When the final whistle went, the bar erupted. Through the raised fists, the smoke and the bodies hugging each other, you could just about make out the television screen as Inter manager
Immediately, the volume of the TV was turned down and the club's anthem burst out from the speakers, to a huge cheer. Soon, everyone was singing along; the perfect relief from the tension. It had all been worthwhile. A mile down the road, fans were spilling into the city's central square, waving flags and diving into the fountain. Passing cars and mopeds tooted their horns.
But this was not Milan; this was Madrid. The song booming out was not
On Tuesday, Mourinho insisted that for Inter Milan reaching the Champions League final was a dream while for Barcelona it was something completely different -- an "obsession." There was a simple reason: This year's final will be at Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and Barcelona fans couldn't imagine anything better than winning the European Cup at their rivals' home. As far as Mourinho was concerned, it was the
In the Spanish capital, they applauded Mourinho for hitting a nerve -- for introducing Mr. Nail to Mr. Head. With the aid of a sledgehammer. The truth hurts, they laughed. Mourinho had hit Barcelona right where it smarts most -- just as he did by playing in Madrid-style all-white and having Judas himself,
And, they said, what makes Barcelona sick is Real Madrid. They call it
Maybe so. But Wednesday night showed that so is Madrid. Rivalry cuts both ways. The moral high ground is built on sand, quick to crumble. "I'd like to think our fans will return to Cibeles to celebrate
The obsession that surrounded the final was felt on both sides of the divide: If Barcelona was obsessed with getting to the Bernabeu, Madrid was similarly obsessed with the fear of Barca doing just that. The final had been set to be the ultimate humiliation. Some newspapers started to attack former Real Madrid president
Wednesday night was a relief. As one newspaper cover put it: "Cibeles can sleep easy." Madrid has avoided the shame, the horrible prospect of watching Barcelona celebrate in its stadium, defaming its temple. Now, Madrid can wallow in someone else's success -- now, it can make Inter's its own.
Quite literally. Because while the presence in the final of the outstanding stars of this year's Champions League, Bayern's
And Mourinho has passed with flying colors. The headline on the front of
If Madrid does sign Mourinho and, better still, if it can either announce the signing or strategically leak it before May 22, it will be the perfect PR coup. Suddenly, it will have bought its way back into the final. If Inter then win it, Madrid will have won it too. Mourinho will be the perfect man for the job: He won the European Cup and he beat Barcelona. Something Real Madrid couldn't do for themselves.