UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE
Sevilla face Roma in the Europa League final: what is José Mourinho’s record in European finals?
The LaLiga side have won the competition six times but face a coach who also knows all about winning European finals.
Grass is green, water is wet and Sevilla win the UEFA Europa League. It’s almost inexplicably become one of the greatest feats in European soccer history in the last 17 years. Prior to 2006, the LaLiga side had never even come close to reaching a continental final. Since then, they’ve reached six, all in the same competition (if we consider the UEFA Cup as the Europa League’s predecessor), and won them all. On Wednesday, they can go seven for seven by beating Roma at the Puskás Aréna in Budapest. There’s only one problem: José Mourinho.
The Portuguese has been a divisive figure ever since he came to most of our attentions when at Porto in the early 2000s, by which time he had already had a spell working as a translator/interpreter/coach at Barcelona and managed Benfica (briefly) and União de Leiria in his homeland.
Mourinho has been criticised for everything from his perceived arrogance (his legendary “I’m a special one” comment at his Chelsea unveiling) to his inflammatory comments in the media to his questionable touchline behaviour to his supposed not-exactly-easy-on-the-eye style of play.
How many European finals has Mourinho coached in and won?
But while domestic success feels like a long time ago (the last of Mourinho’s eight league titles came in his second spell with the Blues in 2014-15), is there any manager you’d less like to come up against in a one-off final?
The stats back it up. While Sevilla have won all six of their European finals, Mourinho has won all five of his. Something has got to give in Budapest.
2002/03 UEFA Cup
The final of the UEFA Cup in 2003 is when many of us will first have become aware of Mourinho’s work. Porto’s players were hugely criticised for their on-field antics (diving, time wasting, playacting) as they defeated Celtic in extra time in Seville. Others will claim that it’s all part of the game and getting the job done. And that’s exactly what they did.
2003/04 Champions League
Surely the most impressive achievement in Champions League history? Porto defeated Manchester United, Lyon and Deportivo to set up a final against Monaco, the last time not one of the so-called European ‘heavyweight’ made it that far. The Portuguese swept the Ligue 1 team aside 3-0 in the final, giving Mourinho license to utter his “special one” comment weeks later at Stamford Bridge.
2009/10 Champions League
Inter had won three league titles in a row (one awarded to them retrospectively in 2005/06 after Juventus and Milan were docked points) under Roberto Mancini before Mourinho pitched up at San Siro in 2008. The Portuguese continued their domestic success by guiding the team to back-to-back scudetti but it’s the 2009/10 Champions League triumph which will live longest in the memory, and especially his team’s all-out-defensive display to defeat Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona at Camp Nou in the second leg of the semi-finals. And let’s not forget about the celebrations on the field at full time. Inter dispatched Bayern Munich 2-0 in a relatively low-key final in Madrid.
Europa League 2016/17
Mourinho made the move to the Santiago Bernabéu dugout immediately after that final but was unable to take Real Madrid to the kind of European success we’ve become used to seeing from them in subsequent years. Despite one title and a League Cup win, his second spell a Chelsea was less prosperous than the first but in 2016 Manchester United still believed he was the man to restore them to their former glories after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement three years earlier.
It turned out that he wasn’t, yet he did achieve more than any of the Scot’s other predecessors. That included a Europa League victory in 2016/17, with the Red Devils downing Ajax in Stockholm after only narrowly scraping past Rostov, Anderlecht and Celta Vigo in earlier knockout rounds.
Europa Conference League 2021/22
Mourinho became the first manager to win all three of the current European club competitions as Roma won the inaugural Europa Conference League. The Italians hit the headlines earlier in the competition for their 6-1 group stage thrashing at the hands of Bodø/Glimt but avenged that defeat by beating the Norwegians in the quarter-finals. Nicolò Zaniolo scored the only goal of the final against Feyenoord in Tirana and, despite some viewing the Conference League as a ‘lesser’ competition, Mourinho was having none of it.
“The great thing about my career is that, aside from the Europa League with Manchester United, doing it with Porto, Inter and Roma is very, very, very special. It is one thing to win when everyone expects it, when you made the investments to win, but it’s quite another to win when something feels immortal, that feels truly special”.
Winning the Europa League would be a step back up and therefore presumably even more “special” for the Portuguese. The irresistible force meets the immovable object in Budapest on Wednesday.