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The Mourinho Thread

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8 hours ago, MoroccanBlue said:

Again, that's just false. Poch, Wenger, and even Mazzarri were playing 3 at the back well before Conte. Conte just made it popular again. 

Pretty sure Wenger only started playing the back 3 after Conte made it popular in England. 

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I love how the media have even managed to brainwash even a section off our own supporters with this bus parking bollox, it's truly unbelievable. The games in question mainly were Old Trafford, The Em

I'm genuinely surprised by how some don't seem to realize how bad the situation really is. This is by far worse than any of the 'bad runs' by any of our previous managers. It's our worst start to a se

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Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho labels Southampton staff member an ‘idiot’ after Spurs beaten


Any lingering hope that Tottenham have hired the old, charming Jose Mourinho rather than the snarling, confrontational manager of recent years might have been extinguished on New Year’s Day as he stalked the touchline, got booked by referee Mike Dean and subsequently labelled a Southampton coach an “idiot”. 

Mourinho looked frustrated as he watched Spurs lose 1-0 at St Mary’s to a Danny Ings goal. Late in the game he marched into the opposition’s technical area to have words in the ear of a member of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s backroom staff, prompting a furious reaction from the Southampton bench. Dean came across and produced a yellow card, and Mourinho appeared to offer a conciliatory hand. 

But speaking after the game, Mourinho said: “I think the yellow card is fair because I was rude, but I was rude to an idiot.”
It has now been a year since Tottenham kept a clean sheet away from home in the Premier League, but Mourinho insisted he did not need to buy new defenders in order to resolve the problem. 
“It was quite a strange game,” he said. “We had no problems defensively. They didn’t create great problems. We see the bad result today which is the continuity of the last year. For 12 months, it has been very difficult to get results away from home. The work is not about buying, it is about working with the players on the pitch.”
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9 hours ago, Vesper said:

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho labels Southampton staff member an ‘idiot’ after Spurs beaten


Any lingering hope that Tottenham have hired the old, charming Jose Mourinho rather than the snarling, confrontational manager of recent years might have been extinguished on New Year’s Day as he stalked the touchline, got booked by referee Mike Dean and subsequently labelled a Southampton coach an “idiot”. 

Mourinho looked frustrated as he watched Spurs lose 1-0 at St Mary’s to a Danny Ings goal. Late in the game he marched into the opposition’s technical area to have words in the ear of a member of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s backroom staff, prompting a furious reaction from the Southampton bench. Dean came across and produced a yellow card, and Mourinho appeared to offer a conciliatory hand. 

But speaking after the game, Mourinho said: “I think the yellow card is fair because I was rude, but I was rude to an idiot.”
It has now been a year since Tottenham kept a clean sheet away from home in the Premier League, but Mourinho insisted he did not need to buy new defenders in order to resolve the problem. 
“It was quite a strange game,” he said. “We had no problems defensively. They didn’t create great problems. We see the bad result today which is the continuity of the last year. For 12 months, it has been very difficult to get results away from home. The work is not about buying, it is about working with the players on the pitch.”

Didn't take long for the real Mourinho to show up again, did it? At least we don't have to pretend he's a changed man anymore...

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John Terry on Mourinho:

“We won the league and came back pre-season, first day, me and Gary Cahill kept giving the ball away. He stopped the session, we’d signed Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, a couple of others.

“He said, ‘You two, I’ll go and spend £100m on a couple of other centre-backs if you keep giving the ball away.’ We looked at each other and thought, ‘Oh wow’. So me and Gaz now, first day of pre-season, we’ve gone round started smashing everyone in training. The tempo has gone up, everyone’s kicking lumps out of each other.

“After training he came and put his arm round us both and said, ‘That’s why you’ll be starting this season.’ He just knew exactly what he was doing, he was four steps ahead of everyone else.”

“He knew when to push your buttons and when not to.

“Even small things, you’d be sitting at home and get a text message off him going, ‘Unbelievable today in training you’re my main man, love you captain.’ You’d sit there and go, ‘That’s unbelievable’.

“So a really good relationship, but also I was petrified of him, like probably most players was.

“You’d go in the next day and you’d get nothing from him at all. He’d walk past you, say nothing and blank you. You’d think you’ve upset him. Did I text something back? You look at your messages and think, ‘No, I’m alright there.’

“After training he’d go, ‘That’s why you’re my captain, you just needed that little push.’”

-John Terry; source: Instagram Live via Star


"No one was turning against him, he hadn’t lost the dressing room. “It was awkward when Jose came to say his goodbyes. When you see strong characters like Drogba, Lampard and Terry either crying on the floor or certainly welling up…" - Steve Sidwell


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Jose Mourinho exclusive: Inter’s treble-winning season 10 years on



“I could write a book of 1,000 pages about my two years at Inter,” Jose Mourinho tells The Athletic.

When encouraged to do so, he pauses and thinks about it for a moment. “Maybe. But first I have to ask permission to the guys, because there are lots of forbidden stories,” he laughs.

