Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho talking to reporters at the 1-Altitude Bar at Raffles Place on Thursday. He is in Singapore to promote the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship.(ST/KEVIN LIM)The battle for Europe's top football prize looks set to be waged between Spain and Germany. And at the moment, Jose Mourinho's pick to win Euro 2012 is Spain, even though he has not entirely ruled out his native Portugal.
'Spain are the world champions and no doubts about that,' said the coach of Spain's top club Real Madrid.
'They are one of the best teams at the Euros, but they have to compete with Germany to be champions again.'
The 49-year-old arrived in town on Thursday to promote the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship, which helps promising young athletes with financial constraints.
He spoke to reporters for only 10 minutes at the 1-Altitude Bar at Raffles Place, and key issues such as compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo's current struggles with Portugal were not addressed.
But the tactician did show glimpses of his famous wit, which has entertained fans and reporters alike in the past.
He could not resist a dig at Real's arch-rivals Barcelona, whom his team pipped to Spain's La Liga crown this season.
'Barcelona were the champions of Spain, and I repeat, were the champions,' he told the 40-strong media scrum, who laughed and applauded.
One reporter got more than he bargained for when he asked if opponents have found a way to stifle the free-flowing 'tiki-taka' playing style established by Barca and adopted by Spain, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Italy in their Euro 2012 opener.
The question was met with a ferocious volley from the self-anointed 'Special One'.
Mourinho, the first and only manager to win titles in Europe's traditional three big leagues - England, Italy and Spain, said:
'I don't know. You speak about Spain and Barca, but the national team of Spain has five Madrid players. They're completely separate things.'
He was less caustic when talking to youth footballer Illyas Lee, 17, who was a recipient of the scholarship last year.
When asked by the Singapore Polytechnic student on the benefits he has gleaned from the sport, the former manager of English Premier League club Chelsea replied:
'Football is a collective sport. It helps you understand cooperation, solidarity, giving your best for a common aim.
'Football can help to make better people.'
It also made Mourinho a legend in Spain too, after Real ended Barca's three-year La Liga title reign in record fashion.
On the way, his side became the first to hit 100 points in a single season, to score 121 goals and win 32 out of their 38 games.
But Mourinho's philosophy when it comes to the beautiful game is simple.
'Football is about goals. Make the fans come back by scoring a lot of goals,' said the 2010 Fifa World Coach of the Year, who is one of only three managers to have won the Champions League with two different clubs, Portugal's Porto (2004) and Italy's Inter Milan (2010).
'I prefer a 5-5 draw to 0-0 but as a coach, I can find good things even in a scoreless match.'
The goals have flowed again for his native Portugal in Euro 2012 after a slow start.
Mourinho is optimistic about his country's chances, after they bounced back from a 0-1 defeat by Germany to overcome Denmark 3-2 on Thursday.
He said: 'Now they don't depend on other teams, they depend only on themselves.
'So if they can do a job against Netherlands, Portugal are in the quarter-finals.
'Then, if Portugal reach the quarter-finals, with knockout in 90 minutes and sometimes extra time and penalties, anything can happen.'