Friday 23 March 2018

Mourinho coy on Inter future after special kind of triumph

Ian Chadband

AS Jose Mourinho has always believed, anything another brilliant manager can do, he can do better.

It took the Inter Milan boss less than 24 hours here in Siena to provide the perfect riposte to his old sparring partner Carlo Ancelotti's double with Chelsea by emulating the feat in Italy.

And being Mourinho, of course, he presumes that following yesterday's annexation of the Serie A Scudetto to go with the Coppa Italia, and with the Champions League final to follow in Madrid on Saturday, he can make his celebration tipple a treble.

Yet whether it will be a glass raised in farewell to Inter, what with next week's decider looking suspiciously like the final audition for the Real Madrid job on its own stage, remains to be seen.

Despite seeming quite rheumy eyed following the most nerve-racking of his six league title triumphs, carved out in three countries over these past eight triumphant years, Mourinho said afterwards: "I will give two or three days to myself after the final to think before taking any decision."

This evidently felt like the most special one for the Special One. With his unrivalled theatrical penchant, how to celebrate Inter's fifth successive league title triumph at the Stadio Artemio Franchi? By racing on to the pitch like a wide-eyed lunatic? Or chucking his medal into the crowd?

No, this time after Inter's 1-0 win he gave us his Invisible Man impression, ghosting down the tunnel almost before the whistle had blown.

The afternoon appeared to have left him even greyer. "I'm used to winning titles with a few weeks to go, not on the last day. I'm drained," he said. Even when persuaded later to emerge for the trophy presentation, he seemed almost tearful, only increasing the feeling that this may have been his arrivederci to Italy, with whom he has enjoyed a relationship usually enjoyed between a cobra and mongoose.

Rather than a regal procession, this had been a more nervy afternoon than Mourinho would have liked, with the title actually destined for Claudio Ranieri's Roma with just over half an hour left.

Needing to win to be assured of the title, it was expected Siena, in their lovely little tree-lined amphitheatre nestled beneath the 13th-century walls of the San Domenico Basilica, would not have a prayer of stopping them.

Instead, just as divine intervention stalled Mourinho's old rival Ancelotti for a while on Saturday, Siena, proud and occasionally enterprising, were saved for nearly an hour by the bar, by profligate finishing and fine goalkeeping.

Like the Italian written press, snubbed as usual afterwards, someone up there evidently didn't like Mourinho. With Roma winning 2-0 at Chievo, even Mourinho's designer-suited cool was unravelling a mite.

Perhaps his pre-match joke about Roma paying Siena to beat his side, which had enraged Serie A again, was about to backfire? But then his magnificent captain, Javier Zanetti, took matters into his own hands, barrelling past two defenders and releasing Diego Milito, who just beat the offside trap to slot home. How Zanetti cannot be in Argentina's World Cup squad is a scandal only Diego Maradona can explain.

Inter's officials went barmy, all sprinting off to the track behind the goal to salute the flare-chucking throng. Except Mourinho. He just raged at their presumption that it was already all over. Once it was, following a late couple of genuine scares for Inter, one could only feel sympathy for one particular serial victim.

How sweet it would have been for Ranieri, loved here in a way Mourinho never could be, if Roma had prevailed at the last, because he had been so rattled by the old viper's wicked tongue all season that, on this last weekend, he had finally snapped.

Asked about his old foe, Ranieri had had enough. "He really bores me with the things he says," he growled.

Oh dear. Before he knew it, Mourinho had posted a response on the Inter website, asking: "What is the boredom of Ranieri? All I know about is 'The Nausea' of Jean-Paul Sartre." Poor old Claudio; you would have thought he'd know by now the philosopher king always gets the last word. Bayern Munich will probably find out too. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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