Mourinho is wandering around the Hotspur Way Training Centre reminiscing about one of the biggest days of his life in football. Today marks 10 years since Inter Milan made history and became the only Italian team ever to do the treble and, as anyone who’s been to a derby at San Siro will know, as an achievement Inter fans lord it over their rivals with almost the same pride as the fact the club has never been relegated to Serie B; an ignominy AC Milan and Juventus have both experienced at some stage.

He is speaking to us between training sessions on a glorious summer’s day in London, the weather calling to mind one of the many rituals of that Inter team. Mourinho’s former assistant Jose Morais confided in The Athletic about the barbecues — “ooooh the barbecues” — that the squad’s Argentinian players put on for everyone. Javier Zanetti, Inter’s mythical captain, used to organise them. “Once a week,” Mourinho says. Esteban Cambiasso went and picked up the beef. Walter Samuel, the ‘asador’ or grill-master, turned the steaks over hot charcoal and Diego Milito lent his compatriot a hand with the cooking. “Milito ate and that’s it,” Dejan Stankovic mocked.

“The food was amazing,” Mourinho reflects. “But the meaning of these barbecues went further than the amazing Argentinian meat they were getting and grilling for everyone. It was much more than that.” It was a family, and one that has never grown apart. A decade down the line the bond between them is as strong as ever. Marco Materazzi, the World Cup-winning centre-back, an Inter ultra who just happened to play football, set up a team WhatsApp group which inundates Mourinho’s phone with notifications. Julio Cesar, the goalkeeper of that side, has said: “The most active guy on it, the one who is messaging and joking the most, is Jose.”

Elite sport is almost always about winning. Without the trophies Mourinho brought to Porto, he could not have presented himself at Chelsea as the “Special One”. Every bit as special to him though are the relationships and memories that are made along the way. “Nobody forgets the birthdays, the dates, a picture of the old times,” Mourinho says. “Nobody forgets to support each other. Everyone has a different life now but, as I used to say, it’s a little bit like family.

“Even if you are far (away from each other) you are always close and I feel even in my (current) job, I feel how close they are; the ‘Good luck’ before the game, the nice feedback after the good results, a positive word after a bad result. If now I switch off the phone with you and I sit in my office I for sure will have lots of messages in our WhatsApp group, and that for me is the most important thing. In my career, all the big achievements of my teams, all of them were teams with this kind of bond, this kind of mentality. Everything in a football team starts when you have this kind of empathy, and we had that.”

It all began around midnight on March 11, 2008. Liverpool and Fernando Torres had just eliminated Inter in the round of 16 of the Champions League and Roberto Mancini perhaps let his emotions get the better of him. To the consternation of those in the press conference, not to mention the home dressing room at San Siro, Mancini announced he had told Inter’s owner Massimo Moratti of his intention to leave at the end of the season. It took everyone by surprise. Mancini had only recently signed a new contract until 2012. Days later, after a cooling-off period, he admitted he had spoken in the heat of the moment. Mancini changed his mind and declared his intention to stay. But the damage was done.

Mancini, Inter, Liverpool

He lost face within a team already diminished by a mounting injury crisis. Inter collapsed, frittering away an 11-point lead, turning, in desperation, to a half-fit Zlatan Ibrahimovic to come off the bench and rescue the title on the final day of the season in Parma. In the meantime, reports of contact with Mourinho grew and grew and Mancini began to fear the worst when Il Corriere della Sera’s Fabio Monti, the best-connected reporter on the Inter beat, wrote within 48 hours of Liverpool knocking them out of the Champions League that Moratti was moving to appoint the Portuguese coach. At the end of May, pictures emerged of a meeting at a restaurant in Paris, La Tour d’Argent, and the secret was out.

A matter of days later, Mourinho was unveiled to tremendous fanfare. As was the case the first time round at Chelsea, he immediately delivered an iconic, box-office line. An English journalist enquired if the rumours Mourinho wished to bring Frank Lampard to Inter were true. Mourinho didn’t want to talk about another team’s player. But he didn’t leave it there. His response left the media enraptured. “Io non solo pirla,” Mourinho said, using Milanese dialect. “I’m not an idiot.”

Winning over the press and even some sections of San Siro was a gradual process though. In Italy, with its Ivy League coaching school, Coverciano, it doesn’t matter how big your reputation is or what you’ve won before. You have to prove yourself all over again, particularly if you are an outsider. Mancini had won Inter their first league title in 18 years and by the time Mourinho arrived they had dominated for three seasons. The bar was very high. Expectation through the roof. All that remained for Mourinho to achieve was the extraordinary; victory in Europe, the treble. Winning the Scudetto by 10 points in his first season was not enough.

He was judged almost entirely on the Champions League and despite Ibrahimovic hitting the crossbar and Stankovic missing a gilt-edged chance, Inter lost to Manchester United and were out at the same stage as the year before. Moratti found it difficult to accept. In all his time at Inter, he conceded, it was “the angriest I ever got — and the time I really let my feelings known”. Mourinho could have departed that summer, just as Ibrahimovic did. Real Madrid wanted him to come and coach in Spain. “Moratti asked me to stay,” Mourinho says, “and I told him, ‘Yes, because the reason why I came here was to give you the dream of your life as a president’.”

