Mourinho the immovable object meets irresistible Sevilla force

Jose Mourinho had the air of a man who has been here several times before. 

Dressed in an oversized white T-shirt with a dark jumper tied around his shoulders, the Portuguese prowled his side’s final training session on the eve of another European final.

In these situations, one-off games, there are few more qualified to handle the occasion. He is a man who, in the week of a major final, goes ‘into the tunnel’.

“It’s been a week where none of us have slept at night, there is a lot of excitement,” one Roma supporter said as he sought to calm his nerves in Heroes’ Square (Hosok tere), one of the landmark locations in the heart of Budapest, host city of Wednesday’s Europa League final with Sevilla.

“We are excited but also full of energy and let’s hope for the best. Tomorrow will be a very long day, it will never pass by.”

Roma coach Jose Mourinho follows the action
Jose Mourinho could become the most decorated manager in the history of major European competition

According to reports, Mourinho has been extremely strict as to who is allowed in Roma’s training centre and has banned certain members of staff from entering the grounds in Trigoria.

The Portuguese boss has reached five European finals in his career, winning every single one he has appeared in. He knows what works.

With five major European titles to date – the UEFA Cup in 2003, the Champions League in 2004 and 2010, the Europa League in 2017 and the Europa Conference League in 2022 – he is a man you want in your corner on nights such as these.

Sevilla's Erik Lamela, left, celebrates after scoring
Sevilla are going in search of a seventh title

“He’s different, he makes you realise the importance of the match,” Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini said earlier this month, insisting that all credit should be directed towards Mourinho for the team’s success.

“We came here and everyone knew what they had to do. We study, we organise ourselves, we watch videos. Especially in Europe, you can see what the coach brings us. Mourinho is the creator of this personality of ours.”

Acuna banned, Dybala set to be passed fit

Sevilla will be without talismanic left back Marcos Acuna, who was sent off in extra time in the second leg of the semi-final against Juventus, which Sevilla won 2-1 for a 3-2 aggregate victory, for time wasting after a second yellow card.

Roma will have full-back Leonardo Spinazzola back after a muscle strain, while forwards Stephan El Shaarawy and Paulo Dybala should also be fit.

Bright sunshine in Budapest, the man from Setubal has come a long way since being hand-picked by Porto, two years after quitting Benfica.

The 2002/03 season was career-defining for Mourinho, marking the start of his affinity with European silverware as victory over Martin O’Neill’s Celtic in the UEFA Cup completed a treble success.

Under the lights of the Puskas Arena, Mourinho will have the chance to add to his legacy, having also won the Europa League with Manchester United in 2017.

Roma's head coach Jose Mourinho, left, celebrates
Mourinho reaffirmed his loyalty to Roma, where he is under contract until 2024

At 60, Mourinho strikes a more measured tone when it comes to speaking on his own success.

“My concern isn’t marking my place in the Roma history books,” he told Sky Sports. “It’s helping these kids (players) to grow, to achieve important things.

“It’s also helping the Roma fans who have given me so much since day one. It’s an immense joy to get to another final.”

It is quite startling that Mourinho has more European titles than Sevilla head coach Jose Luis Mendilibar has total games managed in those same competitions.

Having only joined Sevilla two months ago on a short-term contract after the sacking Jorge Sampaoli, the 62-year-old’s career is already peaking.

Jose Luis Mendilibar turned around Sevilla's fortunes
Jose Luis Mendilibar has turned around Sevilla’s fortunes

Like Roma, Sevilla are short of finishing in LaLiga’s top four, but the Andalusians have overgone a remarkable turnaround having flirted with relegation earlier in the campaign.

Mendilibar, Sevilla’s third different manager this term, took over with the club two points clear of the relegation zone but they are now just a point off seventh place going into the final round of domestic fixtures this weekend.

“People didn’t expect we would do something like this and we have achieved it,” said Mendilibar, who has lost just twice in 11 league games and claimed the scalp of Manchester United in the previous round.

