Chelsea title-winner Eden better than Ronaldo last season, says Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho spent his summer break refusing interview requests, but now he is back to doing what he does best and is clearly making up for lost time.
The Chelsea manager has never been afraid to express an opinion or two and with the start of the new Premier League season just 11 days away, he had some high-profile names in his sights.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Manuel Pellegrini and Arsène Wenger may all raise an eyebrow on hearing some of Mourinho's views. No change there then.
The double triumph in the Premier League and Capital One Cup last season has certainly not dimmed his passion and he was in bullish mood ahead of the club's final match of their pre-season tour against Barcelona in Washington tonight.
For example, Mourinho said Footballer of the Year Eden Hazard's displays in a Chelsea shirt elevated him above Ronaldo as one of the world's best footballers. Ronaldo scored 61 goals to Hazard's 19, but at the season's end the Portugal striker had no silverware to show for it.
Since leaving Real Madrid for Chelsea in 2013, Mourinho has done his utmost to speak about his former club, and Ronaldo, as little as possible. But Hazard's form has provoked him to break his silence: "Football without titles is nothing," he said. "Would I put Eden above Ronaldo? Last season, yes. In spite of the fact that Ronaldo was fantastic. He scored an incredible number of goals.
"Eden is coming with big status now and was voted one of the top 10 players in Europe last year. In my opinion he should be in the top three, not in the top 10.
"I think he is the best player in England. You [the English media] voted him too, the best player in the English Premier League. Being that the Premier League is the top competition in the world, I think he is among the top players.
"But he has to be better and I told him that. How? By repeating these trophies and he needs a good Champions League. But he has all the conditions to improve."
Mourinho is often portrayed as the main villain when it comes to verbal sparring with two of his old foes, Manchester City boss Pellegrini and Wenger, his Arsenal counterpart, yet his rivals can give as good as they get.
In Pellegrini's case, he is guilty of starting the jousting before a ball has been kicked, accusing Mourinho last month, among other things, of "always wanting to take credit for everything."
With a sneer, Mourinho provided his right of reply. "When a manager is on holidays and still thinks about me, I have nothing to say," he said. "If other guys use holiday time also for interviews, it's their problem."
While Mourinho's disdain for Pellegrini is clear to see, it is still Wenger who gets him animated the most.
Wenger's desire to portray Arsenal's business model as more virtuous and frugal compared with Chelsea's, has often got under the skin of the Portuguese.
In what should make the Community Shield between the two clubs on Sunday an even livelier affair, Mourinho said: "This is the easiest thing to do - I don't do it. Get a calculator," before making the noise of a cash till to emphasise his point.
"If you add up the amounts clubs have spent in the last three or four years I think maybe you will find a surprise.
"If you put Mesut Özil plus Alexis Sanchez, plus Callum Chambers, plus Mathieu Debuchy [total cost £100.5m] you will maybe find a surprise.
"They have just bought a fantastic goalkeeper [Petr Cech from Chelsea for £10m] and that is a position which is very important in a team. It's a fantastic squad with good players, they are more than ready to be title contenders."