The dream of which Mourinho spoke was the one Moratti had been pursuing since he brought the club back into the family in 1995.

The oil magnate’s mission was to emulate his father Angelo, the man who made Inter great in the 1960s when his own Mourinho-figure il Mago (“The Wizard”), as Helenio Herrera was known, guided them to two European Cup triumphs. Forty-five years had passed since they’d last tasted that success and in order to validate their domestic supremacy and consolidate that team’s place among Italy’s all-time greats, Inter needed to repeat or better it.

Herrera, Moratti, European Cup


Inter president Angelo Moratti and coach Herrera, surrounded by some fans of the team, celebrate winning the 1965 European Cup (Photo: Mondadori via Getty Images)


For this particular generation of Inter players, it was a Last Dance of sorts. Zanetti and Materazzi were 36, Ivan Cordoba 33, Stankovic 31, Cambiasso and Julio Cesar were 30. Their window of opportunity was closing.

“There are different perspectives of players when they are coming to the end of their careers,” Mourinho says. “There are the players that just want to be there for a couple more years on their contract — a few more million before they leave. And there are other guys with a different perspective which is: let me try to reach a high moment in my career, let me try and do something I never did. I think that was the point. The ones that were regular in the team, they were fantastic. But the ones that were not regular (Materazzi, Francesco Toldo, Paolo Orlandoni and Cordoba), the ones that didn’t play as much. They were always there for the team, always there for the younger guys, always there for the coach, always there to help. It was really a fantastic achievement and one of the reasons why I was so happy. I felt that my joy and my emotions were not about me, it was about them. It wasn’t about me winning my second Champions League — it was about them realising their dreams.”

The United defeat and Inter’s overall struggles in the Champions League — recall how they had finished runners-up to Panathinaikos in the group on the back of a 3-3 draw with Anorthosis of Cyprus and a 2-1 defeat to Werder Bremen in Germany — provided Mourinho with the indications he needed to correct and upgrade the team over the summer of 2009. In hindsight, the recruitment that off-season must go down as one of the best transfer windows ever, anywhere. For Inter to get it so right was out of character with what had gone before under Moratti and his sporting director, Marco Branca, which is why a lot of the credit for the signings, even after the flops of Ricardo Quaresma and Amantino Mancini, ended up being shared with Mourinho.

Inter started by granting Ibrahimovic his wish to play for Barcelona but only as long as they received Samuel Eto’o and €46 million in return, perhaps the greatest swap deal of all time. The Cameroon striker had just done the treble with Barcelona. Little did he know he was about to participate in another one and go back-to-back. Materazzi and Mourinho put on a charm offensive to lure him to San Siro. The defender texted Eto’o, “If you come to Inter, we’ll win everything.” Mourinho followed up with a picture of a blue and black No 9 shirt. “It’s yours,” he wrote. “Waiting for you.” How could Eto’o turn them down?

“It’s strange that Samuel, during all his career, never managed to win the Ballon d’Or,” Mourinho observes incredulously. George Weah remains the only African player to have one on his mantlepiece.

Inter were all-in that summer, strengthening from front to back. Lucio arrived from Bayern Munich and made the defence quicker and more agile. Branca traded the future for the present, wrapping Leonardo Bonucci up in the deals for Genoa’s midfield organiser Thiago Motta and “the Prince” Milito, a striker who, in Materazzi’s words, “wasted time” at clubs of a smaller stature when his talent for scoring in big games deserved so much more than the low profile he carried. Milito had just turned 30 and made the switch to Inter on the back of finishing behind Ibrahimovic in the scoring charts. Even after the mythical season ahead, which he more than anybody helped decide, recognition was still in short supply as he implausibly didn’t even make the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or.

Mourinho kept working the phones late in the window. He messaged Wesley Sneijder, who found himself up for sale and disconsolate at Real Madrid following their world record-breaking splurges on Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. “His SMSs convinced me (to come),” the Dutch No 10 said at the time. Sneijder touched down at Milan’s Malpensa airport what felt like a matter of hours before the season’s first Derby della Madonnina on August 29. He didn’t even train with the team but his influence was instant as Inter overcame a difficult first 20 minutes to blow Ronaldinho’s Milan away and make a major statement of intent with an emphatic 4-0 win. Although Sneijder didn’t make it onto the scoresheet, his is the display everyone remembers.

Mourinho, Sneijder

“Wes was amazing that season,” Mourinho recalls. “In the same year he wins the treble, he plays the World Cup final.” More than that, he set up six goals on Inter’s run to Champions League glory then finished as joint top scorer with Germany’s Thomas Muller in South Africa. Still, an Inter player didn’t collect the Ballon d’Or.

Quizzed for an explanation, Mourinho doesn’t have one. “We got to the Gala in 2010. The boys were not even on the top three list (Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi made the podium). The only thing they managed to do was to be in the top XI, a player per position.”

