- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

LONDON (AP) - Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho experiences pangs of regret each time he encounters Steven Gerrard, the player he spent much of his illustrious coaching career attempting to sign.

“I tried to bring him to Chelsea, I tried to bring him to Inter (Milan), I tried to bring him to Real Madrid,” Mourinho recalled Friday. “But he was always a dear enemy.”

For Mourinho, though, failing to entice the long-serving captain of Liverpool has its benefits.

Ahead of Sunday’s match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho credited Gerrard with making him the top manager he is today.

“I learn with my players’ problems, my players’ doubts, my players’ qualities and I learn with my best opponent, with the problems they give me - the way they make me think, the way they make me analyse them and studying the best way to play against them,” Mourinho said.

“Steven Gerrard is, for sure, one of my favourite enemies - an enemy with all the good feeling I can express with that word in football. For sure, in England, he is my dear enemy. For sure, he is the one that made me a better manager. To stop him or try and stop him has been very, very difficult.”

Gerrard will leave Liverpool at the end of the season after 17 years as a professional at Anfield, with the former England captain heading to the MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy to finish his career.

The closest Gerrard came to leaving his boyhood club was in 2004 and ‘05 - and the team he almost joined on both occasions was Chelsea, then managed by Mourinho in his first stint at Stamford Bridge.

“I was dreaming of a Chelsea midfield of (Claude) Makelele, (Frank) Lampard and Gerrard, playing in an open triangle without a No. 10,” Mourinho said in January. “We were dreaming that - me, Mr. Abramovich (Chelsea’s owner) and (then-chief executive) Peter Kenyon - and we did everything to try to make it happen.

“It was almost there.”

Gerrard ended up staying at Anfield and has gone on to become one of Liverpool’s greatest players.

“In the end, I think he had an amazing career and (such) an amazing feeling with his people that he refused to play for other big clubs,” Mourinho said Friday. “He refused to play in other big leagues to play only for Liverpool.

“I think this is a feeling that stays forever.”

Gerrard will be one of the players who will form a guard of honor for the Chelsea team before kickoff on Sunday, a tradition afforded for newly crowned champions. Chelsea clinched the Premier League title last weekend, with three matches to spare.

“Liverpool is Liverpool - it is a giant club,” Mourinho said. “If they want to do that (a guard of honor), obviously my players are going to accept that with respect.”

But expect the niceties to end there.

Liverpool needs to win to keep alive its faint hopes of getting in the top four and securing a Champions League qualification berth. The Reds are currently fifth, four points behind Manchester United.

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