This is exactly what Mourinho came to Inter for. Despite dominating Serie A in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal and its effects on Milan & Juventus, Inter continued to be poor in Europe. Massimo Moratti’s dream has been to bring the European Cup back into the Nerazzuri after the glory days of ’64 and ’65, when his father was Inter president. After getting their hands on the league title repeatedly under Mancini, largely due to the weakness of their rivals, attention now shifted sharply to Europe. Mancini’s inability to deliver meant he had to make way for Jose, who himself was unceremoniously booted out by Roman Abramovich. Chelsea have not been the same since and their quest for a first ever European Cup has slipped away progressively since the Special One’s departure.
Envious glances would now be cast at the San Siro from all connected with Chelsea, should Inter lift the Cup at the Bernabeu. They have gotten there through two games against Barcelona varying in their approach: the first a ruthless exploitation of the weakness of their opponents, the second a defensive masterclass the likes of which are rarely seen. Both bear the hallmark of Mourinho. An obsessive attention to detail, a winning mentality instilled in his players that has been absent in most of Barca’s opponents, an above all a tactical knowledge that is unmatched in world football. Taking a 3-1 lead to the Camp Nou was healthy but events conspired against them as Thiago Motta, instrumental at the San Siro, was sent off very harshly for an ‘elbow’ on Pedro who made the most of the contact. What followed was a defensive display that will live long in the memory. After less than two full seasons in charge, Mourinho has made Inter into his winning image. No more wilting under pressure, no more mediocrity at the highest levels. In the first knock-out phase, he dismantled another machine he built from the ground up, Chelsea. He has now completed what must be his greatest ever triumph. He made Barca look ordinary for large parts of both legs, granting them possession far from goal, and a lot of it at that. The now former European champions ended the game with 86.4% of the ball. Inter only completed 63 passes ALL game. Barcelona are a super side, but Mourinho is a super coach. If therefore goes to show that the coach should get all the accolades and much of the blame for a team’s performances.
Things I learnt from Inter v Barca
Samuel Eto’o now plays in his 3rd UCL final. His shabby treatment by Barca last summer must have hurt, but he now has the ultimate revenge. Zlatan is not half the player Eto’o is. Samuel Eto’o is the best African player ever.
The debate about the best right-back in the world is now resolved. Maicon was excellent home and away and has been the best in the world for about 18 months now. Alves is not quite there, plus he’s a poor crosser of the ball.
Iniesta is such an integral part of Barca’s play. They’ve missed an extra level since he’s been injured. Toure, Keita and Busquets are nowhere near as creative.
It’s still too early to crown Lionel Messi as the best player in the world. Inter shut him up, and didn’t even have to foul him that much. Coaches all around the world must watch the tapes of both legs, not least Lars Lagerback, the Super Eagles coach.
Pep Guardiola needs to come up with a plan B for his Barca team, maybe one that includes 2 strikers. when confronted with the Inter wall, the ideas were lacking desperately. it took a great finish by a centre-half to pull a goal back.
If Diego Maradona doesn’t take Javier Zanetti to South Africa, he’s off his rocker.