The oversight was really no different from what Inter went through at the start of the season. No one pencilled them in as one of the favourites to win the Champions League. The bookies tipped Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and the new Real Madrid, with Ronaldo up front, instead. During the group stage, that opinion didn’t really change. Inter still found the Champions League hard work. At the beginning of November (match day four) they were still winless and trailing Dynamo Kiev 1-0 at half-time in Ukraine. Andriy Shevchenko, their old nemesis from his Milan days with his 14 derby goals, had put another one past them and Inter found themselves on a precipice. Mourinho calls it “an extreme situation, a half-time I will never forget”.

In his book, Zanetti recalled the team talk during the interval. “As if he were studying (the situation) from Appiano Gentile (Inter’s training ground), Mourinho calmly explained, ‘Lads, right now we’re going out of the Champions League. We’re not interpreting the game well. We have to change. So we’re going to play three at the back: You Pupi (Zanetti), with Lucio and Maicon. (Walter) Samuel, you’re going to play further forward, next to Thiago Motta in midfield. Cambiasso, you’re coming on the bench with me. Sneijder, you push up, stay calm, play high and make some shots. Milito, I want you to shadow Sneijder up front. Balotelli and Eto’o, get out wide. Get it? I want you wide. If you go out there, Dynamo will follow you and their defence will open up. That way we’ll create space in the middle for Wesley and Diego’.”

As a plan, it worked.

Inter created chance after chance but the breakthrough only came four minutes from the end when Milito trapped a pass from Sneijder in the area and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Stanislav Bogush. The winner, just seconds from the end, arrived when Bogush spilled a shot from one of Mourinho’s subs, Sulley Muntari. The keeper got in the way of the rebound from Milito but the danger wasn’t over and Sneijder slid in to keep Moratti’s dream of winning the Champions League alive.

Sneijder, Kyiv

Mourinho reflects on that as “the first step” in his team believing in itself in Europe. “People focus more on the semi-final and final,” he says, “but we had a difficult run. As a start we had Barcelona also in the group phase, which obviously creates a difficult situation to win the group. Then the objective becomes to try and qualify, because Barcelona is of course the team that is going to qualify. We had to fight and we had a good win against Dynamo Kiev in that group, we had a difficult match in the Russian winter (1-1 at Rubin Kazan), it was not easy.”

A couple of aspects of Inter’s progress under Mourinho deserve wider appreciation. “Thinking is the secret,” he told the players in his very first team meeting as their coach. “You will be trained to think. You will become better by thinking. You will think about the tactics I give you. You will play football thinking. Do you understand? A player who doesn’t think cannot play football.”

Cambiasso has just recently finished his coaching badges, but he was already a coach on the pitch. He always had a question about the formation. Over time, though, the entire team’s reading of the game improved. There was no system, no situation, that Inter were unprepared for. In a memorable game against Siena in January 2010, Mourinho sent Samuel up front with the team 3-2 down. Sneijder cancelled out Massimo Maccarone’s go-ahead goal for the Tuscans, curling in his second free kick of the game, before Inter’s rugged Argentine centre-back metamorphosed from Walter Samuel into Samuel Eto’o and scored a euphoric 92nd-minute winner.

Samuel, Mourinho

As Mourinho’s second campaign gathered apace, the team attained enviable flexibility. Zanetti played full-back and in midfield. But no player embodies Inter’s adaptability that season more than Eto’o, who ended up playing an attritional role out wide — practically as a full-back at times.

“In the Italian league we were predominantly playing a 4-4-2 with a diamond in midfield, and Samuel (Eto’o) playing striker with Milito,” Mourinho explains. “But then I knew that, going to the Champions League, there were very good teams attacking with full-backs, teams that were feeling possibly better than us, teams that were not playing defensively, like many teams in Italy did against us.

“I felt that to play against the ones like Chelsea and Barcelona, the best teams, we needed to give a different balance to the team. So I thought to play with two midfield players in front of the defensive line and giving more width to the wingers would create a better control of the games. But for that, I needed either to sacrifice some of my strikers or I needed to adapt them to make a different role. In the end, we were playing with three strikers, Milito, (January signing Goran) Pandev and Eto’o. But Milito was playing central, Eto’o was coming from the left and Pandev, a left-footed player, was coming from the right.

“They created lots of chances, all three could score a goal, all three gave me what the team needed, which was that defensive balance. We had the two positional players in midfield, then we had Pandev, Sneijder, Milito and Eto’o; four attacking players, but giving to the team in the defensive phase the balance that we needed.”



Awaiting, somewhat inevitably, in the round of 16, were Chelsea, Mourinho’s previous club.

“Chelsea were really, really, really one of the big candidates (for the Champions League),” he insists. “I knew them very, very, very well because that was my team with a couple of top new players like (Nicolas) Anelka. They added to a team, a good team that was really strong and in the best stage (of its maturity), with great, experienced players. Players in the best age of their careers, around 28; John Terry, (Michael) Essien, Lampard, (Didier) Drogba, Petr Cech. They were a phenomenal team.”

Last week, Eto’o told La Gazzetta dello Sport that that night at Stamford Bridge, when Inter won 1-0 thanks to his goal in the 78th minute, sticks in his mind for a couple of reasons. One is Mourinho’s team talk. “No team I coached can beat me,” he apparently said. The other is the manner in which Inter performed. “We went out on the pitch with a different determination; we weren’t just playing for ourselves but our coach.”

