Jose Mourinho targets 6th European title as Sevilla seek to stay perfect
BUDAPEST – AS Roma coach Jose Mourinho has never lost a European football final while Sevilla are six from six in Europa League finals. Something has to give in Budapest on Wednesday.
The veteran Portuguese manager has five major continental titles to his name – two Champions League wins, two Europa League trophies and the 2022 triumph in the inaugural Europa Conference League with his Italian side.
Mourinho announced himself on the big stage in 2003 when he led Porto to the Uefa Cup, the Europa League’s precursor, and the following year he won the Champions League.
Inter Milan became champions of Europe on his watch for the first time in 45 years in 2010 and he celebrated his fourth continental trophy during his spell at Manchester United in 2017, winning the Europa League.
Twenty years on from his first European crown, he is defying the naysayers who said his career was on the wane after a disappointing trophy-less spell at Tottenham Hotspur.
If Roma are crowned Europa League champions in Hungary, Mourinho will pull clear of Giovanni Trapattoni, who also won five major European titles in his coaching career.
The much-travelled 60-year-old is in no doubt he is improving with age and experience.
“Better coach, better person, same DNA,” he said. “The DNA is motivation, is happiness. Desire for these big moments and these are the feelings that I try to pass to the boys.
“I think you can be better and better with your experiences. I think your brain becomes sharper and the accumulation of knowledge is better with the years.
“I think you stop when you lose motivation. My motivation grows every day... I am better now.”
Roma, who edged past Bayer Leverkusen in the semi-finals, are sixth in Serie A but victory against their Spanish opponents this week would be a passport into the Champions League.
Mourinho’s future beyond this season is uncertain but he says, for now, his only focus is on Wednesday’s match at the Puskas Arena.
To achieve his target, he must get past Sevilla, who are kings of Europe’s second-tier competition – their tally of six wins is double that of Inter Milan, Liverpool, Juventus and Atletico Madrid.
They are 11th in La Liga but have turned on the style in Europe, coming from 2-0 down at one stage in the first leg against Manchester United to see off the English giants before beating Juventus in the semis.
It is a remarkable end to the season for the club, who flirted with relegation for much of the campaign, sacking Julen Lopetegui and then Jorge Sampaoli, before Jose Luis Mendilibar steadied the ship.
Veteran wing-back Jesus Navas is aiming to win the Europa League for the fourth time, just two months after Mendilibar took charge. “We transform (on Europa League nights) and it’s incredible how we come out in every match,” said the former Manchester City player.
“It’s a competition that has given us a lot, and the joy it provides us drives us... What Jose Luis has done with us has been fundamental.
“He has brought the best out of us and, when you look at the teams we have eliminated, it’s something to be very proud of. He deserves to stay with us for a long time.
“He’s a coach who always pushes us and who has that work ethic to train hard and get the best out of us. His arrival has coincided with an incredible turnaround in our season.”
This season, an added goal is paying back the fans for their support after one of the worst La Liga campaigns in recent memory.
Since they were promoted in 2001, they have never finished in the bottom half, although they are only one point behind seventh-placed Osasuna with one game left. - AFP