In Pictures: Mourinho celebrates Inter Milan's historic Champions League win
Inter Milan 2 Bayern Munich 0
Published 24/05/2010 | 02:24
Where Jose Mourinho goes, controversy is never far behind. A mere — mere? — list of his achievements makes no reference to the style, or otherwise, with which they were accomplished.
So as Saturday night became Sunday morning in the bowels of the Bernabeu, his latest victim and former mentor Louis van Gaal felt obliged to raise the question of artistic impression, an area in which he felt that Bayern have been superior all season to the new European champions.
If the experienced Dutchman's claim to have united Germany behind FC Hollywood for at least one night smacked of wishful thinking he can justifiably claim to have fashioned an entertaining side in his first season.
Like Carlo Ancelotti's new Chelsea, Bayern were comfortably top scorers in their league, running up the occasional seven-goal victory and equally important — if not more so, as Mourinho would doubtless claim — achieving a domestic Double.
Meeting a different level of opposition in the Champions League, where they were as lightly regarded as Internazionale last August, rendered an open approach more hazardous, but they rode their luck right from the group stage through the knockout rounds in defeating Fiorentina and Manchester United only on away goals.
“You mustn't forget that we chose a very difficult playing style,” Van Gaal said.
“I think that it's the most attractive for the public, but you can lose and we have to be on very good form to beat a team like Inter.”
That, he admitted, was not the case for long enough periods in the steamy heat of Saturday night, the exception being the 25 minutes at the start of the second half when an equaliser to Diego Milito's first goal was often threatened, only for German resistance to be effectively ended by the prolific Argentine's second.
“We did create chances but when you don't take them, then you lose the game,” Van Gaal added. “In a difficult game you need goals at the right time and Inter scored at the right time. The second Inter goal was decisive.”
He said he was proud of his team and proud too of the fact that over the course of the Champions League campaign Bayern and Barcelona had the highest ball possession; in Saturday's game, Uefa's statistics boffins gave Internazionale only 34 percent of it. Mourinho took so long to reach the post-match press briefing that there was no time to put that point to him but as a guess at his possible response, a sniff loud enough to be heard back in Milan is unlikely to be far wide of the mark.
What he did say was: “It was a provocation in a football sense when he (Van Gaal) said before the match Inter are a defensive team. But I knew what he wanted and I wanted the same thing — to win. We played a beautiful final and we deserved to win, not just for this match but for the whole run to the final.”
Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, such a description of Inter's performance will hardly have found universal agreement among the huge worldwide audience for the competition's first Saturday final. Mourinho was nearer the mark when, in defending the absence of any Italians in the team until Marco Materazzi was sent on for the final minute, he spoke of “a club with an Italian culture, proud to represent Italian football”.
It is another sign of cosmopolitan football times that Inter, winners of Serie A and the Champions League, do not have a single representative in Marcello Lippi's squad of 28 who arrived in Sestriere yesterday as part of the preparations in defence of the World Cup. What Saturday's success has done, however, is ensure that the country does not lose a Champions League place next season to Germany, who would have claimed one from them if Bayern had won.
Wesley Sneijder, a figure just as influential as he had been in the two victories over Chelsea, added: “We knew their backs were slow so we had to get at them. Mourinho told us to press forward. He is the architect. He designed the way we played and we executed the plan.”
Sneijder's former Real Madrid team-mate Arjen Robben, released along with him last summer to facilitate the signings of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo, represented Bayern's best hope of tearing up the architect's drawings. Mourinho will have known from recent study as much as memories of Chelsea days, that Robben is all left foot and that, playing wide on the right, he would constantly seek to turn inside. Cristian Chivu at left-back, however well briefed, still found difficulty coping, conceding a yellow card for dragging the Dutch winger back in the first half-hour. He was eventually substituted a minute after Robben had veered inside him again and hit Bayern's best effort of the night, a searing cross-shot that Julio Cesar did exceptionally well to turn over the bar.
A couple more minutes, however, and Samuel Eto'o sent Milito away for his second fine finish and another trophy was ready to be laid at Mourinho's feet.