Looking back now, Mourinho says: “I think that was the feeling, the last feeling the players had to make them believe we could go all the way.”

That turned out to be a huge fortnight in Inter’s season. Four days before the first leg against Chelsea, the team’s resolve hardened all the more when Samuel and Cordoba were sent off seven minutes apart in a critical Serie A game against Champions League-chasing Sampdoria. Mourinho made a handcuffs gesture, a sign of defiance, seeking to show nothing could hold Inter down and, despite playing almost an hour with nine men, his team remarkably didn’t concede. They held Antonio Cassano and co to a goalless draw and mentally you just knew they wouldn’t be fazed when outnumbered in the future, most famously of all in an epic semi-final second leg against Barcelona at the Nou Camp.


That night is the one this Inter side is remembered and defined by. The brilliance of the come-from-behind win a fortnight earlier when Sneijder, a superb Maicon, and Milito all scored tends to be forgotten or unfairly minimised because Barcelona had to take a coach across Europe to Milan on account of the ash cloud caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland. Attempting to play the same way in the Nou Camp as they did at San Siro would have been crazy after Sergi Busquets’ peek-a-boo histrionics and Motta’s subsequent red card after only half an hour.

It was one thing to hold off Sampdoria for 60 minutes, another entirely to stop a team that would go down as one of the greatest of all time. Zanetti remembers shouting words of encouragement to Eto’o, then playing full-back, after he made an incredible recovery run to stop Messi attempting a shot. “I said, ‘Come on, Samu. Not long now’.” The pair of them then looked up at the scoreboard… and saw there were only 37 minutes on the clock.

Inter, as Mourinho famously put it, “didn’t want the ball”. They wanted to control the space instead and allowed Barcelona 86.4% possession. For Mourinho, though, seeing out a 3-2 aggregate win against that calibre of opponent on that stage was testament to his players’ character.

“What they did in Barcelona, playing with 10 players for more than an hour…” he pauses “…That goes further than tactics, further than the defensive organisation. That goes much more deep than that. It goes further than football. It goes to the human side of it.”

As he dashed onto the pitch, pointing to the Inter supporters up in the gods, all of a sudden the sprinklers came on. His assistant Jose Morais describes it as “the best shower of my life.”


“I didn’t even feel it,” Mourinho says. “The game finished, everybody reacted in different ways. We had people crying. We had people on their knees. We had people completely exhausted on the floor. We had people running around and I ran to our supporters because I know how much it meant to them. Then, when we were enjoying (ourselves), they (Barcelona) didn’t react in the best way which doesn’t reflect the dimension of the club, a club where I was so happy in the period I worked there, a club that I know is a super-class club. But sometimes when we are disappointed we can have these emotional reactions. It’s no problem at all, though, just a nice memory.”

In the meantime, Inter were also through to the Coppa Italia final and back in control at the top of Serie A. They had lost pole position at the beginning of April after Julio Cesar made a mistake that allowed Per Koldrup to equalise in a 2-2 draw away to Fiorentina. Not for the first time that season (Materazzi recalls Mourinho “tearing us to bits” after a defeat to Catania) the players received the hairdryer treatment or, as the Italians call it, a shampoo. Cordoba remembers Mourinho coming into the dressing room at the Artemio Franchi in Florence and laying into his goalkeeper. “The tension was softened for one hilarious moment when Mourinho kicked a bag of ice and fell over in front of us all.”

Rather than breed any resentment, the respect for each other was so high that, as in a family, no argument was insurmountable. One knew that the other could take it. Players and manager felt they could be honest with each other. “There are many difficult moments that only a top team could overcome,” Mourinho reflects.

Having been 11 points ahead of Roma at the end of January, Inter needed to chase at a time when legs are beginning to tire. But the pressure soon got to Roma, with Philippe Mexes bursting into tears at the Stadio Olimpico following a galling 2-1 defeat to Sampdoria that enabled Inter to reclaim first place just three games from the end.


Milito did the rest. “He was phenomenal,” Mourinho says. “When we speak about the treble, we speak especially about that last three matches where everything is decided. He scored the winning goal in the cup final (against Roma), the winning goal to give us the title (against Siena) and both our goals in the Champions League final (against Bayern Munich) in Madrid. Amazing.”

As Zanetti hoisted the European Cup aloft and placed it on his head, Inter became unique among Italian clubs and Moratti found the fulfilment he craved. Three years later, with no worlds left to conquer, he sold the team. The most powerful image of that night though was of Mourinho jumping in what was assumed to be a Real Madrid car, only to get out and share a tearful embrace with Materazzi outside the Bernabeu. The veteran had been imploring him to stay on as Inter coach all month. “You do realise in whose hands you’re leaving us?” he claims to have told Mourinho, thinking former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was taking over. But Mourinho was not for turning. This was it.

Mourinho, Inter Milan, Zanetti

“When I had these last words with him (Materazzi), it was like I was hugging every player which is something I tried not to do,” Mourinho says. “I was on the pitch with them in the celebrations, in the medals, in the cup. I was with them but then I didn’t go back to the dressing room because I didn’t want to say goodbye. It was too hard for me and I didn’t want to leave with them to Milan because people were saying I had a contract with Real Madrid. It was not true. I had an agreement, but I did not have a contract signed.

