Steven Gerrard is the reason I improved as a boss, says Jose Mourinho
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is sad to be facing "dear enemy" Steven Gerrard for the last time and credits the Liverpool stalwart for making him a better coach.
After 17 memorable years as a professional at Anfield, the Reds captain has just three matches remaining before starting a new chapter in Major League Soccer with Los Angeles Galaxy at the age of 34.
Mourinho is sad to see the former England captain make the move Stateside and is more interested in paying tribute to the midfielder tomorrow than the guard of honour the champions are set to receive.
"Liverpool is Liverpool - it is a giant club," the Portuguese said. "If they want to do that (form a guard of honour), obviously my players are going to accept that with respect.
"But speaking about Liverpool and speaking about honouring the champions, this is my time to honour a champion. It is my time to honour Steve Gerrard.
"It is because of opponents like him that I am the manager that I am, because I learn from my players and I learn from my best opponents.
"I learn from my players' problems, my players' doubts, my players' qualities and I learn from my best opponents, with the problems they give me - the way they make me think, the way they make me analyse them and studying the best way to play against them.
"Steven Gerrard is for sure one of my favourite enemies - an enemy with all the good feeling I can express with that word in football.
"For sure, in England he is my dear enemy. For sure, he is the one that made me a better manager. To stop him or try and stop him has been very, very difficult."
Mourinho spoke in the pre-match press conference about the battles he has had over the years with Gerrard - someone he has tried to sign on more than one occasion.
"I tried to bring him to Chelsea, I tried to bring him to Inter (Milan), I tried to bring him to Real Madrid but he was always a dear enemy," he said.
"I want to honour him and I hope Stamford Bridge has the same feeling as I have."
Asked whether not managing Gerrard was one of his biggest regrets, Mourinho immediately responded: "No, no. I am very happy that he didn't (leave).
"In the end I think he had an amazing career and (such) an amazing feeling with his people that he refused to play for other big clubs, he refused to play in other big leagues.
"I think this is a feeling that stays forever. Who knows, (maybe) I will play against Steven as a Liverpool manager one day."
Seeing Mourinho and Gerrard in opposing dugouts is unlikely to come any time soon, but the Portuguese suggested there is still time for it to happen with him as Chelsea boss.
The 52-year-old guided Chelsea to a first Premier League title in five years last weekend and reports this week suggest a new deal is in the offing.
Mourinho is halfway through the four-year contract signed on his return to the club in June 2013 and is in no hurry to sign a new one as he is not going anywhere.
"I don't need a contract," the Portuguese said.
"Mr Abramovich, in my opinion, has to be very calm because he has me. I am totally in his hands.
"I want to stay, I don't want to leave. I am not asking for a new contract, I am not asking for a better contract.
"I am very, very calm, so he doesn't have to be worried at all. He has me. If he wants me stay, I am staying. If he wants me to leave, then I will leave."
Premier League: Stamford Bridge, Sun 4.00 pm (Sky)