The season that defied all odds – Inter Milan’s treble in 2010 was the high point of Mourinho’s career
There were no brain games on this evening. No craziness or fake gestures. These emotions, these tears, were all too genuine and fiery.
Inter Milan had just completed a historic treble after beating Bayern Munich in the 2010 Champions League final in Madrid. Jose Mourinho’s Italian project was completed and he knew, everyone knew, that a separation of roads was inevitable.
So seeing the Portuguese, at the highest heights after claiming his second European Cup, and turning his eyes out with center back Marco Materazzi outside the Santiago Bernabeu – his future home – was a surreal scene. Two of football’s alleged bad agents, embracing one whole for real showing raw passion.
Jose Mourinho embraces Marco Materazzi after their 2010 Champions League win
The pair previously celebrated on the field when Mourinho historically left Inter Milan
For all of Mourinho’s stunning triumphs, in Porto, Chelsea (twice) and Madrid, his two-year spell at Internazionale was his greatest achievement. An achievement that has never been achieved in Italy’s rich football history and has not been achieved since.
Even Arrigo Sacchi or Carlo Ancelotti’s star-studded sides around town didn’t win every big trophy in one season. Diego Maradona in the south of Naples was nowhere near the European Cup, while Juventus’ domestic dominance in the past decade has yet to translate into the ultimate European prize.
But to understand how this legendary year came about, how the best Barcelona team ever was conquered and how Materazzi’s tears embodied everything that Inter Milan stood for 2009-10, we need to take this back to the beginning and the departure of a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Inter Milan’s historic treble in 2010 was the perfect starting point for Jose Mourinho at the club
The Portuguese manager led his team to an achievement never before achieved in Italian football
In Mourinho’s first season with Inter Milan, winning the Serie A by a margin of ten points was not enough. Owner Massimo Moratti, due to his incompetence in Europe, had specifically waived his predecessor in the dugout Roberto Mancini despite three consecutive Scudettos.
When Inter rightly crashed against Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions League, Mourinho was staggering. He knew better than anyone that a change in mentality was needed.
So when Pep Guardiola, fresh from a debut season’s own treble, wanted Nerazzurri’s top scorer and irresistible star at Camp Nou, on paper, Inter’s European hopes took a serious hit.
In addition, Mourinho was very fond of Ibrahimovic. Parallels in selfishness and charisma made the couple a perfect marriage, but in the summer of 2009 Jose saw the deal as an opportunity.
He let the Swede go in exchange for the small £ 59 million issue and Samuel Eto’o, who had scored against Manchester United in that year’s Champions League final. In retrospect, this was a masterful blow from Mourinho.
He used the money at his own discretion and also acquired Diego Milito and Thiago Motta from Genoa, veteran center back Lucio from Bayern Munich, versatile attacker Goran Pandev from Lazio and Wesley Sneijder from Real Madrid, but to unleash his full potential.
Suddenly the core of Mourinho’s side had taken shape. Skillful and working players at their best, but above all willing to run a thousand miles and more for their manager – something Zlatan was not naturally built for.
While the pair agreed, the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a blessing in disguise for Mourinho
The signing of playmaker Wesley Sneijder from Real Madrid was an important addition for Mourinho
However, what people often forget is that Inter Barcelona met earlier that season in the group stage of the league. Mourinho and Co staggered to second place, unable to win against the Catalans.
But by the turn of the year, driving high inland again, something changed. Not only within the team, but throughout the club, a stockade mentality had developed, against anything and everything that contradicted Mourinho’s way of working.
For example, Mourinho was irrevocably sincerely angry with decisions by referees who went against Italy in the top flight of Italy.
All too aware of the power of his actions, an unforgettable handcuff gesture sent administrative pulses to the cameras in February. A ban on three games. Do you think Mourinho cared about it?
Mourinho makes a handcuff to officials during a Serie A clash in Milan in February 2010
Against former flame Chelsea in their first European knockout hurdle, this beleaguered unison was in full flow against Carlo Ancelotti – one of Chelsea’s best who would win the double.
After Inter firmly won the first leg 2-1, Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge as the star of the show, from chatting his ex-players in the tunnel to beating Ancelotti in 90 grueling minutes. A late strike by Samuel Eto’o sealed a final eighth berth, and an even later red Didier Drogba card illustrated how Inter’s tenacity and resilience could play with the world’s best.
This was the first sight of the shut-up-shop mentality of the Serie A side, and for all its critics, teams consistently couldn’t find an answer to Mourinho’s Italian job. Play to win, but don’t dare to lose.
Samuel Eto’o celebrates his goal at Stamford Bridge that sealed Inter’s spot in the quarterfinals
But after a clear victory against CSKA Moscow in the quarterfinals, the last four Mourinho struck another former flame. He was about to declare war on Tiki-taka in all its glory.
Books have been written about Jose Mourinho’s tumultuous relationship with FC Barcelona. Once a translator, then a coach, but never a top dog.
Before joining Inter, Mourinho was in the running to become the next head coach at Camp Nou. Presentation with spirit, ideas conveyed. Still, much to the dismay of the Portuguese, Barca took a different direction, wary of conflicting personal and football ideologies. And Mourinho – king of grudges, if you will – has never forgotten.
