Jose Mourinho a genius and the Aussies made a big impression, Damien Duff recalls

Melbourne City winger Damien Duff has worked with some of the top coaches in the world and played alongside some of the best-known names in the game.
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Liverpool and Scotland legend Kenny Dalglish was manager when he signed at Blackburn as a teenager. He worked with current England boss Roy Hodgson when Fulham reached the Europa League final. And he played for Italian master coach Giovanni Trapattoni, one of the biggest names in the game, when the Italian coached the Irish national team.

But he is in no doubt who was the best he worked with: the self-appointed Special One, Jose Mourinho, when the Portuguese took over at Chelsea in his first stint at Stamford Bridge.

“It was an amazing time … he’s this big personality to everyone looking in, but he’s an amazing guy to work with. You’d run through a brick wall for him. From the football point of view on the pitch, getting coached every day, he’s top notch.

“He might not have been a top player, but he’s certainly an amazing, amazing coach, and I have learned a lot from him. He’s a genius when it comes to motivation as well.

“For me, he ticks every box. Outsiders looking in probably love to hate him, but he laughs off that, he loves it.

“I was very fortunate to work with all of them – Dalglish, Hodgson, Mourinho – you could also say that Trapattoni has one of the best CVs in the game, both as a manager and a player, if not the best. So, all in all, I always embraced it, worked my socks off and made the best out of things. I am a lucky man.”

Duff played with and against some of the best-known Australians in an era when many Socceroos were in the Premier League. Harry Kewell, a similar age and position, was someone against whom he was benchmarked, while he played alongside Mark Viduka at Newcastle and with Mark Schwarzer at Fulham.

“I had a year or two with Dukes, he had a few injuries. but he had some ability, to be fair to him … we probably didn’t play a lot together because of injuries, but when I did play with him he was a target man with amazing feet.

“He could pick out your runs, probably more so when he was at Leeds with Harry Kewell. He [Kewell] was amazing. He was coming through with Leeds when I was coming through with Blackburn. He impressed me week in and week out. He was banging goals in left right and centre, they were always challenging for the title.”

His longest partnership was with Schwarzer, whom he rates highly. “Possibly, and I have played with some top, top goalkeepers, for me, he could be No. 1. The amount of points and games he saved was ridiculous and his shot-stopping was amazing, and definitely without doubt he had the best hands, soft hands, catching a ball, saves, I have ever seen.

“He was also the best professional  … I thought I was a top pro, but he takes it to the next level. The amount of graft he puts in is amazing.”

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