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José Mourinho and his knack for winning major European finals

Another European football season has been and gone in a flash, and José Mourinho has added another title to his increasingly impressive résumé — taking his career tally to a remarkable 26 trophies in 22 years of management, five of which have been in major European finals with four different sides! 

The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ made a name for himself in his homeland of Portugal, winning his maiden UEFA Cup and Champions League trophies with Porto in back-to-back seasons, with a victory over Celtic in the former in 2002-03 and Monaco in the 2003-04 Champions League, and he doubled his tally in Europe’s premier competition with Inter Milan six years later, getting the better of Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabéu. 

Fast forward to the 2016-17 season and Mourinho is working wonders with a mediocre at best Manchester United side, winning his second Europa League title with the Old Trafford outfit before famously finishing second in the Premier League to their local rivals Manchester City the following season — which he later described as one of the best achievements of his career. 

Following a barren spell at Tottenham Hotspur, where he was sacked by Daniel Levy just days before the League Cup final against Pep Guardiola’s side — which Spurs ultimately lost with Ryan Mason at the helm — Mourinho was announced as the new head coach of Italian Serie A side Roma, and many claimed that we were all witnessing the beginning of the end of Mourinho’s time at the top of football management.

It was perhaps a fair argument. With all due respect to Roma, they aren’t exactly often one of the favourites to win the Scudetto in the football odds in this day and age and it was arguably a step backwards for Mourinho — especially at this later stage of his career when his last few jobs have largely been considered failures.

However, the 59-year-old did what he does best in his first season in charge of the Rome-based outfit — silence his critics by winning yet another European trophy. 

While the Conference League isn’t exactly the most glamourous or established tournament in the continent, Mourinho certainly won’t take any notice of that as he became the first manager to win all three of Europe’s club competitions. 

What’s more impressive is the fact that he has now won all five of his appearances in major European finals, while his sides have done so without conceding a single goal in each of the last four of those matches — beating Monaco 3-0 and Bayern 2-0 in the 2003-04 and 2009-10 Champions League finals, Ajax 2-0 in the 2016-17 Europa League final and Dutch side Feyenoord 1-0 in the conclusion of the 2021-22 Conference League.

His style of football is certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing by any means, with lovers of the sport often left frustrated by his team’s performances, but love it or hate it you can’t deny the fact that it works. 

There is, of course, proven logic and reasoning to his defensive, ‘park the bus’, methods, and while it might not work all the time domestically, it clearly does in European finals when there is so much at stake and the game is totally different tactically to a 90-minute league or cup match. 

The Conference League victory won’t diminish the claims that his career is on a downward spiral, but a season away from two toxic dressing rooms has reminded everyone just how good Mourinho can be. And with rumours swirling that he could replace Mauricio Pochettino at Paris Saint-Germain this summer, it has perhaps helped him become a wanted man by Europe’s powerhouses once again.  

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