Mikel Arteta has revealed what it was like to be coached by Jose Mourinho during their brief time together at Barcelona and has dispelled the notion that the Spurs boss is wary of young players, saying he was ‘very supportive’.
Mourinho is often derogatorily remembered simply as Bobby Robson’s ‘translator’ during their time together at Camp Nou in the 1996-97 season, though he was a prominent part of the coaching team and stayed on as part of Louis van Gaal’s staff.
At the same time, Arteta – who will be in the opposite dugout for Sunday’s north London derby – was coming through Barca’s famed La Masia academy.
The pair actually worked together, with Mourinho taking a number of sessions with the Barcelona B team – for whom Arteta made 42 appearances – as he began his move into becoming a manager in his own right.
Arteta looks back on that time fondly and says Mourinho’s approach with Barca’s young players was the complete opposite of the image that is painted of him as someone who is reluctant to give youth a chance.
Asked what Mourinho was like as a coach at Barca B, the Arsenal boss said: ‘He was great! He used to coach us, as you said, with the Barcelona B team.
‘He used to come to our training sessions. He had an incredible energy with young players. He was always very, very supportive and [we] all liked him.’
The feeling was mutual, with Mourinho revealing at his own pre-match press conference that he is still extremely fond of the ‘kid’ he used to coach – though he will put their personal relationship aside on Sunday.
‘Look I met Mikel when Mikel was a kid in Barcelona. I was there with Mr Van Gaal, Mikel was a kid. Really, really a kid,’ he said
‘So I know him from there and when you know these kids at this age, time flies but in the end you always look at them as the kid that you have a great feeling for.’
He added: ‘Of course I like him very, very much. I hope everything goes well for him in his career, but I have to admit in this moment he is at a rival club, a club that fights in this moment for the same things we fight – which is a European position. And I cannot wish him good in this situation.’
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