BRENDAN RODGERS has defended Jose Mourinho’s reputation as a “world-class” coach and says the Special One’s critics don’t know what they are talking about.

Rodgers takes his Leicester side today to Tottenham, who have missed out on Champions League qualification for the first time in five years, despite Mourinho taking over from Mauricio Pochettino mid-season when they were in 14th position.

The Foxes are currently fourth, in a three-way race with Chelsea and Manchester United for two Champions League places, and victory at Spurs would put them in pole position while denting Mourinho’s hopes of Europa League qualification.

Rodgers worked as a youth coach at Chelsea when Mourinho first swept the Blues to two successive Premier League titles, and is full of admiration for the Portuguese manager. “Jose is world-class, always has been, always will be,” said the Leicester boss.

“He’s an outstanding manager and still has many years left. Up until now, he’s been hugely successful.”

Mourinho’s critics say Tottenham have gone backwards and are now boring to watch, suggesting his style is a relic of the past and has been overtaken by younger, more progressive managers such as Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and even Pochettino.

But Rodgers says most of the pundits and fans who criticise Mourinho have no idea what it is like to be a top coach. “It’s a lack of respect, normally from people who have never stood on the sidelines,” he said.

“Football evolves and changes. You still have room for different types of it and Jose is a master of getting his teams organised, making them difficult to beat – and winning football matches. There’s different ways, different philosophies, different identities. There’s no right or wrong but he’s proven over many years that he’s successful.

“He will be looking to bring success to Tottenham, for sure. Sometimes, people now listen the last word and are looking for other things. But Jose’s longevity, what he’s done and continues to do deserves a huge amount of respect.”

Rodgers was linked with the Tottenham job when Daniel Levy sacked Pochettino last November, but Leicester would consider letting him leave. He has huge admiration for Tottenham, who were Champions League runners up just over a year ago. “It’s a fantastic club, I’m looking forwards going to the stadium.

“Last season they were in the Champions League final, so they have created an expectancy there. But knowing Jose he will be putting the wheels in motion to have a real go next season and I think he’s said that himself. I’m sure they will be back up there. That will be the expectation at the club.”

By contrast, Rodgers believes Leicester will have over-achieved if he takes them into the Champions League, as he did with Liverpool and Celtic.

“The challenge at Liverpool was getting them back into the Champions League, having to make cuts to the squad. The club had been out of it for five seasons. We made that and we felt that was good work.

“Going to Celtic, it was a different challenge again. The club was out of the Champions League for a few years. We got into it and won a few trophies, that was fantastic.

“My challenge in coming to Leicester City was: ‘Could I take the club into the top six?’ Maybe there’s not the same expectancy. There’s ambition, of course, but the top six is the top six.

“We have managed to do that in our first full season which is fantastic. Now we have a chance to go even better and arrive in the top four. If we didn’t do it this year, it will still be an absolutely brilliant season for us with so much learning and achievement having taken place. If we could arrive in there, it would a really good achievement for us all.”

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