Jose’s big night
“Champions of three European competitions*, Carlo Ancelotti, Sir Alex Ferguson, Arrigo Sacchi, Bob Paisley, Zinedine Zidane, Pep Guardiola, Nereo Rocco, Louis van Gaal, Johan Cruyff and Jose Villalonga will never sing that! They’ll never sing thaa-”
No, we’re not counting the Super Cup, or the Intertoto Cup, or the Intercontinental Cup for that matter, and sure, some of those names are no longer with us, a couple have retired, and the rest have no intentions of playing in the UEFA Europa Conference League, but try telling Jose Mourinho that tonight doesn’t matter.
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"If I win I will become the first one to win all European trophies, but that's only if I win," Mourinho said, with his Roma side facing Feyenoord in the Conference League final in Tirana.
A UEFA Cup/Europa League winner with Porto (2003) and Manchester United (2017), and of course a Champions League winner with Porto (2004) and Inter (2010), Mourinho can become the first manager to add the Conference League to his collection.
Sure, Feyenoord boss Arne Slot can also scoop that accolade in what is the inaugural final of this new third-tier competition, but be prepared for The Jose Show when the final gets under way tonight.
And so, is it worth pooh-poohing this competition, or would it make him even more special? Tammy Abraham insists it is no “little cup”, and clearly Mourinho is eager to write another chapter in his managerial career book.
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"The 'Special One' story is an old story,” he added. “It was when I was at the beginning [of my career]. When you have more maturity and stability, you think more about the people and less about yourself.
"When you arrive at a final after a season of work, the work is done. It's the team's moment, not the moment of an individual.
"I don't believe in magical potions, I don't believe in magical spells. There's nothing special to be done, just us to be us as a team. Knowing the qualities we have, knowing the limitations we have. For me, no matter how the final ends, this is a positive season for us."
It’s clear. Mourinho wants to win. Obviously. It’s just a shame only 20,000 can pack the National Arena, with Jose quite rightly saying both fans would have been capable of filling the Bernabeu.
(*Yes, yes. We’ll grant you Giovanni Trapattoni and Udo Lattek, who both lifted the European Cup, UEFA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.)
And yes, yes, we get it. So let’s run through it quickly:
The right call because Liverpool were once trailing by 14 points but somehow pushed an incredibly strong Manchester City side the distance, on top of winning the EFL Cup and League Cup with a Champions League final to come, and after few pundits predicted them to even come second or third.
The wrong call because he didn’t win the title, it would seem.
Let’s all just move on, shall we. It’s just an award.
Southgate loves a right-back
“If I could have picked a fifth or sixth right-back I would have done,” Gareth Southgate said 357 days ago, when naming a Euro 2020 squad featuring Reece James, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
A year later and the England manager has only gone and named five!
In the latest instalment of I Can’t Believe He’s Picked X Over Y, Southgate has added James Justin to his collection of right-backs, with the Leicester player joining James, Walker, Trippier and Alexander-Arnold in the squad for next month’s Nations League games (yes, the season isn’t over yet).
Southgate may have forgotten to add a left-back, but at least there was recognition for Jarrod Bowen and Fikayo Tomori. Two deserved call-ups, although Leicester fans have been left wondering if James Maddison plays basketball…
IN OTHER NEWS
Spurs’ very public brag
Make no mistake, making this public – and specifically tweeting out the figure – was no mistake.
Fresh from beating Arsenal to the Champions League next season, Tottenham basically rubbed 7,500,000 £20 notes in their rivals’ faces when revealing an “equity injection” of £150m.
This “ability to further invest on and off the pitch” is also very much a plea to Antonio Conte, whose Spurs future still remains uncertain heading into the off-season.
Here’s an offer we hope you can’t refuse, Antonio. 150 big ones.
IN THE CHANNELS I
It has been a whirlwind few days for Jack Grealish since Manchester City won the Premier League. Naturally, he’s made his way to Ibiza, shoehorning as much fun as he can into his break before … ah!
England training next week…
IN THE CHANNELS II
The now-retired-from-management Neil Warnock made quite the Twitter introduction yesterday. The after-dinner circuit and plenty of punditry opportunities await!
It’s a big happy 37th birthday to syrup-loving, wondergoal-scoring Demba Ba today.
Many happy, syrupy returns.
As mentioned, it’s Roma v Feyenoord in the inaugural Conference League final tonight, and we’ll be blogging it right here. There’s also the Giro and French Open all day, so enjoy that with us too!
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