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West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is Jose Mourinho's number one fan

Julian Finney/Getty Images

When Jose Mourinho learned that Slaven Bilic was coming to England to manage West Ham United, he wasted no time.  He quickly got on the horn to none other than Great Friend of the Chels Demba Ba (who played under Bilic at Besiktas last season) and got the all important digits.  Tapping furiously away at his smartphone, Jose quickly signed Bilic to Team Mourinho.

"I was back home in Split in Croatia [when Mourinho texted]. I thought that someone is winding me up, of course."

"[Then Demba Ba called and] he said the boss asked him for my number. I was pleased and since then we are exchanging texts. I like him a lot. I really like him."

"He is not boring. He is everything but boring. For the media as well, he is like a magnet. He is a top, top man."

-Slaven Bilic; source: Guardian

Love at first sight.  Bromance, 160 characters at a time.

"The most successful people, the most charismatic people, the No1s, they are always polarising people. You love them or hate them. I am not trying to campaign to become a president or prime minister of England. I am not talking about why the people love him or hate him. But there's no chance that you don't respect him and all that he has done. His CV is unbelievable."

"You can't lose charisma, especially not him. You [the media] are writing about him every day and you are asking me questions about him. We played Man City before and we played Arsenal before that, we played Palace a week ago and nobody asked me so many questions about Wenger or all those things. But you are asking me about Mourinho."

-Slaven Bilic; source: Guardian

Bilic, who also talked about reading and learning from other great sports leaders' biographies — not of just football managers, but of NFL and NBA greats, too — spoke at length and with great respect in his press conference about the Chelsea manager.  Firmly setting his own team up to be the underdogs at home, Bilic expects a very tough game following the Blues' improved midweek showing in Kiev.

"On the one hand it's a good time [to play Chelsea], we can't deny that. They haven't started like we all expected them to do, and they don't have that consistency, regarding that it's a good time to play them. But on the other, it's a very dangerous time to play them. They are on their toes, they are motivated. It is both."

"They played a really good game against Kiev, they were very solid, they were like the old Chelsea of last year. Kiev is a very tough away game, a long trip and a good team they played against. I watched that game of course, I wasn't happy afterwards! They looked to me very good, very sharp with great individuals."

-Slave Bilic; source: West Ham United FC

Win or lose, Mourinho's number one fan expects Chelsea and the boss to be firmly back in the top four by the end of the season.

"It's a big challenge for us, it's a big test. It's a special game because they are the champions. And you can easily say he is the best manager around. He's been doing it all his career, he's brilliant. He's Jose Mourinho! It just shows how strange football is. It's the same team, the champions."

"I know Mourinho and he's always motivated. His teams are always hungry and everyone expected them, maybe not to be top after nine games, but not to be where they are now."

"But sometimes in football it happens. I watched most of their games. Sometimes you play the same way but you hit the post and the opposition don't hit the post, when last year it happened the other way round. It doesn't have to be anything major. You lose a couple of games -- and from their point of view drawing is like losing -- and suddenly people say 'what happened to Chelsea?' but it's nothing big or major."

"If it was he would be the first to change it, but sometimes it's those invisible things you can't detect and you have to work hard to try to change it. Things will definitely change for them, we just hope it won't be against us. I see them finishing in the top four."

-Slaven Bilic; source: ESPN

You can watch Bilic's full press conference on the official West Ham United website.  He's actually quite lovely to listen to, measured and reasonable and, dare I say, interesting yet still normal.  He may be a passionate man on the sidelines, but at least in this media appearance, with things going so well at the Hammers, he was a man of common sense and common sensibilities.

He better be a bit more careful; the English media, as he no doubt remembers from his time as a player on these shores, has a way of beating that sort of thing out of people pretty quickly.

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