“I really wanted to go to Real Madrid at that time. I really wanted to try to win the Spanish league after the English and Italian leagues. But I feared that if I go back to Milan with the team and, with the reaction of the players and the fans, I was afraid of not being able to leave. I can say that I ran away. I ran away from them.” Into the night. Into Inter legend.

“A few days later, I signed with Real Madrid,” Mourinho adds, “and then I could go back to Milan and I could meet the president and have dinner with Moratti and his family.” On the table when he got there was the European Cup “and this funny situation with (Moratti’s) little grandson in the cup”.

A decade on, the ‘triplete’ WhatsApp group will no doubt be going into overdrive today as memories of Madrid, Siena and Rome come flooding back. Plans for a reunion have been put back, and understandably so because of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, but as Mourinho concludes: “I am with them every day, and that for me is the most important thing.”

The 57-year-old from Setubal has won so many titles down the years but when you talk to him about Inter, truly it’s hard to come away thinking anything other than that treble was the Special One.

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How Mourinho’s Porto beat Celtic to win UEFA Cup… and what if they hadn’t?



The 2003 UEFA Cup final against Porto broke the hearts of millions of Celtic fans across the world dreaming of European glory.

Arguably no event in Celtic’s modern history has cultivated such a classically football paradox of lost opportunity and fierce pride than the 3-2 defeat to Jose Mourinho’s side after extra-time. Celtic were a few questionable refereeing decisions and a handful of individual errors away from immortality, and even the tonic of time hardly numbs the pain of missing out at the death when Porto’s Brazilian forward Derlei scored the winning goal five minutes from penalties.

Still, the fans, players and manager Martin O’Neill could have hardly known the enduring legacy of their opponents, of how Porto and Mourinho would shape the 2000s. That 2003 final was Mourinho’s breakthrough on the European stage before he took over the world with his reactive tactics and notorious mind games. One man involved is aware of the win’s importance to the club and the history to follow.

“The final against Celtic was huge,” Costinha, the former Portugal international, says on an SFA podcast due to be released over the next few weeks. “Because we won the UEFA Cup, that brought us different confidence for the Champions League. It was so important.”

That Porto team would win the Champions League the following year at a canter (3-0 over Monaco in the final, a stark contrast to the strain of the Celtic match), and the success of Mourinho’s zealous emphasis on defensive discipline catalysed a reformation of European football.

Deco finished second in the 2004 Ballon d’Or rankings and went on to star for Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona; Ricardo Carvalho and Paolo Ferreira followed Mourinho to Chelsea where they broke the Premier League’s recent duopoly of Manchester United and Arsenal by winning two consecutive titles; and in our alternative Ballon d’Or, Maniche and Costinha came out joint winners for 2004.

The UEFA Cup final in Seville is arguably Celtic’s biggest story of since the turn of the millennium, but it’s also a waypoint in how European football appears today.

Imagine a world where Porto don’t win that UEFA Cup. A world where, devoid of their swaggering confidence, they don’t win the Champions League. A world where Mourinho doesn’t go to Chelsea in 2004 because his nefarious genius is not yet globally sought by football’s elite. A world where cynical, reactive tactics don’t become universally popularised and don’t become the defining tactical trend of the 2000s.

And who knows how winning the UEFA Cup might have impelled Celtic onto even bigger and better things themselves. As we will see, that so nearly came to pass…

The UEFA Cup final in 2003 was the culmination of a whirlwind year for a Porto team did that eventually achieved a quadruple in Mourinho’s first season, establishing complete dominance over Portuguese football and flashing a warning to the rest of Europe of what would materialise over the following year.

Mourinho arrived midway through the 2001-02 season from Uniao de Leiria and guided Porto to third in the Primeira Liga. Portuguese football journalist Sergio Pereira covered Mourinho’s Porto and tells The Athletic that his legend began early: “He arrived at Porto with this famous speech, arriving in the middle of the season, and said, ‘This year is not going to be possible, but I promise the next year we will be champions’.”

“Everybody remembers that champions speech that he gave. He was a very young coach, but he was doing a wonderful job in the previous club, so the expectations were very big. There were other clubs interested in Mourinho other than Porto, so he was never a small guy, he always had big promise.”


    FC Porto’s Derlei celebrates with team-mates after scoring the winning goal in 2003 (Photo: Maurice McDonald/PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Pivotal to the immediacy of his success was his grounding of collective responsibility and tactical discipline. “He always knew we were loyal to what he prepared for the game,” says Costinha, who has recently studied to be a coach in the Ayrshire town of Largs, earning a UEFA Pro Licence. “So if the other team were better than us, he was always the first to admit it, but I think we were better than most of the teams.

“Everybody trusted the next team-mate. Deco knew Maniche could go to the attack because they trusted I was there behind to compensate mistakes. This was teamwork. To succeed, you need to trust each other to do the job. If (right-back) Ferreira goes up and supports the attack, you need to protect the flank. Mourinho made us a team with good structure, balance and confidence.”

