces — wingers that like to drop and get in between the lines and get the ball into feet — he knows that if he is not the targetman, if he is not going to lead the line, then who does? Nobody.

Jose Mourinho worked most-recently with Harry Kane at Tottenham

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Jose Mourinho worked most-recently with Harry Kane at TottenhamCredit: Rex

If not, you become a team that has a lot of the ball but are never a threat because everybody drops back to get the ball on their feet.

I am pretty sure that Harry, Gareth and his assistant Steve Holland enjoy a relationship that is very good, that they communicate well.

England can play with a back four, they can play with a five, they can play with wingers like Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford — fast guys — but can also play with completely different players like Mason Mount, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish.

And Harry has the tactical knowledge to adapt to it, I have no doubt about it.

Harry won the Golden Boot at the last World Cup and all of these top strikers have egos. They have individual ambitions.

At the same time, especially in national teams with a short competition of one month and a clear target for the country, then, more than ever, they’re ready to do anything for their country.

If you ask them, ‘Would you change the Golden Boot for the Euros trophy?’ they will all say ‘Yes! 200 per cent’. 

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Cristiano Ronaldo provided a 'different' but 'great challenge' for the Special One

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Cristiano Ronaldo provided a ‘different’ but ‘great challenge’ for the Special OneCredit: Rex

CRISTIANO RONALDO

MANAGING an all-time great player like Cristiano Ronaldo is a different challenge — but a great challenge.

It can be difficult because these players are so good, if they don’t perform according to expectations, it’s very hard for the public  to point the finger at the player.

It’s easier to point the finger at the coach.

People will say, ‘This superstar is not playing amazingly because the coach doesn’t make the best of him, because the tactical system isn’t adapted right for him’.

In that sense it’s added pressure to the coaches — ‘I have gold in my hands and I have to make sure it’s going to shine’.

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But it’s also a fantastic pressure as these players can resolve a game for you — one chance and they put the ball in the net.

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You win a tight game, an extra-time game. Any coach would pay to have these guys on their side.

They are always going to be the protagonists, the focus of attention. The other players know it. The question is how they feel about it — in a good way or a negative way?

Do they feel jealousy? ‘This is not fair, we are a team, we are working hard and all the attention goes to one star?’

Or can they interpret it positively, that the pressure is on the other player and they feel more free to play their game. Stars like Cristiano are an escape for the others.

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In the Portuguese team, the problem is not when Cristiano is there — but when he leaves.

At this moment, the leader is there, the main man, the guy that attracts all the attention.

There is such a difference in status, that I really feel there is not one Portugal player who thinks it should be any other way.

Ronaldo and Benzema won countless honours during their time together at Real Madrid

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Ronaldo and Benzema won countless honours during their time together at Real MadridCredit: Reuters

They all feel protected by this aura that goes around Cristiano and it’s a very good thing for a team.

Maybe when he leaves, we will have a period when egos fight — but not now.

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Cristiano can still resolve matches. His efficiency in finishing is incredible. But now, aged 36, he’s a different player.

You don’t see him getting the ball out wide and doing diagonals and attacking people with those dribbles.

Especially in the national team, Cristiano is a No 9 with some freedom to move around.

Let’s compare him with Harry Kane playing in my time at Tottenham, dropping, coming between the lines, but more a No 9.

Portugal have other players — Diogo Jota, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes — to be creative. 

KARIM BENZEMA

THE best compliment you can give to Karim Benzema is that Cristiano Ronaldo was in love with him at Real Madrid.

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And for Cristiano to be in love with another attacking player means he does a lot for Cristiano — and he does a lot for every attacking player that plays around him.

Karim is probably the only No 9 I know that is not selfish in his game.

His vision is amazing, the way he enjoys his football is to play with lots of freedom.

I can compare him with Harry Kane also in this sense.

I would say Harry scores more goals, probably has more of that killer instinct than Karim but Karim, as a player, is absolutely amazing and when you look to the French team and you imagine Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe playing with him, I think it can be something great.

Mbappe is very, very fast. Griezmann has incredible shooting and he comes behind the striker and in between the lines and Karim, the way he interacts with people, is fantastic.

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Karim Benzema returned to the France squad this month after a six-year exile

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Karim Benzema returned to the France squad this month after a six-year exileCredit: AFP

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He is very much a team man and a fantastic professional.

Karim is getting older but, at 33, his body looks younger.

He rarely gets injuries, although he went off with a knee problem in the midweek friendly against Bulgaria and could be a doubt for France’s opening game against Germany on Tuesday.

France did amazingly well without him — they were World Cup winners without him and reached Euro 2016 without him.

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Now for him to come back, after an absence of six years, must mean he is 100 per cent sure it is going to work.

Karim will bring the best out of Mbappe, just as he did in Madrid with Cristiano. Like Harry with Son Heung-min, the way the technical one interacts with the one that attacks space and makes diagonal runs.

These interactions are very important and I believe Karim, in that France team, can do very, very well.

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