The build-up to this year’s Europa League final between Sevilla and Roma was marked by English fans experiencing strange feelings of nostalgia for Jose Mourinho. Two hours of cold-water-and-slap-in-the-face football acted as a sharp dose of reality.
Budapest’s opulent Puskas Arena was the setting for a homage to 2000s football; niggly, tetchy and with the kind of amateur dramatics you’d normally associate with a Home Counties production of Othello.
As a football match, it made sh*t-on-a-stick feel like an appetiser at the Ritz. As a piece of theatre, it was outstanding.
Mourinho was in his element, effing and jeffing throughout the 120 minutes and leaving no grievance left unaired. Future philosophers will spend hours debating how he was only booked deep into extra time.
And Sevilla’s success from the penalty spot, shattering Mourinho’s 20-year unbeaten record in European finals, sent the Roma boss into the kind of headspace that leaves you cramming Toberlone into your gob and absconding to Aberdeen.
As referee Anthony Taylor returned to his car, with the air of someone thinking that death would at least allow him some peace and quiet, he found a belligerent Mourinho waiting for him. Oh, crumbs.
“F***ing disgrace man, it’s a f***ing disgrace,” the former Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham manager exclaimed in English.
Mourinho then switched to some choice Italian oaths before scuttling away to the Roma team bus. However, unable to salvage a sliver of dignity, he turned back around and bellowed “Congratulations, you f***ing disgrace”.
It was vintage Mourinho, a scene elevated by the aesthetics; wearing his ropey polo and sunglasses perched on top of his silver dome, the 60-year-old had the attire and movement of a dad abroad remonstrating with a waiter about being ripped off a tapas restaurant.
Jose Mourinho to Anthony Taylor after the game last night: “You’re a f**king disgrace!!!”
— Football Talk (@FootballTalkHQ) June 1, 2023
“Next year we won’t be playing the Champions League and that’s a good thing because we’re not made for it,” Mourinho said in his post-match interview.
“And let’s hope that Taylor, only officiates games in the Champions League and does the same bullsh*t there that he did tonight, and not in the Europa League.
“It was an intense, vibrant game with a referee who seemed Spanish. It was yellow, yellow, yellow all the time. Today in all the dubious episodes, the yellow cards, the referee blew the whistle in favour of Sevilla.”
With the disingenuous delivery that’s marked his career, he added: “I am surprised because he is an international referee who has a great reputation.”
After giving his silver medal to a fan in the crowd, Mourinho thanked his players despite their defeat in Budapest.
“I’ve won five finals and I lost this one, but I’m coming back home proud again. The boys gave everything,” he told Italian television.
“We felt pressure against a team that has more talent than us. We lost a game but not dignity. I’ve never gone home prouder than today, even when I won. We had also worked hard on penalties but… we missed two – but all together, not only the penalty takers.”
This is all part of the Mourinho routine, praising his players while lambasting the rest of the world. The siege mentality it creates allows his players to go above and beyond for the cause and it’s not surprising many of his alumni still adore the Portuguese.
But English fans now view Mourinho like a parent of teenagers walking onto a plane and seeing a baby kicking off; mild feelings of nostalgia, before the overwhelming feeling of relief that he’s not our problem anymore.
By Michael Lee