Costinha argues that Mourinho also introduced resilience into this Porto team. “Mourinho brought a different type of mentality to Porto and the world. I had ambition, but when he arrived at Porto he gave us more ambition, more responsibility. Every day he asked more and more and more. When you have those types of training and you possess that mentality for a few months, for a year, you become like a rolling machine. You don’t feel the pressure, you just want to deliver.

“Porto is a special club, a club with a tough mentality. The supporters are very demanding. It’s tough to play there, you need to be strong in your head. You can be a star for another club, but you arrive at Porto and you are not a star. Mourinho made a very good group of players into players with ambition. They didn’t have too many titles then, so he created this hunger for success.”


Celtic’s John Hartson holds out his hand to team-mate Chris Sutton after losing to FC Porto (Photo: Maurice McDonald/PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)


Although this Porto were impeccably drilled, Pereira stresses to The Athletic that Mourinho’s Porto belied the conservatism of his later teams. “No no no, Porto was not that kind of team,” the journalist says. “Porto were an attacking team. It was a surprise for us that Mourinho became much more defensive for Chelsea and Inter Milan. Porto was an attacking team, not only in the Portuguese Cup and league but in Europe, too. For instance, Porto beat Lazio 4-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final. It was an attacking team.

“He had two tactics: in the Portuguese league, he would play in a 4-3-3, but in the UEFA Cup, in the middle of the competition, he started to play in a 4-4-2. That was the tactic that he always used in the next season in the Champions League. On paper, it was a bit more defensive, but the players didn’t behave more defensively in their actions. It was just that they all knew their tasks. They knew everything.”

The extent to which these players knew their roles was reflected in their extensive pre-match tactical work. Last year, Porto’s forensic opposition-analysis notes for the UEFA Cup final were circulated on Twitter. Compiled by Mourinho’s assistant, Andre Villas-Boas, they detail Celtic’s strengths, weaknesses and tactical systems.

Villas-Boas — who would go on to manage Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham — earmarked O’Neill’s team as “very rough” defensively and dangerous on the wings, through Alan Thompson and the rapid Didier Agathe as wing-backs. Agathe was identified as someone who exchanges “positions with the centre-forward and knows how to strike from afar”.

They identify Neil Lennon as the crucial cog in Celtic’s midfield, and also the physicality and directness of Chris Sutton, John Hartson (who was actually unavailable for the game) and Henrik Larsson. Naturally, Larsson received particular attention, with Villas-Boas pinpointing his inclination to drop deep and drift wide. Porto should also be wary of his technical skills, Villas-Boas warned. “He anticipates the depth, ‘stretches’ the opponent and pushes back the offside line.”

However, Villas-Boas (another Portuguese coach who studied for his badges in Scotland) glaringly omitted to mention Larsson’s talent in the air — an oversight made all the more damning after Larsson scored two headers in the final.

Pereira reminisces that, despite their runaway domestic success during 2002-03 and self-evident quality, there was no serious ambition about winning the trophy until deep into the competition — a take-it-as-it-comes attitude also shared by Celtic players and fans at the time.

“I remember in the first leg of the quarter-final against Panathinaikos,” Pereira says, “there was a big banner in the middle of Porto fans that said, ‘We are going to win this cup’, and I remember I was at that game, and thinking, ‘These guys are crazy’. At that time, Portuguese teams didn’t have the ability to get to the final, so it was not something people were taking seriously. But Porto fans had that dream.

“Most people in Portugal did not think it was possible, but Porto fans had that dream. The change happened in Athens. Porto lost the first leg 1-0 at home, but went to Athens and beat Panathinaikos 2-0. It was the moment that people thought it could be possible.”

The final itself was beset with controversy. Celtic players, fans and O’Neill were outraged by Porto’s tendency to go to ground easily and their constant appeals to the Slovak referee, Lubos Michel. For O’Neill, there’s no love lost. “I felt that every professional trick in the book was used,” he said years later. “Porto gave us a lesson… but it wasn’t the way that I would have wanted our players to behave.”

Nearly two decades on, many Celtic fans have yet to forgive Porto. Costinha tells a story of an irate Celtic-supporting taxi driver complaining about Porto’s antics during the final as he drove Costinha and Maniche to Largs — only knowledgeable of their nationalities and blissfully unaware of their actual identities.

Costinha says, “‘Oh, I remember I was in Seville,’ the driver said to us. ‘We lost the game to those bastards from Porto’. I said to Maniche, ‘Don’t say anything because he’ll throw us out of the car’.”

Porto were upset about what they perceived was Celtic’s aggressiveness and overt physicality. Mourinho himself had argued the referee should have sent off Thompson on two occasions, and that Bobo Balde deserved a red card before his eventual dismissal in extra-time, saying: “The referee wanted to end the game with 11 against 11 and I think maybe he was a bit afraid to send anyone off.”

When asked about his players’ antics post-match, he said: “I’d prefer to ask whether the behaviour of the Celtic players was normal in your country.”