The stakes couldn’t be any higher – in stark contrast to what Mourinho said of this competition 10 years ago that became infamous.

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Jose Mourinho has claimed that Tottenham are the only one of his previous clubs that he no longer has a connection with

“If I win the Europa League it will be a big disappointment for me because I don’t want to play in it,” he said on being re-appointed by Chelsea. It was seen as throwing shade on his predecessor Rafa Bentez who weeks earlier as Blues interim coach won the 2013 Europa title.

At Roma, he is demonstrating precisely what Daniel Levy had hoped he would achieve at Tottenham.

Twelve months ago, he guided Roma to their first trophy in 11 years, beating Feyenoord in the Europa Conference League final.

The feat made him only the third manager – after Udo Lattek and Giovanni Trapattoni – to have won all three existing major European trophies.

It also marked him as the first to achieve the UEFA treble by winning the Champions League, UEFA Cup/Europa League, and Europa Conference League – in place of the defunct UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

Europa League final - Sevilla vs AS Roma
Follow Sevilla vs Roma in our dedicated live blog

Even with Financial Fair Play regulations dictating that Roma could only spend £6m in the January transfer window, Mourinho has guided his side to back-to-back European finals.

The Italian club could win a major European title in consecutive seasons, which has been achieved on four previous occasions – Inter Milan in 1964 and 1965, Milan in 1968 and 1969, Juventus in 1984 and 1985, and Milan again in 1989 and 1990.

Their failure to land a Champions League berth via their position in Serie A was confirmed at the weekend after a 2-1 defeat at Fiorentina.

Sixth in the table, another season in the Europa League is not yet guaranteed if results go against them on the final day, with Juventus only a point behind them.

Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's opening goal during the Europa League quarter finals second leg soccer match between Sevilla and Manchester United, at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Thursday, April 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Breton)
Sevilla were too strong for Man Utd in the Europa League quarter-finals

At the end of a long, arduous season it is still all to play for – as always when it comes to Mourinho in May.

Sevilla stand in his way. The Spanish outfit have won the competition six times, the most of any club in history, and on each occasion they have reached the final.

Should they win their seventh title here, only five sides will have more major European trophies – Real Madrid (16), Barcelona (12), Milan (nine), Liverpool (nine) and Bayern Munich (eight).

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Sky Sports News’ chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol explains why Roma boss, Jose Mourinho wore a microphone in his team’s game with Monza

But Mourinho is no stranger to finals on the big stage. This will be his 14th major cup if they can go all the way in Hungary.

Should Roma lift the trophy, Mourinho will be the most decorated manager in the history of major European competition, going clear of Trapattoni’s five honours.

What happens when the immovable object meets the irresistible force?

Wednesday marks an opportunity for Mourinho to reaffirm his relevance in the modern game, when some have questioned whether he still warrants being mentioned in the same breath as other visionaries among the elite.

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After 10 years without a Premier League title for Manchester United, we look at the Red Devils’ managerial appointments and their highest and lowest points

Earlier this month, Sky Sports reported that Paris Saint-Germain have shown tentative early interest in him as their next manager. The French champions will assess their options at the end of the season, with current head coach Christophe Galtier out of contract in 2024.

His future at Roma is uncertain heading into the summer, but while the Portuguese may consider a change of club, his sole focus will be on another masterclass, as the trickster of Sevilla.

“If they called, they didn’t find me,” was Mourinho’s light-hearted response when asked if PSG had contacted him.

He will be front and centre to the drama on Wednesday. With both records on the line on the banks of the Danube, expect fireworks.

Follow Sevilla vs Roma in the Europa League final via our dedicated live blog on Wednesday from 7pm.

PSG show tentative early interest in Mourinho becoming their next boss

Paris Saint-Germain have shown tentative early interest in Roma boss Jose Mourinho becoming their next manager.

The French champions will assess their options at the end of the season, with current head coach Christophe Galtier out of contract in 2024.

Mourinho’s future as Roma boss is uncertain heading into the summer and the Portuguese may consider a change of club.

