Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho says Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard made him a “better manager”, ahead of their final Premier League meeting on Sunday.
The champions host the Reds in one the 34-year-old’s final matches for the Anfield club (16:00 BST kick-off).
“My dear enemy, he has made me a better manager because to stop him has been very difficult,” Mourinho said, adding that he tried to sign him three times.
“I am very sad this is the last time I will face him.”
Gerrard almost signed for Chelsea during Mourinho’s first spell in charge of the Blues in 2005, and the Portuguese revealed he also wanted him at Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
He said of the LA Galaxy-bound player: “It’s too late to sign him. He can’t play against Liverpool. He’s done an amazing career with his people. He refused to play in other big clubs, other big leagues, to play only for Liverpool and this is a feeling that stays together.
“Who knows if I’ll play against Steven as a Liverpool manager some day?”
If he had convinced Gerrard to join the Blues, Mourinho said he would have successfully paired the midfielder with Frank Lampard – something successive England managers were accused of failing to do.
“I always thought that both were the best two number eights in Europe,” he said.
“In my opinion and my vision with them you don’t play a number 10, you play with one number six and give the freedom to the two number eights because they score more goals than any number 10.
“So Lampard with 30 goals a season from midfield and Gerrard with 25, they score more goals together than a No 10 and the striker.”
Gerrard was in the Liverpool team that defeated Chelsea in the 2005 Champions League semi-final, and then went on to lift the trophy.
However, his connection with the London club will also be remembered for the mistake which led to Demba Ba’s goal in the 2-0 win for the Blues at Anfield last season. The defeat cost Liverpool the advantage in the race for the Premier League title, eventually won by Manchester City.