Jose the Real deal
Alex Dunn looks at a UEFA Champions League final that was all about Jose Mourinho.
Last Updated: 24/05/10 11:02am
Only a Champions League final involving Jose Mourinho could be all about the coach, with the football reduced to a mere sub-plot, a by-product to be negotiated to get to the real story.
It is not rare, but rather unprecedented, that every camera and every lens should focus on the touchline rather than pitch on the referee's final whistle. However, when Howard Webb's shrill delivered to Inter Milan a first European Cup in 45 years it was not two-goal hero Diego Milito that stole the attention, the pugnacious Esteban Cambiasso or elegant captain Javier Zanetti.
It was Mourinho. This was the Special One's night from start to finish in Madrid, as Inter Milan claimed an historic treble in beating Bayern Munich 2-0.
The script could have been penned by a local telenovela hack such was the ham-fisted way his parting gift to the Nerazzurri was claimed in the home of his next port of call. This was Hollywood to such an extent Tinseltown would have rejected it on the grounds its storyboard lacked realism.
But that there is a perfect symmetry to Mourinho ending an adventure at the exact spot of his next one is not mere coincidence, but seemingly all part of a masterplan for a man who loves a club only in the moment. Jose, dapper and handsome chap that he is, is not a man to commit. Like Oscar Wilde once said, 'One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry'.
Wilde also claimed, 'I can resist everything but temptation', which may also help to explain Mourinho's decision, all but certain to be confirmed in the early part of next week, to swap Milan for Madrid.
When he went underground post-match for half an hour there was talk he'd been locked in Real Madrid's boardroom, kidnapped until he'd signed a deal to manage at the Bernabeu next season. Certainly when he resurfaced to fulfil his media obligations the waiting press pack were soon changing their headlines from being led by 'Milito Magic' to 'Jose's the Real deal'.
A mere mortal would face allegations of treachery upon turning ones back on a European giant, but Mourinho has always escaped the wrath of the partisan because he delivers. Before him only two other coaches, Ernst Happel and Ottmar Hitzfeld, had won the European Cup with two different clubs.
To draw level with such luminaries though will barely sate the appetite of a coach who earlier in the week flirted with the idea of one day returning to Chelsea, but simply whet it for more.
"I want to become the first coach to win the Champions League with three different clubs," said Mourinho. "My work here is done. I have made history with this club."
His emotional wave to the Inter faithful was heartfelt no doubt, but calculated too. A wry smile behind the teary eyes spoke a thousand words; there was no decision to be made, no calls for him to stay would penetrate the walls of a mind already plotting the course of its next challenge.
The only thing more inevitable in Madrid than Arjen Robben claiming a foul after tripping over his own lip was that Mourinho would be coaching in Spain next season.
On paper the fusion of Mourinho's pragmatism with Real's romance makes for an unlikely pairing but then the old adage is that opposites attract. It's not quite Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau but if he felt the goldfish bowl of Italian football - with the daily sports papers and obsession with talking tactics - was not for him, then he may just get a shock at Madrid.
For years Real Madrid have been all fur coat and no knickers but if ever there was a man to ensure a side's style will be matched by its substance then it is Mourinho. The only pouting in a Mourinho team comes from its coach.
There are many who claim Samuel Eto'o is not the striker he was at Barcelona but it is testimony to Mourinho's powers of persuasion, his charisma, that the notoriously difficult Cameroonian is now the consummate team player, ready to sacrifice his natural game to fit into his coach's game plan. Wesley Sneijder, turfed out by Madrid for a ludicrously low £12million in the summer, is another who is finally fulfilling the world-class talent he had flirted with but never consummated before Mourinho.
His detractors will say Saturday night was just another example of Mourinho's obsession with the limelight, as if he slipped the Spanish cameraman a bundle of Euros to focus on him rather than Zanetti lifting the trophy, but his players are invariably loyal to a fault.
The reason? Their medals say Champions League winners 2009/10.
In delivering a trophy Massimo Moratti and the Inter board have craved since the era of Helenio Herrera back in the day, Mourinho has once more proved he is the real deal. And that's why he's off to Madrid.