Sissoko interview: I was scared of Mourinho at first but he’s a winner

“[I was] a little anxious because you don’t know [him] and he is a strong man with a lot of character, you don’t know exactly what you will get,” Sissoko told Standard Sport.

“Of course, you know you will get a good manager with a lot of experience but, when it comes to relationships, you are a little bit scared!”

Sissoko’s impression of Mourinho before he joined Tottenham was one of a “great manager” who had “won a lot of titles” but occasionally clashed with players, including his France teammate Paul Pogba.

Sissoko, though, had no interest in discovering the root of their disagreement because he wanted to make up his own mind about the new boss.

“I don’t know why and to be honest I don’t want to know because each person is different,” he said.

After a year with Mourinho, Sissoko has reached his own conclusions and insists the manager has been a surprising source of humour, quite different to the common perception of a negative, even toxic, influence.

“He’s been really good with everyone,” said Sissoko. “It’s not just with the players, it’s everyone in the building. 

“He can be very sociable, talking and laughing with all the players. We are enjoying everything we are doing with him.

“We all laugh about what he’s putting on his Instagram,” he added. “It’s funny. We know he’s the manager so we take it positively and just laugh between us. I think people love it.”

Spurs will return to the top of the table with a win over Manchester City on Saturday but Mourinho has avoided the question of whether they are title contenders, while remaining bullish about his hopes of ending the club’s 12-year wait for a trophy in the Europa League or domestic cups.

This aspect of the Portuguese’s character – his single-minded focus on winning silverware – has not come as a surprise to Sissoko, who says the 57-year-old radiates confidence.

Harry Kane revelling in life under Jose Mourinho

“First of all [our form] is because of the manager. He brings something to the team, he brings some positive vibes,” the midfielder said.

“You can feel [he is a winner] and you can see it on his face. Even when he talks to the players.

“He knows what he wants to do because he’s won everything. As players, we all want to win something, so we have to follow what he says.

“We believe in him. We believe in all the players. Hopefully we’re going to do something all together this season.”

After the demolitions of Southampton and Manchester United, Spurs have ground out functional wins over Burnley, Brighton and West Brom – suggesting they can win either way but Mourinho still prefers his way.

Spurs are certain to contain and counter-attack against City, just as they did in a 2-0 win over Pep Guardiola’s side last season – one of the landmark results of Mourinho’s year in charge.

“It’s good to have a manager who knows how to win. It’s as simple as that,” Sissoko said. “Every club wants to win trophies, to win every week.

“Of course, everyone would like to have a team playing great football. But the main thing is to win games.

“He knows how to do it and he’s done in many times. But he also knows how to play. Having a mix of both is perfect. So let’s use it. If sometimes we need to play badly and win 1-0, we’ll take it.

“There is a big opportunity [this season],” added the Frenchman.

“We can see the League is very open. A lot of teams are losing points, some teams can lose players because of Covid and also many teams will get injuries. So it’s tight. It’s going to be a strange season. We’re lucky to have a strong squad.

“Of course we want to win something but we’re not putting pressure on ourselves.”

Sissoko was appearing via Zoom to mark the Premier League Charitable Fund’s 10 Year Anniversary Awards by talking to prize-winners who are supported by The Tottenham Hotspur Foundation.

( Tottenham )

He is relaxed and confident as he questions the winners, and it is easy to understand why Spurs’ assistant manager Joao Sacramento told Mourinho that the 31-year-old is a “great influence” in the dressing room.

“I know I have a good relationship with everyone in the changing room,” Sissoko said. 

“They know if they need anything, I’ll be there. I don’t try to be someone else or do something just to make someone happy. I try to be myself and I think that’s why people like me in the changing room.”

A win over City would lay down a marker in the Premier League and offer more evidence that Tottenham’s surprising decision to appoint Mourinho a year ago is paying off.

“We can beat anyone in this league,” said Sissoko. “We know [City] is a big opponent but last season we beat them at home so why not this season?

“It’s City but we are Tottenham. We don’t have to be afraid of them.”

Moussa Sissoko was speaking on a virtual event celebrating success stories of local people on projects run by Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, supported by the Premier League Charitable Fund.

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