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Take a look at Jose Mourinho’s highs and lows as Manchester United manager

The 60-year-old has a great relationship with PSG sporting director Luis Campos after the pair worked together at Real Madrid.

Mourinho, whose Roma contract expires at the end of next season, guided the Italian side to a first European trophy since 1961 with victory in last season’s Europa Conference League.

The former Manchester United manager is aiming for back-to-back European successes with Roma, who take on German side Bayer Leverkusen in the semi-finals of the Europa League with the first leg in Italy on Thursday.

Domestically, Roma sit seventh, five points outside the Champions League places with four games remaining.

The former Tottenham head coach is yet to manage in France and a potential move to PSG would see him take charge of his 10th different club after spells at the likes of Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan.

PSG are set for a summer of upheaval with Lionel Messi likely to leave the club, while Neymar faces an uncertain future as the club still search for a first Champions League title.

PSG, who were knocked out of both the Champions League and the French Cup this season at the last-16 stage, are six points clear at the top of Ligue 1 with four games left.

Matic: Man Utd will challenge for PL title next season

Nemanja Matic tells our senior reporter Tim Thornton he thinks Manchester United will challenge for the title next season and Harry Maguire is worth his place in the England side.

In an exclusive interview in Rome, Matic also explains how Chelsea will need to balance their squad next season, and why Mauricio Pochettino could be a good fit to take over as the Chelsea boss.

He talks about Jose Mourinho’s relentless pursuit of success, why he’s surprised Chris Smalling isn’t in the England squad and reveals if he owned a big football club, he’d want to sign Jude Bellingham.

Matic also discusses his ambition to become a Premier League manager…

‘He’s more experienced but Jose never changes’

Roma's head coach Jose Mourinho leaves the field
Jose Mourinho is battling on two fronts still

We are coming towards the end of your first season at Roma. How much have you enjoyed the challenge of playing in Italy?

“I really enjoy it here. I like the club, I like the conditions that we have to perform so I’m very happy. We play some good football.

“We are fighting for the top four in the league and we’re also in the semi-finals of the Europa League so I’m looking forward to the end of the season and we’ll see what happens.”

It is the third time you have played under Jose Mourinho. Can you give us an insight into what it’s like to play for him?

Matic has continued to work under Jose Mourinho
Matic has continued to work under Jose Mourinho

“He’s a fantastic manager who has won so many trophies. He always wants to win more and. I have to say that I’m proud to play for him. Sometimes it is not easy, he’s never happy and always wants to win more and wants you to improve every day, but I like that.”

He is more experienced now. Has he changed from Chelsea, to Manchester United and now Roma?

“He’s more experienced but Jose never changes. It depends on the situation and the players he has in the team, but he knows very well his job.

“When you know him well he’s funny, and every player that plays under him will say the same.”

He recently took charge of his 100th game as Roma boss. He won the Europa Conference League last season, how big an achievement would it be if Roma were to win back-to-back European trophies this season?

“I think that would be something amazing and we’ll all do our best to achieve that, because we have the best supporters in Italy and they deserve that.”

How big a part has Chris Smalling played in the success at Roma and are you surprised that he’s not to be in the England squad?

Roma's Chris Smalling has been performing well
Roma’s Chris Smalling has been performing well

“Chris is a fantastic player, very experienced and for me he’s one of the most important players in the team. I’m very surprised he’s not in the England squad, but the manager chooses the team.

“For our club it is better he has more time to rest during the international break. He’s doing very well here, everyone loves him and he’s a great professional and a great player. He’s a great man off the pitch and I’m very happy to be sharing a dressing room with him again.”

Tammy Abraham had a terrific first season but has found it more challenging this year. Is he still improving, still getting better?

Tammy Abraham has excelled since moving to Italy

“He’s a young players who is still improving. He’s not scoring like he did last season, but everything can change in the last month. Now we have the most important games of the season and he just needs to believe, continue to work, and the goals will come.”

You played for two of the biggest clubs in the Premier League in Manchester United and Chelsea. How do you reflect on that time?

