NOT many people say ‘no’ to Chelsea. Even fewer do the same to Jose Mourinho.
But Filipe Morais, Bradford City’s Portuguese-born winger, did both when, as a 21-year-old eager to make his mark on the game, he rejected the offer of a contract extension at Stamford Bridge to take a chance elsewhere.
It was not an easy decision to make, especially as he had supported the Blues since moving to England as a youngster.
But Morais was determined to strike out on his own and has never regretted the 2006 move across the capital to Millwall.
Tonight, though, brings the prospect of a possible first return to Chelsea as a player and the 29-year-old is determined not to let it slip through his fingers.
“The chance of facing Chelsea in the next round is a huge incentive for everyone,” said Morais to The Yorkshire Post about the prize on offer to the winners of tonight’s Cup replay against Millwall.
“Chelsea are the best team in England, if not the world, and if we can beat Millwall – which is going to be very, very tough – then what a great prize that would be for the club, and the finances it could bring. It is the same for the players.
“But it is also a big one for Millwall, too. When the draw was made, I jumped up and thought, ‘Yes, we could be going to Chelsea’. At the same time, though, I thought how much Millwall would be loving the draw as well.
“I was at Millwall and every year they would sit in front of the TV, hoping and praying to draw Chelsea in the Cup. So, I know how much the fans and everyone at Millwall will want to beat us.”
Chelsea versus Millwall is, indeed, one of the feistiest fixtures in English football and victory for Ian Holloway’s men at Valley Parade tonight would go a long way towards making up for what has been a wretched campaign at The Den.
Equally, though, the stakes are high for Bradford, who would be guaranteed to at least break even for the season if they can edge past the Lions.
Morais, who recently signed a new two-and-a-half year contract, fully understands the financial value to the Yorkshire club.
But it is a personal longing to face the club where he started his career that will be his true inspiration tonight.
“If we could get past Millwall, it would be a very big occasion to go to Chelsea and fantastic for us all,” he said. “That is a huge incentive.
“I was a Chelsea fan, as well as being part of the club from the age of 14 to 21. I have a lot of good memories from Chelsea but I have never been able to play against them since leaving.
“I have had a lot of dreams about going back there, even if there are only two players still there from my time – John Terry and Petr Cech – and the manager, too. He is a great guy and it would be nice to see all three of them.
“But, first, we have a very, very tough game to play against Millwall.”
The two clubs shared six goals in the first meeting in south London and Morais admits to being frustrated that Bradford are not already looking forward to a first appearance in the fourth round since 2000.
He said: “The game at The Den was difficult. It is always a hard place to go but I felt we should have won the tie.
“I was quite disappointed at the final whistle that we were not already through.
“But now we have another chance to do the business and we want to take it.”