Even though Inter and
"This is the best day of my career," Mourinho said Wednesday after Inter held on to eliminate Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate to reach the Champions League final on May 22 against Bayern Munich. "Better than winning the Champions League with Porto, better than winning the league at Chelsea."
Cynics will point out that the always-in-control Mourinho was saying the "right" things in his moment of glory -- "They had to turn on the sprinklers after the game to wipe away the blood of my players who gave everything on the pitch" was probably his finest quote from the evening -- but you also got the sense his words were incredibly heartfelt. After all, this season has probably been his biggest test and there have been moments when it looked as if things were slipping away.
Never before has he been so thoroughly questioned by the critics. It began in the summer, when
It was a masterstroke. Milito has scored 25 goals in all competitions (to Ibrahimovic's 21); Eto'o has added work rate, experience and intelligence; Sneijder has provided much-needed creativity behind the strikers; and Motta was instrumental in stopping
Mourinho's tactics have also come under unprecedented scrutiny. The coach himself admitted that, when facing smaller teams, Serie A was probably tougher than the Premier League, because managers of lesser clubs were better prepared tactically and frequently changed systems to stop the opposition. Even if Inter wins its last three Serie A games, it will end up with its lowest point total since 2005-06, suggesting that Mourinho's strategic difficulties have exacted a hefty toll. The fact that a ragtag, overachieving side like this season's Roma is just two points behind Inter in the Serie A table tells its own story.
Yet, when it really mattered, Mourinho delivered. He outschemed
While some, particularly in the English media, continue to depict Mourinho as some kind of infallible managerial juggernaut -- Sir
As for Barcelona, great teams are judged not just by the trophies they deliver (not that Barca has been remiss in that department) but by the performances they offer and the emotions they engender. With that in mind, there is no denying that Barcelona is an outstanding team, possibly still the best in the world. It's just that, over 180 minutes, it ran into Inter at the wrong time. No