Last weekend’s Champions League final had more than a few winners outside of deserving champs, Inter Milan. First, there was raging cokehead yet the game’s greatest player, Diego Maradona. As current manager of Argentina, he’s been utterly incompetent with his team selections, but the play of Inter striker Diego Milito—in scoring both goals—helped to solve Diego’s conundrum as to who amongst Argentina’s stable of strikers should play alongside Leo Messi. Then, there was Holland, whose two most important matchwinners, Inter’s Wesley Sneijder and Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben shone brightest in the match and walked away unscathed, despite fellow countryman and resident headcase Mark Van Bommel doing his best to injure Sneijder in the match’s latter stages.
And then there was Real Madrid. With Inter coach José “The Special One” Mourinho becoming only the third manager to claim Europe’s top prize with two different teams (his first came with Portuguese underdogs FC Porto in ’04) as well as adding the Italian league and cup titles to a cabinet already including English league and cup titles, Mourinho has been talking up his chances of leaving Inter to pursue the only worthwhile club honors still eluding him: Spanish silverware and a Champions League title with an unprecedented third different team. And so, while the basketball world has their eyes transfixed on LeBron and his next move, the futbol world patiently awaits Mourinho’s game-changing switch to Real Madrid to coach the likes of Ronaldo, Kaka, and whomever else money and Mourinho’s clout will soon buy.
Over the past two seasons, Madrid has been stuck chasing their bitter rivals Barcelona team in the Spanish league. In Europe, the difference has been more damning. In the last six seasons, Barca has claimed two Champions League titles and two more semifinal appearances, while Madrid has failed to progress past the round of 16 even once. But all that will change with Mourinho. Here’s four strong reasons why.
1. Ego — Madrid’s lack of patience has made their managerial position the most unenviable, pressure-cooker situation in futbol. But that shouldn’t bother Mourinho and, if it does, we surely wouldn’t know. Sh#t-talker supreme, Mourinho says what’s on his mind and does what he wants, right or wrong. And he even fancies himself God’s gift to management, once telling the English media upon his arrival at Chelsea, “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one,” hence the nickname. Coupled with his conquering of Barcelona with Inter, this should be enough to intimidate the defending Spanish champions.
2. Smart Spending — Though he has a penchant for buying Portuguese talent that has failed to work out (Tiago, Maniche, Ricardo Quaresma), his eye for African talent has been spot-on. Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o now look like steals and the decision to purchase Michael Essien and not teammate Mahamadou Diarra from Lyon back in ’05 was a masterstroke. In addition, he was famously against Chelsea’s signing of legend-of-the-fall-offs Andriy Shevchenko and plucking Lucio from Bayern Munich last summer was one of the differences in Saturday’s CL final.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo — Both are Portuguese, the best at their respective positions, narcissists, but most importantly, always have a point to prove. A match made in futbol heaven.
4. Lassana Diarra — At each of his most successful stops, Mourinho’s had world-class talent in his coveted “Makélelé” role of midfield destroyer—Costinha at FC Porto, Makélelé himself and Essien at Chelsea, and Cambiasso at Inter. There are few other players who can currently fill the position (Mascherano, Fletcher, Song, Busquets) but the twenty-five-year-old Diarra, who has teetered on world-class level for the past few seasons, looks poised to transcend with Mourinho’s coaching.
5. Defensive Solidity — Surely he’ll teach Sergio Ramos how to defend again.