Former Bafana Bafana international Benni McCarthy has opened up about the special bond he shared with ‘The Special One’ Jose Mourinho during their time together at FC Porto with McCarthy revealing that the Portuguese tactician tried several times to sign him at Chelsea.
McCarthy was one of Mourinho’s most important players at the Portuguese club banging in the goals and guiding them to their only ever UEFA Champions League title back in 2004 as he netted five goals, including two against English football giants Manchester United.
Undoubtedly, the Portuguese tactician brought the best out of the highly-talented former hitman.
“I arrived at Porto in 2001 in a bad state. I scored on my debut and we won, but then the manager (Octavio Machado) was sacked. I couldn’t believe that the man who took me there got fired. This young guy [Mourinho] replaced him and said: ‘Benni, I know of you and I have watched you’,” McCarthy told The Athletic.
“‘I think you are a fantastic player and I want you to be my guy’. Then Jose Mourinho proceeded to tell me all about me. He knew everything; he’d watched my games at Celta de Vigo.
“How did he have this information? Jose told me that I could always speak to him, even if it was to get something off my chest. I started crying, really. I thought ‘Wow!’ This had not happened to me in Europe.
Mourinho left Porto to join Chelsea in 2004 and attempted to sign McCarthy but failed.
“When I went back, Porto’s players laughed and called me Mourinho’s son. I let my football do the talking and did everything I could for these man. I even thought, ‘This guy is going to leave Porto and I want to go with him’. I had a manager I would die for.
“I scored goals against Manchester United in the Champions League and when Mourinho went to Chelsea they came for me, but Porto would not sell.”
However, Blackburn Rovers competing in the English Premier League (EPL) at the time managed to convince Porto to release McCarthy in 2006 and the ex-South Africa international in his first season in England finishing as the second top scorer in the league in 2006/07, scoring 18 goals in 36 Premier League games.
His great debut season with Blackburn saw Chelsea and Mourinho try to sign him but failed once again as Blackburn rejected their offer and didn’t want to part ways with their key man.
“I asked Blackburn if they could sell me. I wanted to play Champions League again, to play for Mourinho as he ruffled more feathers in the Premier League. Blackburn said no, which I understand,” stated the all-time Bafana top scorer, with 31 international goals from 80 appearances.
“I tried to force the move, but it wasn’t enough. My mental state began to suffer, my football began to suffer,” concluded the former Cape Town City coach.
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By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi