In a few short hours, Inter and Jose Mourinho will be engaged in an epic battle at Stamford Bridge for a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
This is an emotional return to the fortress that he built, a comeback as anticipated as it is now dreaded. When Jose Mourinho walks on to the turf at Stamford Bridge, expect a reception that may dwarf the one a certain David Beckham received last week at Old Trafford. Mou means a lot more to the legacy of Chelsea than Beckham does to the legacy of the Red Devils and now the Portuguese tactician has just one mission – to plot the downfall of the very bastion he created.
Make no mistake about it, he may still have feelings towards Chelsea, its players and its fans, but there is one thing Mourinho loves more than anything else, himself. For Mourinho, his success defines who he is, and if that means getting past the ones who helped him to his pedestal he will do it. We saw it at Chelsea when he faced Porto and we look set to see it tonight with Inter as his team goes into this pivotal clash.
Many have argued throughout his time in Italy that Mourinho’s tenure with the Nerazzurri is dependent on the success he achieves in Europe. Last year things didn’t quite go according to plan, as Inter crashed out at the last 16 stage once again to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. However, this team has been created purely out of Mourinho’s vision whilst, like a doting father, Massimo Moratti has spoilt his Coach with everything he has craved for and now expects due reciprocation.
Furthermore, taking a 2-1 lead into the second leg means that now the ball is firmly in Jose’s court. He can either adopt a policy of caution or look to take the game to his former club, his are the decisions which will shape this encounter. Inter’s desperation for European success is well known, but one must not overlook Mourinho’s hunger to reclaim for himself the most fabled of all prizes. He wanted it for Chelsea and he will want it even more for Inter.
The aura that Mourinho has created has been down to the fact that he has achieved what few in living memory have done before him. At Porto it was winning the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League in successive seasons. At Chelsea it was helping the team to its first league title in 50 years and so on and so forth. Now at Inter, for this halo of success to be maintained, he will need to propel the Nerazzurri to European glory.
The Italian media will love nothing more than to feed off the carcass of another Mourinho and Inter failure. Should Mou leave Inter without delivering this Holy Grail he will not be remembered for his domestic success but for being “the big-mouth the Italians shut up”. However, in that role of the narcissistic victim the Portuguese has always loved to play, bringing the European cup to Italy would be the ultimate accomplishment.