Tomorrow night sees a meeting between two of Europe’s best coaches in the Champions League when Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United travel to Milan to face Jose Mourinho’s Inter side. Mourinho’s magic touch is still continuing in his current spell in Italy, with one trophy already safely stashed away with the SuperCoppa and 3 more on the horizon for Inter. Currently sitting 9 points clear of second placed Juventus and 10 ahead of fierce rivals A.C. Milan, Jose has continued his phenomenal run as a coach by now reaching 110 home games unbeaten in all competitions since 23rd February 2002.
English football has certainly been duller since Chelsea made the ultimate mistake by letting him leave by “mutual consent” back in September 2007, Chelsea haven’t won a trophy since and are now on their 3rd managerial replacement with a 4th lined up to take over from Guus Hiddink in the summer. Abramovich may have all the money, but he can’t buy the qualities that Mourinho gave the Blues and his 6 trophies in 3 seasons spoilt them. He took a Portugueseteam and won both European competitions in successive seasons when faced with richer, stronger opponents on the way, including beating Manchester United in the 2004 Champions League with a last minute goal from Costinha at Old Trafford that took them through.
Mourinho’s celebratory sprint down the line introduced him to the British public and no doubt his growing reputation was cemented with Porto’s success that season. Beating Lyon in the next round too was a impressive performance, Lyon were a better side than they are now and probably will never have as good a chance to finally add some European silverware to their bulging trophy cabinet as they did that season. In his last 3 jobs, as manager of Porto, Chelsea and now Inter he has collected 13 trophies and has an incredible winning percentage of 71% in all competitions.
The Inter job is probably the easiest one he’s had in his career so far, replacing Roberto Mancini last summer saw him take over the reigning Italian Champions so he had a more successful platform to move on from but he knows he will be judged on Inter’s success in the Champions League. Inter have spent over £600 million since president Massimo Morratti took over in 1995 but have only a lonely Cup Winners Cup trophy, won in 1998, as their only European silverware during his tenure to show for that investment. If anyone can take Inter to the next level, Jose Mourinho is the man.
If Inter knock Manchester United out of the Champions League this time, only Barcelona can stop Mourinho winning the title for the second time in my opinion, but to win it again would confirm his reputation as the best manager in the world. I know a lot of his critics accuse him of arrogance, but he simply has supreme self confidence, as he once again showed in his press conference when taking over at Inter, when he claimed to have learnt Italian in 3 weeks and dropped local terms in to his answers, showing once again his unbridled ability to work hard and continually push himself forwards.
Now that was impressive, both in linguistic ability and his attitude of soaking himself in local culture. Learning Catalan whilst at Barcelona was another excellent piece of P.R. for him, the Barcelona fans take anyone to their heart who learns the language. He perhaps strained that relationship with his antics in the clash during the 2005 Champions League, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go there after he’s finished his latest project in Italy.
A man that can speak 5 languages so fluently (Portuguese, English, Spanish, Catalan and now Italian), with trophies in 3 different countries and has a wonderful ability to wind his opponents up, after his spats with Wenger and Benitez in England and now Ranieri in Italy, often seems him come out on top in the mind games and a penchant for sartorial excellence. Yet he’s not always so spiky and outspoken, notably in the fantastic relationships with other managers, such Sir Alex Ferguson, Martin Jol and Sir Bobby Robson. Sometimes he can go too far, as the voyeur comments towards Wenger and his current fall out with Claudio Ranieri but he will apologise when he realises he’s gone too far. He loves his family and his Yorkshire Terrier dog, he demands respect from his players and they love him for it. He pushes himself constantly and strives for improvement. He wears his heart on his sleeve, announces targets and usually achieves them. He is a winner.
It looks as though the Serie A title is Inters, giving Mourinho his 14th trophy but Jose knows that only the Champions League will do to take Inter back to their golden period of the 1960’s. As Inter are celebrating 100 years of unbroken top flight football, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Mourinho takes the Champions League again. He’s the real deal, the Special One and you can never rule any team he manages out of any competition.