No Eden Hazard or Diego Costa in Australia, but Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho sees ‘lots of good young players’

Comparing what he saw in Australia to what he saw in MLS in the US 15 years ago, Jose Mourinho said he was 'positively impressed' with the development of the game down under on Tuesday.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho waves to fans after a friendly match in Thailand last week. Thananuwat Srirasant / Getty Images / May 30, 2015
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Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes Australian football is moving in the right direction if the performance of Sydney FC in Tuesday's friendly against the Premier League champions was anything to go by.

More than 83,000 fans crammed into Sydney’s Olympic Stadium to watch the A-League runners-up denied a draw by a late disallowed goal and some fine shot-stopping from Petr Cech.

The big turnout came just three days after Tottenham Hotspur attracted 71,000 to the same stadium. More big crowds can be expected when Real Madrid, Manchester City, AS Roma and Liverpool play matches down under in the European pre-season.

Coming on the back of Australia’s Asian Cup triumph in January and Western Sydney Wanderers winning the Asian Champions League last year, there is a feeling that soccer is on the verge of a major breakthrough in the country.

Given the overwhelming majority of Australian internationals are still based in Europe, Mourinho was impressed by the standard of the talent his team faced.

“Obviously, there is a difference in terms of technical and tactical level of the players. Obviously we cannot find in Sydney FC, or even Australia, football players like Eden Hazard or Diego Costa,” the Portuguese told reporters.

“But lots of good young players, a good coach, good organisation, stability in the team and if I can compare Sydney FC in my first time in Australia with the teams I found in MLS 15 years ago when I went to the United States for the first time, I have to say that I was positively impressed.

“I think if they go in the right direction, if this is the domestic competition with the players that are here, not the ones playing in Europe, I like what I saw.”

While some in Australia will feel comparisons to Major League Soccer (MLS) is faint praise, there was no doubting Mourinho’s admiration for one Sydney FC player, Chelsea fan and Socceroos midfielder Terry Antonis.

“The guy that kicked Hazard three times in 10 minutes impressed me, because I like that,” he said. “I like it because there are no friendlies, I don’t like the word friendly, a match is a match. Of course some matches are more important than others, but a match is a match.”

Mourinho was impressed by the passion of the fans – 10,000 turned out to watch Chelsea train on Monday – and although he ruled out a pre-season visit because of the distance, promised the club would not leave it so long between visits next time.

“It cannot be 40 years until the next time Chelsea comes,” he said.

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