Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers has hailed Jose Mourinho as “one of the greats” as he prepares to pit his wits against the Roma boss in the Europa Conference League semi-finals on Thursday.
Rodgers’ side host Roma in the first leg as Mourinho returns for his first game on English soil since being sacked by Tottenham last year.
Mourinho has endured a difficult period at Roma, who sit fifth in Serie A after a season that has strengthened the belief of some critics that the Portuguese coach is past his best.
But Rodgers, who was youth team coach at Chelsea during Mourinho’s first spell at Stamford Bridge, is adamant his old boss is still a force to be reckoned with.
“He has nothing to prove to anyone,” Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday. “He will always be a winner. I cannot speak any higher of him. He is one of the greats of our generation.
“I have got nothing but admiration for him. I became a manager in my own right but I will never forget what I gained from him as a young coach. I studied him and watched him and at that time it was a really special period.”
In his prime, Mourinho won the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan and secured three Premier League titles over two stints at Chelsea.
He led Inter to a pair of Serie A titles and won La Liga with Real Madrid, while also lifting Manchester United’s most recent trophies in 2017.
Asked what makes him rank Mourinho among the great managers of all time, Rodgers pointed to the 59-year-old’s array of qualities.
“He had the X factor. There wasn’t one single thing. He was brilliant in so many aspects of the game,” Rodgers said.
“Detail-orientated, man-management of the players, his understanding of the tactical adaptation of the game, he had that special quality I was able to see.”
Despite criticism of the Europa Conference League when it was launched, Rodgers believes the continent’s third-tier tournament has been an entertaining success in its first season.
After winning Leicester’s first-ever FA Cup last season, he has his sights on their maiden European prize.
“It’s a prestigious competition, all four teams will want to win it,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic occasion against a top-class team. To get to the final we will do everything we can. It’s another symbol of our growth as a club.”