“I’m very proud to have represented two of the biggest clubs in England. I lived the dream playing in the Premier League for Chelsea and Manchester United, it was a great achievement. I will always remember those clubs in a positive way and they have a special place in my heart.”

It has been a period of change at Chelsea. What do you make of this transitional period and will the new manager require time and patience?

Matic is seeking a top-four finish in Serie A
Matic is seeking a top-four finish in Serie A

“I think so. I have to say Chelsea did a great job signing so many talented players, but in the future, next season, they’ll need to make some balance between experience and young players. When you sign six, seven or eight young top talented players they all expect to play and that is a problem.

“Some will need time to adapt to the Premier League. They will need six more months or one season to adapt, but during that transition the experienced players can help them. I think at the end of the season they’ll understand what the problem was and they will try to change. Next season I expect Chelsea to be much better, but it is going to be very difficult.”

Mauricio Pochettino with his Premier League experience. Would he be a good fit?

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“He’s a great manager. He showed at Spurs and PSG that he can play some great football. He has experience and I know he’s very professional and a very honest person, so why not?”

What do you make of the job that Erik ten Hag is doing at Manchester United?

“I like the way he wants to play, I like the way United are playing. They have had some ups and downs and that is normal with a new manager. But I’m happy with how they have progressed and I think next season they will fight for the title for sure. “

Marcus Rashford had a tough period last season but he’s come back and been in sensational form this season. Has he surprised you with his form?

Roma are seeking Champions League qualification
Roma are seeking Champions League qualification

“He’s young like Tammy, and if one season they aren’t doing well it doesn’t mean the next season they won’t be the best on the pitch and that is the case with Marcus. For me, he’s one of, it not the best United player. He scores so many goals and he just needs to continue. For one player to perform he needs the support of all the team.

“If United as a team are doing well then always one player will appear a star. The good thing is that the star is a striker or winger or midfielder. In previous seasons we had the star of David de Gea and if your goalkeeper is the star that is not good and you are in trouble.

“I’m happy for Marcus because he’s a talented player and a very good person.”

One player who does get criticised a lot is Harry Maguire. Can you see why Gareth Southgate continues to pick him for England and is a lot of the criticism very unfair?

“I can understand why he’s playing for England because he’s a great player. When he signed for United, in his first season he played almost every game and he was one of the best players. The problem today is that if you play two or three games not great, with social media, everyone criticises you and maybe that affected him.

“But he has to think only about his job because in football everything can change in a few weeks. His situation doesn’t look great at the moment but he needs to be focused. He’s very professional and we’ll see what the future brings for him.”

Two young players that are making a big impact in Europe. Firstly, Jude Bellingham, a midfield player like you. How highly do you rate him?

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Jude Bellingham shows why he’s in such high demand with a slick touch and finish to give Borussia Dortmund against Eintracht Frankfurt.

“I have to be honest, the games I saw him play he looks so mature for his age, a proper player. The games I’ve seen him he looks very good. If I’m the owner of a big club I’d like to have him.”

And Victor Osimhen is another young player that has made a big impact in Italy this season. Is he a player that could be a big success in the Premier League?

Matic continues to perform at the top level
Matic continues to perform at the top level

“If the team performs well it is easier for the attacking players to jump out and show his quality and be a star. Napoli are playing good football, Osimhen is scoring goals and when strikers score goals everyone talks about them, but no one talks about defenders and that is a problem for us at the back.”

One striker that everyone is talking about is Erling Haaland. Do you think he can help Manchester City to win the treble?

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“I think so. I had a bet in our dressing room with Tammy a few months ago. He says Arsenal will win, I said City will win.

“They have everything in their hands. They have experience of playing those kind of games. One bad result can change everything but City have more chance.”

And finally your own future, you are having a terrific season, but have you considered going into management in the future?

“I’ve already decided I will be a manager one day. I’m doing my coaching licence, but at the moment I’m very focused on playing football. I feel good, fresh, and I think I still have another couple of years in my legs.

“But for sure, I will be a manager in the Premier League.”