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29th Apr 2010

Is Jose Mourinho the greatest of all?

The win over Barca may not be welcomed by the purists but it shunts Jose Mourinho another rung up the ladder of football’s greatest managers.

JOE

By Shane Breslin

Jose Mourinho’s victory on Wednesday night – and it was as much about Mourinho as any of his players – may not be welcomed by football’s purists, but it shunts him another few rungs up the ladder of the game’s greatest ever managers.

At just 47 years of age, and after less than a decade as a manager, he has already lifted five league titles in three different countries.

Take a moment and consider his achievements. In 2004, Porto won the Champions League with Mourinho at the helm. That remains the only occasion in the last 15 years when a team from outside the top four leagues lifted European club football’s biggest trophy.

He delivered Chelsea’s first English championship in 50 years in 2005. There are those who believe the achievement owes a disproportionate debt to the deep pockets of Roman Abramovich but they miss the key points: Chelsea have failed to win one since he left; and money is no guarantee of success, as Real Madrid and Manchester City have found out to their cost over the past 12 months.

Heading to Serie A when he did might have seemed a strange move. Italian football is in perpetual decline, and even if Inter break a 45-year hoodoo and lift the cup in Madrid in four weeks’ time, that slide will not be halted.

It is not Mourinho’s style to denationalise his sides – Porto were almost exclusively Portuguese, Chelsea had an indelibly English flavour and backbone – but he has demonstrated his genius by removing any trace of Italian influence from this Inter side.

He knew Italian football was crap but decided that would be no barrier to success. Of the side he sent into battle at the Nou Camp, NONE was Italian. Just three sat on the bench: past-it goalkeeper Francesco Toldo, has-been defender Marco Materazzi and Mario Balotelli, born to immigrant Ghanaian parents in Sicily.

The man doesn’t make the decisions, as the old phrase goes, the decisions make the man. And Mourinho, in a handful of heady years, is closer to greatness than many of those who’ve gone before.

His side will be favourites to beat Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu next month and if they do, Mourinho will become just the third manager (after Ernst Happel and Ottmar Hitzfeld) to win Europe’s top competition with two different clubs.

And he won’t stop there either. Talk in Spain on Thursday morning has centred on the prospect of Mourinho taking over at Real Madrid next year.

If he decides to make the Bernabeu his permanent home beyond the Champions League final, the odds are that he will only add to his legacy while there.

And if, in the process, he can further lower the colours of Barcelona, where he was referred to disparagingly as the ‘Translator’, then he will view that as a welcome bonus.

Sir Alex Ferguson is 68, Guus Hiddink 63. One shudders to think what the list of Mourinho’s medals might look like after another 15 or 20 years at the top.

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