Brendan Rodgers has hailed “world class” Jose Mourinho as a huge influence ahead of Leicester City’s vital Premier League trip to Tottenham.
Leicester’s 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Thursday guaranteed them a top-six finish and European football next season with two games remaining.
Spurs, back in seventh, will be unable to catch them even if they are victorious on Sunday, meaning a return to the Champions League is out of reach for Mourinho, who succeeded Mauricio Pochettino in north London last November.
Rodgers worked as a youth coach during Mourinho’s first spell in charge of Chelsea a decade and a half ago and he remains in no doubt about the ex-Inter and Real Madrid boss’ enduring qualities.
“You have to be yourself but there’s absolutely no doubt, at that time, Jose was a huge influence for me,” he told reporters, with Mourinho enjoying a run of three wins from four unbeaten games following distinctly mixed returns at Spurs until this point.
“He’s a world-class manager who was absolutely brilliant for me as a young coach.
“Firstly, the professionalism, how he devoted his life to football. His focus on detail was incredible.
“He was a guy who always had time for me, always communicated well with me.
“Of course, our ideas are maybe slightly different in terms of the game, but in terms of preparation and detail … he was absolutely brilliant.
“He was so good in the media in that period when I was there. He was a breath of fresh air. I learned so much from him in terms of observing him, how he works – how an elite manager operates.”
Leicester are locked in a devilishly tight battle for the final two Champions League qualification spots.
They are a point behind third-placed Chelsea, who travel to face champions Liverpool next before entertaining Tottenham’s fellow Europa League aspirants Wolves on the final weekend.
Goal difference has the Foxes above Manchester United, who they welcome to the King Power Stadium for a mouth-watering clash on the last day.
Champions League football could prove influential when it comes to the future of England left-back Ben Chilwell, whose thigh injury means he will sit out the rest of the campaign alongside fellow defender Christian Fuchs (groin) and playmaker James Maddison (hip).
Chelsea and Manchester City have been credited with an interest in Chilwell, but Rodgers is relaxed about the situation.
Asked whether the 23-year-old had played his last game for Leicester, he replied: “I’m not sure.
“He’s a Leicester City player. He’s not a player that we want to lose. So I’m quite relaxed on it.