The Indian Super League (ISL) will see several changes in the upcoming season, with the most talked-about one being the long mid-season break during the AFC Asian Cup. Mumbai City FC's new coach Jorge Costa, however, is not perturbed by the development at all and feels it can only be positive.
"Globally, and from the places I have worked in before, these breaks are normal. The international breaks and the year-end breaks around Christmas are customary," Costa told Goal. "I know it's not a normal concept here.
"The breaks are good though. Now, we have less than a month to our first game of the season. There is never something as 'enough' time in football. We play our first two games of the season and then we have an international break. So it will be a good opportunity for us to regroup and fix some things and maybe try to do some things better. And even the break around Christmas will be great for the players.
"They can spend some time with their families. I am aware it will be a slightly longer break for this league because of the Asian Cup. But it can only be good. Everyone can recharge their batteries and we can go again for the second half of the season."
This is the 46-year-old's first managerial stint in Asia, having worked previously with clubs like Braga (Portugal) and CFR Cluj (Romania) apart from managing Gabon. But Costa is looking forward to the challenge of managing in novel surroundings.
"I have worked in Africa before. This will be my first job in Asia, yes. But, football is more or less the same all around the world. There will be differences in cultures but we have to adapt. And here, I am very happy," he expressed.
Costa went on to praise the level at which the Indian players are currently. "I am happy with the players too. The Indian players are very good. They have great technical skill and an understanding of the game. But it's too soon to make any elaborate assessment. There is a lot of work to do, but we are highly motivated and very optimistic."
Costa, who was capped by Portugal 50 times in an illustrious career, shared his view on ISL's policy of having only five foreigners in the playing XI at one point. "Honestly, for me, it's all about picking the 18 players on a matchday that will perform the best and get us the three points. Indian players or foreign players, they are the same for me.
"All of them will have to work equally hard and I will only pick a side that can do the best job on the day for the club. Maybe it could be more than 6 Indian players in the XI, I don't know yet. It's definitely a headache, but with the quality of players we have, it is a headache that I would love to have."
The former FC Porto defender did admit that while the ISL is not widely followed in Portugal he has kept an eye on it and discussed the format of the tournament, terming it exciting even if the success of your season came down to the play-off games.
"The ISL is not very widely followed back in Portugal. But I did follow the league in the previous season. Yes, it has a different format from most leagues in the world. I have coached in Cyprus before and they had a similar format there as well, in a 12 team league. If you see, none of the teams that have finished first in the ISL have gone on to win the league. So even after four or five months of hard work, a couple of games will decide your fate.
"It will be a different challenge, it's exciting and all of us at Mumbai City want to do well."
Costa, having played under Jose Mourinho at FC Porto, lists the Manchester United manager among his inspirations while maintaining that he has his own individual identity as a coach.
"I enjoyed playing under Jose for two seasons. I was his captain too. So naturally, we were very close, and he has had a considerable amount of influence on me. But I have worked with some great coaches apart from Jose too, like Carlos Queiroz and Fernando Santos.
"For me, as a coach, I try and take the best from all the coaches I have worked with. I've always wanted to have my own philosophy and methodology and it's always important to have that individuality," he added.
The Portuguese has won several trophies in his playing career. Costa was also the captain of the FC Porto side which won the UEFA Cup in 2003 and then the Champions League in 2004 but he lists the 2003 triumph as a bigger achievement.
"If you ask me which trophy gave me the most pleasure, I would say the 2003 UEFA Cup. Of course, winning the Champions League was an incredible achievement too, but the UEFA Cup was my first big trophy. We won that game 3-2 in Extra Time with a late goal. There were a lot of us running high on emotions that night. It was one of the most important games in my career.
"And apart from that, one trophy I will never forget about is the 1991 FIFA U20 World Cup, because it was my first trophy as a player. Portugal were the hosts, so it made it even more special for all of us. And the final was something out of a story. To beat Brazil, on penalties in front of 130,000 people at the Estadio da Luz, it was an incredible feeling."