Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Eccentric Bayern boss Louis might just spoil the party for Jose in Madrid

You could be forgiven for thinking there is only one manager involved in tomorrow night’s Champions League final between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich.

That’s Jose Mourinho for you though.

Even if the final wasn’t in the Bernabeu stadium, his next office, the self styled Special One would have dominated proceedings this week.

He can’t get enough of playing the media game. Real Madrid’s latest coach, to be unveiled next week, has an ego the size of the Grand Canyon.

Bayern counterpart Louis Van Gaal will have watched the Mourinho dominated build-up with interest. And been a bit put out I suspect.

You see, like Jose, Van Gaal, has never been behind the door in telling people just how good he is.

When Sir Alex Ferguson said he was leaving Manchester United at the end of the 2001-2002 season, Van Gaal was in line to replace him.

After Fergie changed his mind, the Dutchman said the following year: “I knew I was first on the list to succeed Ferguson. I don't have any contact with them now because I am coach of the national team but I can imagine that a club like Man United are still interested in Louis van Gaal.”

Unlikely now mate, Jose is going to get that job.

But will he beat Van Gaal’s team tomorrow night?

Having overcome the might of Chelsea and Barcelona en route to the decider thanks to Mourinho’s shrewd tactics, the Italians, without an Italian in their first choice starting line-up, are favourites.

But Van Gaal has shocked in Champions League finals before. Back in 1995, to go with three Dutch titles, he guided Ajax to a stunning triumph against AC Milan, then managed by Fabio Capello.

That earned him a crack at managing Barcelona two years later but despite winning two La Liga crowns in three seasons, he was about as popular with some fans at the Nou Camp as Mourinho is now. Falling out with Rivaldo didn’t do him any favours.

Still, that didn’t stop the Barca hierarchy bringing him back to take charge of the Catalan giants following a short, unsuccessful spell as Holland coach, only for him to leave six months later.

In 2004 he returned to Ajax as technical director but left later that year due to an internal conflict, before in 2005 turning up at AZ Alkmaar where he capped four enjoyable years with surprise league title glory.

Months later he took over at Bayern Munich, so big in Germany the equivalent in England would be a combined Liverpool AND Manchester United team.

Early on he looked doomed after disappointing results but things changed after a bust-up with Luca Toni. Objecting to the Italian striker slouching at the lunch table, Van Gaal pulled his ear in front of the squad during training.

Unconventional in the modern game, but it clearly worked. Toni went out on loan, Van Gaal stayed and the team started to produce, so much so that like Inter they won their league and cup. Now a treble is on for both.

A footnote to all this is Mourinho wrote scouting reports for Van Gaal at Barcelona.

Suffice to say there was a clash of personalities and they didn’t get on. Sure, we would all prefer to be watching brilliant Barca tomorrow, but Inter v Bayern might be more tasty than you think.

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