These two games, with the treble at stake, were the ultimate challenge for Jose Mourinho. How do you stop Lionel Messi and Pep Guardiola?
In the first game, in the San Siro, a near perfect performance of tactical discipline and turning chances meant Inter took a 3-1 lead in the first leg.
Strokes drawn, the pressure increased to the maximum, Mourinho threw the glove down.
“One thing is to follow a dream, one thing is to follow an obsession,” he began in his bombastic Machiavellian manner during the pre-game press conference.
“This is not an obsession, it is just a dream. We have a dream to play in the Champions League final.
“It’s not a dream for Barcelona. It is an obsession. There is a difference between a dream and an obsession. A dream is purer than an obsession. A dream is about pride …
“This is no longer a dream for them. It is an obsession and the obsession is called Madrid and Santiago Bernabeu. ‘
Mourinho’s defensive style was the opposite of Pep Guardiola’s possession-based game
Journalists drooled. Never have so few words formed so many news lines. This was peak Mourinho – all of his barmy, engaging eccentricities rolled in a 60-second period. Call it what you want – confidence or stubbornness, perhaps both – but Mourinho only played thinking games of this kind when his belief was on an unshakable level. This was such a moment in his career.
BARCELONA 1-0 INTER MILAN (2-3 AGG.)
Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Round: Champions League semi-final return game
Barcelona: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito (Maxwell 46), Xavi, Keita, Busquets (Jeffren 63), Y Toure, Messi, Pedro, Ibrahimovic (Bojan 63)
Goals: Pique 84
Inter Milan: Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Zanetti, Chivu, Motta, Sneijder (Muntari 66), Cambiasso, Eto’o (Mariaga 86), Milito (Cordoba 81)
Bookings: Cesar, Lucio, Chivu, Muntari
Red cards: Motta
Referee: Frank De Bleeckere
You knew before the game that he would have a plan of cunning proportions. Somehow to keep the Barca juggler on his way. And deep down you knew that this second stage would not be for the purists.
The term “Parking the Bus” has often been casually thrown in recent years to represent a team that operates in a deep, defensive manner. But this was the first time that this phrase was coined. Or to continue, as Mourinho would later say, “we parked the plane.”
Barcelona poked and toiled, but it was not enough. Not even after Inter Motta retired in the first half, courtesy of some exceptional Sergio Busquets actors. Not even after Gerard Pique scored with six minutes to go.
Never had a late 1-0 defeat felt so worthwhile. Inter was on his way to Madrid and even a hot-headed teen named Mario Balotelli couldn’t be in the limelight at the start of his controversial-ridden career.
Usually not one for humility in victory, Mourinho basked in his triumph, sprinted onto the field and gestured straight up at the director’s box. Even an enraged Victor Valdes, racing to confront him, was now unable to stop The Translator.
Then a purring Mourinho said, “I’ve won big games, I’ve had great moments in my career. This is the best. ‘
Mourinho celebrates his Inter side taking out Barcelona by running onto the field
The Portuguese boss pointed to the director’s box as he recorded the famous victory
Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes took offense at the extensive celebration of Mourinho
After being in the lead for so long, Inter finally tripped over the line on the last day to reach Serie A with two points from Roma. 11 days earlier, they won the Coppa Italia, thanks to a Diego Milito attack on the same opponents in the Italian capital.
From then on, with the treble alluringly close, all roads led to Madrid and although opponents Bayern, coached by Mourinho’s mentor years ago by Louis Van Gaal, peaked in their cycle, Mourinho would have his fitting swan song.
Mourinho kisses the Coppa Italia after Inter Roma defeated for their first trophy at three
Diego Milito celebrates his second goal against Bayern in the 2010 Champions League final
On the night, it was a finale that never really came to life – just as Mourinho had envisioned. A double by top scorer Milito, a zero and a season for all ages, which defied all odds, was complete.
Poetically, Mourinho saw his conquest come to an end and the scene of his last victory would be his next destination. Triggered by his hostile nature, he fancied a bit more of Pep and Barcelona. Six days later, Real Madrid appointed him as manager.
But it is worth remembering the season when a football club was their manager’s sincere embodiment. Courage, defiance and disobedience, the Internazionale institution swarmed into Mourinho’s mindset at cost, like bees for honey.
Seeing how the man has changed in recent years amid turmoil in London, Manchester and back to London is daunting for fans of the game. Perhaps inevitable in the reverse career that is football management, but nonetheless daunting.
Mourinho was hugged by his backroom staff after completing a historic treble in Madrid
He lifts the Champions League trophy after winning his last game for Inter Milan
That is why his time at Inter should be remembered so lovingly ten years ago. Still eager to prove to himself and the world that he was the stars’ 21st century coaching gift, the gray-haired football genius reached a glorious peak. His players also peaked and struggled to adjust when Rafael Benitez arrived that summer.
Most heartwarming, however, was that Mourinho had a desirable yet unmistakable bond with his players, which has never been more apparent in that moment of intimacy with Materazzi, a 92-minute substitute at night.
An immeasurable bond that Mourinho has rarely seen since in his next decade in management. Not often does professional sports have such a perfect crescendo, which ends with the pinnacle. Inter 2010 is the modern deviation.