Two excellent individual efforts by Diego Milito made the difference in Saturday’s Champions League final to complete Inter’s dream season and place the Italian club on course to match Barcelona’s unprecedented achievement in 2009. The moment of glory did not last as long as normal, however, as players and supporters alike started considering the implications of Mourinho’s imminent departure from the club, which was more or less confirmed in the hours following the final. Those two or three days of personal reflection were not necessary after all, as Mourinho essentially confirmed Real Madrid as his next “project”.
The match itself was not among the most spectacular of finals, it was evenly balanced for long stretches. On each side of Milito’s first goal, Bayern pushed hard via the Robben corridor, but Inter closed spaces quickly, committed no defensive blunders and enjoyed a sure performance from Brazilian goal-keeper Julio Cesar when tested. As the match went on it became apparent that only Robben could generate any threat. Robben tormented Inter left-back Cristian Chivu repeatedly and came close once, but in the end Milito’s stupendous second goal sealed Inter’s victory. To what must have been Lucio’s delight, Diego “El Principe” Milito got the better of De Michelis on the first goal and literally turned van Buyten inside out on the second. After that, the stadium became the setting for a memorable fiesta for the nerrazzuri supporters, confident that the Champions League was theirs for the first time since 1972.
Mourinho was visibly emotional at the end, celebrating with Zanetti, Cambiasso, Maicon and the rest of the players that he has turned into one unified group during Inter’s successful campaign. Perhaps Mourinho’s greatest achievement, what he will be remembered for most, will be his ability to lift Inter out of a culture of psychological fragility, to instill in the players a strong belief in their abilities to overcome the greatest of challenges through willpower, effort, cunning, efficiency, determination and courage. The Chelsea and Barcelona ties are exhibits A and B for Inter’s new character. Mourinho got all of the players on the same page about their roles within the club’s objectives and once he pieced together the winning formula, earlier this year, he never relinquished it.
Inter’s celebrations continued throughout the week-end at dimmed intensity, as it became more and more clear that, indeed, Jose Mourinho will leave Italy to take over Real Madrid. All of the business conditions are ideal for this transition and, despite his success at Inter, Mourinho did not make a lot of friends in Italy. His motivation is easily discernible. He wants to become the only manager to win the Champions League with three different clubs. He wants to conquer La Liga and let the record indicate that he was successful in four countries. Madrid is close to home. Madrid’s roster is already loaded with stars and super-stars, including Cristiano Ronaldo. The challenge Mourinho will face with Real is meshing the personalities and the egos of the Galacticos into one, single-purpose family, as he did at Inter. This is a very real challenge. He will be especially tough on Cristiano Ronaldo. Mourinho is a benevolent autocrat, it’s his way or the highway. Cristiano’s liaisons with fashion and pseudo-celebrities will not be tolerated. All of Real’s players will be required to be on top of their game, but Mourinho has a lot to work with already. Former Real and Inter man, Portuguese star Luis Figo, has been apparently lined up as Mourinho’s second in Madrid.
Speculation has some of Inter’s key players, including Milito and Maicon, following Mourinho to Real. Milito himself stopped short of committing himself 100% to Inter, despite three more years under contract. But Inter President Massimo Moratti, the proud guardian of the family jewel, moved quickly to kill the rumors. It appears that Mourinho had a contractual clause allowing him to leave under certain conditions, one of them being the Champions League win. Maicon and Milito will not go for less than astronomical transfer fees.