However, he did retrospectively affirm Costinha’s argument on the importance of the UEFA Cup win to Porto’s legacy and his career. Speaking to UEFA.com in 2007, Mourinho said: “The Champions League is the Champions League, it means much more than UEFA Cup and probably winning it was the best day of my football career. But I must say that Celtic-Porto in Seville was the most exciting football game I have ever been in.

“An unbelievable game. I saw Vitor Baia say the same to Portuguese TV after the last game of his career. He said it was the most emotional game of his career, it is the same for me. Every time I see Martin O’Neill, I remember I was the lucky one that day.”

Years later, he reiterated that point, even after winning the Champions League with Inter in 2010: “That final against Celtic was not the biggest win, it was not the greatest joy, but in terms of intensity, it was my biggest ever game. I’ve played three European finals since, two in the Champions League. I’ve won a lot of titles, been involved in so many incredible games. But in terms of living with tension, intensity, with emotion raised to the limit, that game against Celtic beat them all.”

Asked for his favourite memories from Seville, Pereira cites the Celtic supporters. An estimated 80,000 travelled to the city nicknamed Spain’s frying pan, beach balls in hands and heads donned with sombreros (strictly speaking, the hats have little to do with Spain, but they added plenty of colour nonetheless). Celtic’s fans won the FIFA Fair Play award for 2003 as a result of their good behaviour and positive atmosphere.

“The story I have from the final was of the fantastic fair play of the Celtic fans,” Pereira says. “That was the most incredible thing that I saw.

“At the end of the game, I had to get out of the stadium very quickly to submit my report. I was at the front of traffic for 10 minutes, wearing my Porto top, and Celtic fans were leaving the stadium at the same time, thousands of them walking past. They were all very respectful. They were, of course, sad, but very considerate. In Portugal, that would be unheard of. Other fans would trash my car, but these guys were so great.

“The atmosphere was brilliant, and it was all thanks to Celtic fans. I was not in Gelsenkirchen for the 2004 Champions League final, but the atmosphere of the 2003 final was made much better and more powerful because of the Celtic fans.”

Porto’s UEFA Cup success was a launching pad. That hunger for success became a compulsion during the 2003-04 Champions League campaign.

“It was so important,” Pereira says, “It would have been so different if Celtic had won. The fact that Porto won the UEFA Cup made all the people — the coaches, the players, the supporters — understand that they could be invincible. They won everything, they were a fantastic team. The mentality they got from that final was most important in becoming the European champions.”

Their proximity to greatness was a point Mourinho hammered home repeatedly until it became an undeniable truth, the only ambition. One of early Mourinho’s greatest attributes — before the mind games became tedious and stubborn emphasis on defensive organisation became flawed — was the way he installed self-belief in his players. It was as crucial an asset to their resilience as that urge for success.

“Mourinho tried to make players believe what he’s saying about how good they are, so maybe they can achieve that for their team,” Costinha says. “He was very open with his players and liked to speak about the tactical side of the game. That was uncommon at the time. He brought a different type of mentality to the game.

“Mourinho said, ‘Last season, we won the UEFA Cup, and everybody said so what? If you win this, you can tell them we won both’. He was confident, while we were a bunch of players who were responsible, who were organised, and who had tasted success the previous year. We wanted to succeed with that taste in our mouths. We were stronger mentally. We were much better.”

The only team to whom Porto lost in that campaign was Real Madrid. Costinha says: “Before Madrid, Mourinho said, ‘You know what those players have more of than you? Money in their bank accounts. You have two arms and two legs, you are the same’.” Despite that defeat in the group stages, they qualified and defeated Manchester United, Lyon and Deportivo La Coruna on their way to reach the final against Monaco.

“Mourinho told us, ‘You are not going to play the final, you are going to win the final. You don’t play finals, you win finals’.” Costinha continues. “Second, he said, ‘You have beaten Lyon, Man United and Deportivo. If you don’t beat Monaco, then you’re just another Champions League team. If you want your names to become history, you need to win’.”

And they did, promptly changing European football for the next few years in doing so. Without Rab Douglas’ error five minutes from time to gift Derlei that opportunity, none of that might have transpired — and we could be looking at an entirely different football landscape today.

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  • 4 weeks later...
3 minutes ago, Jason said:

He went all Rafa with the fact rant and got the Drogba stats wrong. :lol: 

Was it a mistake due to stress or did he genuinely do it on purpose and hoped no one would notice? I don't think Drogba even got 186 for us overall did he let alone solely under Mou.

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20 minutes ago, Tomo said:

Was it a mistake due to stress or did he genuinely do it on purpose and hoped no one would notice? I don't think Drogba even got 186 for us overall did he let alone solely under Mou.

Maybe he has gone crazy? He took Drogba's number of appearances (186) under him as opposed to goals (73).

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On 19.6.2020 at 5:58 PM, Jason said:

Looking forward to when he eventually moans about the difference in spending power...

Nahh he wouldnt dare or at least I hope not. And he didnt want to mention Ronaldo's name lol but named all the others.

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13 hours ago, Jason said:

Maybe he has gone crazy? He took Drogba's number of appearances (186) under him as opposed to goals (73).

he is bonkers, wtf, roflmaooooo

his stats are madness

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