Jose Mourinho claims he is Michael Essien’s “white daddy” in touching tribute interview about the former Chelsea star.
Manchester United boss Mourinho and midfielder Essien had a close relationship while they worked together at Stamford Bridge and then Real Madrid.
Essien, 35, has even admitted in the past his old boss was like a father to him and he was left close to tears when he heard what the Portuguese had to say about him.
Mourinho, speaking to Malaysian television channel Astro Supersport, said: “He was not my player, he is my son – I am his white daddy.
“He was probably the only one who took me to his home, to the real home. To the place he was born, to the street where he played football as a kid.
“He made me fall in love with Ghana, with Accra where he lived, because then I had a better understanding of his mentality.”
Mourinho signed Essien when he was Chelsea boss and the Ghana international made a huge impact following his £25million move from Lyon.
Even though he was plagued by knee problems in the latter half of his career, Mourinho then signed him on loan when he was in charge at Real.
And the player’s commitment to the cause despite being riddled with pain has left a lasting impression on 55-year-old Mourinho.
He added: “I understand why as a player he was ready for everything.
“He was ready to die for the fellow players, for the club, for the manager, why he was ready to play like he did for me at Real Madrid with a knee that was not a knee anymore.
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“It was a destroyed knee but with that personality, that desire and that mentality he suffered, always he suffered, but always with a smile. Michael smiles a lot.”
Essien watched the video of the interview for the first time while in the Astro Stadium studio, and Mourinho’s words brought him to the brink of tears.
He said: That’s kind of emotional. It is very nice, we have a very good relationship.
“For him to sat that about me is very special.”