The Mighty Mourinho

By Kevin Koczwara

Jose Mourinho’s teams win. That’s just what they do. You can’t say they are always the most entertaining side, or the best team on the field. But they score timely goals, come together in tough matches, and win. It’s that simple.

Mourinho won every trophy he could when he was in charge of FC Porto in Portugal, including the UEFA Champions League. He was introduced to the world during Porto’s amazing run through Europe. Mourinho’s men held off the marauding Manchester United and went on to win the trophy in 2004.

Even then he had the touch. And the board at Chelsea in England knew it, so they hired him after his Champions League victory to take the reigns and lead the Blues to some silverware. And he delivered the club’s first top-flight title in 50 years.

But internal turmoil between the outspoken manager — self-proclaimed and later dubber “Special One” by the British media — and Chelsea’s front offices forced him to leave the club before he could claim the Champions League trophy that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovic so deeply wanted — and still wants.

After leaving Chelsea in the middle of the 2007, Mourinho would look for a new challenge. He would find it in Italy at Internazionale.

Inter Milan was already a club on top of the Serie A, Italy’s top-flight, but the club’s management was looking for the Champions League trophy that had eluded the club’s glory days in the 60’s. In Mourinho they saw the perfect man for the job, and they were right.

Mourinho’s Inter side defied all odds in the Champions League this year by beating the world’s best club and reigning European champions, Barcelona, and Mourinho’s former side, Chelsea, en route to the finals. Mourinho’s genius shining through again as his side out maneuvered and out played their foes. He got even the most outspoken stars to play into his system and work for the better good of the club.

Inter Milan’s most impressive performance had to be when they held of Barcelona at the Nou Camp with only 10 men for more than an hour. It was a display for the ages as Mourinho’s men stopped and stymied the best club in the world and the world’s best player, Lionel Messi.

His shrewd summer transfers for Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o — who was swapped for Zlatan Ibrahimovi? and money — Real Madrid reject Wesley Sneijder, Bayern Munich center back Lúcio, Genoa’s Diego Milito and Thiago Motta, would all prove pivotal to the team’s progression through their European campaign and domestic triumphs.

It took Mourinho only two years in Milan to capture the coveted European Championship, and he never surrendered the league to do so. His side won the Serie A crown both years under Mourinho and never lost a home game. In fact a club under Mourinho’s leadership has not lost a home game in eight years. His last defeat as a manager at home was in 2002 when he was in charge of Porto and the club lost to Beira-Mar, 3-2, on February 23, 2002. A remarkable feat for any manager.

Mourinho has now won the UEFA Champions League with two different sides in the last six years. Two managers previously had won the Europe’s highest honor with two different clubs, Mourinho now joins their elite status as the third manager to do so, after Ernst Happel and Ottmar Hitzfeld. He ended Inter Milan’s 45-year European Cup drought on Saturday when his side beat Bayern Munich, 2-0, despite having barely 30 percent of the possession. But you knew the game was going to be Mourinho’s, it was only a matter of time before the final whistle blew and his side was holding up the trophy. It was inevitable.

And now it is only time before he moves on to Real Madrid to become next addition to Florentino Pérez’s new Galáctico project. It was only a matter of time before the best manager in the world found himself at the biggest club in the world on the center stage.

His giant personality has overshadowed the likes of Eto’o, Ibrahimovi?, Didier Drogba, and John Terry, but will he be able to get Cristiano Ronaldo and Perez to take the backseat as he runs the club? Only time will tell, but I know it will be one great ride and he will surely be a winner no matter who he manages.

Kevin Koczwara is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at kkoczwar@gmail.com.

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