Jose Mourinho’s date with a German club in European footballs most glamorous fixture is somewhat ironic as his rise to super-stardom as the world’s most coveted football coach came six years prior in Germany as he took a modest Portuguese side to the city of Gelsenkirchen which made them heroes, and made him immortal.
It is difficult to imagine where Mourinho would be had it not been for Costinha’s stoppage time equaliser against Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League six years ago. His FC Porto side were on the brink of elimination against the English giants until goalkeeper Tim Howard fumbled a direct free-kick that allowed Costinha to score the all important away goal that ultimately changed the life of Jose Mourinho forever as he galloped down the touchline of the Theatre of Dreams oozing emotion and pointing to the heavens.
Had we not known who this brash young coach was before, we certainly did afterwards as his team produced one of the biggest shocks in Champions League history. That night ultimately introduced him to the world. A man well respected in his homeland but with a reputation obscure to those across Europe.
A quarter final victory over Lyon was followed by his team eliminating Spanish outfit Deportivo La Coruna thanks to a penalty on the hour from Derlei in the Riazor to send the Portugese club to Germany to contest in their first European Cup final since 1987 against AS Monaco, who themselves sent shockwaves across the continent eliminating The Galacticos of Real Madrid and new English powerhouse Chelsea on their way to the piece de resistance of club football.
People tend to forget that 12 months prior to the biggest night in his career, Mourinho guided The Dragons to a UEFA Cup triumph in Seville over Martin O’Neill’s Celtic in his first full season in charge where he also clinched the domestic double.
26th May 2004, The Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen, and the 41 year old had brought his team to the big dance where they coasted to a 3-0 victory over Didier Deschamps’ side. Porto were now at the forefront of European football. They were champions of their continent. A feat that they hadn’t experienced for 17 years since Artur Jorge orchestrated their first success in Austria’s capital of Vienna.
On that night Mourinho didn’t just captivate the rest of Europe with his fresh approach and sleek veneer, but he turned his players into superstars. The likes of Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, Pedro Mendes, Nuno Valente had help engineer an efficient steel that made Porto hard to beat yet with bags of creative flair and guile. Their performances alone in the competition saw them exported abroad to the bigger leagues in Europe of England and Spain. Deco went onto win another Champions League title with FC Barcelona two years later.
As Jorge Costa and Vitor Baia hoisted the gorgeous trophy aloft whilst showered in blue and white confetti, Jose made one of the most infamous departures in modern times by taking off his winners medal that had hardly warmed his neck and scurried down the tunnel where he rubber stamped his next managerial post with Chelsea where he lit up the English Isles turning Roman Abramovich’s club into one of the continents powerhouses. He went onto win two league championships with The Blues as well as four domestic titles. His departure from West London was somewhat abrupt in September 2007 after a disappointing start to the season ended his remarkable three year spell in West London. Since then he has never hidden his affection for both Chelsea and England. His return to the English Isles is not a case of if he comes back, but when?
In the mean time “The Special One” has been working his magic in Italy with Inter. He delivered Massimo Moratti’s club a Scudetto in his debut season, but was ultimately brought to the club to end the Italians forty-five year drought without a European Cup success. Now he is on the verge of delivering the first ever treble to the San Siro after wrapping up the Serie A title and Coppa Italia earlier this month.
22nd May 2010, and the 47 year old has come full circle. He is now in another Champions League final where The Nerazzurri take on Bayern Munich in the stadium of Real Madrid, the Santiago Bernabéu. The home of Los Blancos, and soon to be the home of Jose Mourinho?
After Florentino Perez’s investment last summer which saw record breaking transfer deals to lure Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka to Spain, they have ended the campaign trophyless under the guidance of Manuel Pellegrini whose dismissal looks inevitable. This will open up the door for Mourinho’s arrival. The Portuguese tactician remains coy over the rumours on the eve of one of the biggest nights in his career, and arguably his biggest, even more so than that joyful night in Germany six years ago.
His arrival to “the white house” seems ever more certain by the day. His achievement of eliminating their bitter rivals FC Barcelona in the semi-finals preventing them to contest a Champions League final in Madrid has adorned him ever more to the hot seat.
As he prepares The Serpent for their biggest game in over four decades, the spotlight is very much going to be on him rather than on his team. It may work in his teams favour as it deters the spotlight from them and heaps the pressure on their manager. Maybe a potential blessing in disguise for the Italian champions.
Mourinho has always stated his future plans, which includes managing the Portuguese national team, returning to England, and winning Spain’s La Liga. If he does deliver Inters third European Cup on Saturday night it may very well be his swansong with Inter, yet open up a new chapter of his life at potentially his new home, The Santiago Bernabéu?
Whatever happens on a night of high drama in the Spanish capital, the life of Jose Mourinho is set for another twist.