Royal Antwerp boss hails Mourinho as 'the best coach in 21st century'

Aren’t you supposed to be enemies? Royal Antwerp boss Ivan Leko hails Jose Mourinho as ‘the best coach in the 21st century’ in a glowing tribute to the Tottenham boss he has idolised for years

  • Royal Antwerp boss Ivan Leko is giddy with excitement at facing Jose Mourinho
  • Belgian club welcome Tottenham to the Bosuilstadion for their Europa League tie
  • Leko is aiming to mastermind a shock upset against Premier League opposition
  • However, 42-year-old couldn’t help but pay a glowing tribute to the Special One 

Royal Antwerp boss Ivan Leko could not hide his excitement at the prospect of pitting his wits against Jose Mourinho, ahead of his side’s Europa League clash with Tottenham.

The Belgian club welcome Spurs to the Bosuilstadion on Thursday, where they will be hoping to pull off a shock upset against Harry Kane and Co. 

And while Leko will be hoping to mastermind a win against all the odds, the 42-year-old Croatian coach is preparing to realise a dream.

Royal Antwerp boss Ivan Leko is excited to pit his wits against Jose Mourinho on Thursday

He said: ‘I think everyone in the club and I feel very grateful to play with a coach who together with (Pep) Guardiola and (Carlo) Ancelotti, is the best coach in the 21st century, one who changed football.

‘First feeling is really grateful and one of the small dreams is coming true.

‘I am just super happy, you play Tottenham and Jose Mourinho, you don’t get to do that every five minutes.

‘Who am I to talk about Mourinho? When Mourinho was winning the Champions League, I was watching, waiting for 8.45pm to watch his games.

The 42-year-old paid a glowing tribute to Mourinho, who insists he’s ‘really grateful’ to face

Leko remembers watching the Portuguese boss win the Champions League with Inter Milan

‘I am just super happy my team plays against him. All the stories, everything about him, he just has very big respect from me, he has more trophies than some people have games.

‘The most difficult thing in football is to win and Mourinho has won everywhere.’

Antwerp, who are top of the Belgian Pro League, won their opening game of the group phase last week, beating Ludogorets 2-1, while Spurs overcame LASK 3-0.

Former Manchester United and Leicester defender Ritchie De Laet says the Belgian side are not just there to make up the numbers.

‘It is important for the club, it is the first European game in a long time at home,’ the Antwerp player said. ‘We start off at home to a tough opponent, who a couple of years ago were in the Champions League final.

Ex-Man United star Ritchie De Laet (R) says Antwerp are not just there to make up the numbers

‘After our great start last week it is important we build on that. I don’t think we can forget to enjoy it, but we are going in relaxed.

‘On the other side, the coach and playing group are demanding to put a performance in. (On Thursday) we can show respect to them but that doesn’t mean we are just going to make the numbers up.

‘We are going to start with the intention to win it and if we can’t do that we have to make sure we don’t lose.’ 

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