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Mourinho: Real Madrid can reign in Spain

Jose Mourinho has returned to Spain to undertake the challenge of restoring Real Madrid as the dominant club.
Jose Mourinho has returned to Spain to undertake the challenge of restoring Real Madrid as the dominant club.
  • Big-spending Real Madrid seeking to win first Spanish league title since 2008
  • Jose Mourinho returns to Spain, where he was Barcelona's assistant coach for four years
  • He believes he can repeat last season's success, when he won three titles with Inter Milan
  • Goalkeeper Iker Casillas says expensive squad is focused on winning La Liga crown

(CNN) -- Jose Mourinho is confident that Real Madrid can break Barcelona's dominance in Spain in his first season in charge of the nine-time European champions.

The capital club won the last of its 31 La Liga crowns in 2008, but Mourinho exclusively told CNN that he believed he could continue the success that saw him win titles in his native Portugal, England and Italy.

"I hope so. I did it with Porto, I did it with Inter, with Chelsea we didn't win the Champions League but we won two consecutive Premierships so, why not to do it with Real?" the 47-year-old told CNN World Sport's Patrick Snell.

"It's a big club, it's a club with lots of good players. In this moment they have the motivation because they win nothing in the last years, but of course it's not easy, because we have real opponents, and we have to be the team."

I think the problem with Barcelona is more psychological than other things. Lots of teams are afraid of them
--Jose Mourinho

Mourinho has a big history with Barcelona, where he was an assistant coach under Bobby Robson and then Louis van Gaal from 1996-2000.

He had several big European clashes with the Catalan club while in charge of Chelsea, and his Inter side beat Pep Guardiola's titleholders in last season's Champions League semis before going on to defeat Van Gaal's Bayern in the final.

"You know, everybody speaks about our second game in Barcelona where we had a very defensive approach. But they forget in the first match in the Champions League with Inter we smashed them, we scored three goals and we could have scored four or five, so I think the problem with Barcelona is more psychological than other things," Mourinho said.

"Lots of teams are afraid of them, they are afraid to attack them. We did it. We won it, and after that in the second leg, it's a semifinal, it's a Champions League semifinal -- it's not the moment to play the beautiful game, it's the moment to make history.

Carvalho completes Real Madrid move

"And we made history, we reached the final, and after that in the final, it was an easy match for us. Bayern was a good team, but we were so solid by a psychological point of view, that Inter did it, and it looked like it was easy, and it wasn't."

When Mourinho arrived in London in 2004, he famously quipped to the British press that he was "The Special One" -- a nickname that has stuck wherever he has gone since.

"But you know, I won lots of things. I won 17 titles in the past 10 years, and I'm one of the three coaches that won two Champions Leagues with two different teams, so, I'm one of the good ones," he said.

"But to say I'm the Special One, I prefer not to say that, I just say 'I have a nice system'."

Mourinho will have to juggle a star-studded squad which has failed to equal the sum of its parts in the past two seasons, with Real's opening match away to Mallorca on August 29.

Injury blow for Real star Kaka

He has brought in internationals such as Angel Di Maria and Ricardo Carvalho, but will be without Kaka for up to four months after the Brazil playmaker need knee surgery on his return from the World Cup in South Africa.

"We all know that the knee was a real problem, and after that the problem he has in the groin will be solved when the knee problem is solved," Mourinho said.

"And now we know until December-January we don't have him, so we have to prepare the team, organize the team without Kaka. But he will be back, and he will be back at 100 percent, and at 100 percent he's one of the best and we need him."

Cristiano Ronaldo almost single-handedly kept Real in the Spanish title race last season with his goals and inspirational performances, and Mourinho said he was looking forward to working with his compatriot -- the most expensive player in the world.

"He's fantastic, and the way he works speaks for itself. He's a boy that works very, very hard every day -- lots of ambition, he wants to improve all the time," Mourinho said.

"So with the potential he has, I just hope he keeps going. Because I cannot demand more than he's giving."

We're all unified as one. We're hard-working, humble people. People who fight hard, willing to struggle for the cause
--Iker Casillas

While Real spent $350 million on Ronaldo and other players this time last year, one position that has never been in doubt is that of goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who captained Spain to a historic first World Cup title last month.

He joined "Los Merengues" as a nine-year-old in 1990, and will this season pass 400 first-team appearances.

"I believe in this club -- I'm lucky to be Madrid born and bred," Casillas told CNN.

"To live in the city, to play for the club, this is home for me. It would be hard to ever consider leaving this club. It has helped shape me, it's developed me as a person on so many levels since I was so young."

While Real's expensive squad has a reputation of being a group of talented individuals who struggle to gel, Casillas said the players were focused on ending Barcelona's run of two consecutive titles.

"We're all unified as one. We're hard-working, humble people. People who fight hard, willing to struggle for the cause. Whether it's Cristiano, Kaka, Casillas, Canales -- we're all in it together, and that's what's important"

Casillas said Spain's long-awaited success was a dream come true for his generation of players.

"What it means is so significant. We succeeded in realizing a dream we all had since we were young kids. All footballers have a dream to win the World Cup for their country and I as a youngster was no different," he said.

"Look at who we were up against. Maradona's Argentina, Germany, Italy, France and Brazil. We had to succeed against all of them! Did we ever really think we would do it given all the bad luck we'd had in the past? But look in the end, we were successful!"