Full Circle: Jose Mourinho To Face Former Mentor in UEFA Champions League Final
The similarities between the two teams in the Champions League final are numerous.
Both teams are among the giants of European football history. Both are chasing a treble. Both have arrived to the final in Madrid with the help of inspired performances from a Dutch former Real Madrid player. In Inter's case, Wesley Sneijder. In Bayern's Arjen Robben.
Both upset one of the previous season's finalists on the way.Neither was favored to win at the start of the season. Neither was a contender before the arrival of their current coach. Neither has won the European cup in years.
Both will be dying to win this one. But that is about as far as the similarities go.
Internazionale is made up, appropriately enough, almost entirely of international stars. You can literally count the number of Italians on the squad on one hand.
They are a team built from the defense. They are strong, experienced, and extremely hard to score against. They have the patience of an old fisherman, and hit you on the counter with speed that Manny Pacquiao would be proud of.
Bayern are a team built to attack. They play possession football with plenty of off-the-ball movement, and give their two wingers freedom to get forward. They are organized, energetic, and relentless. Fully half their squad is German (which is about as close as anyone gets to homegrown these days), and they blend youth with experience.
In short, these two teams reflect the coaches that built them.
Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho are old friends, but that does not mean they are similar. Mourinho cut his teeth as an assistant at Van Gaal's Barcelona, and has admitted that a large part of what he knows about organizing players on the field comes from the Dutchman.
Yet, despite the lineage, Van Gaal remains a coach who wins through attack, and Mourinho epitomises defensive football better than anyone in the modern age.
Since striking out on his own, Mourinho has been wildly successful, in many ways mirroring his mentor's early successes at Ajax and Barcelona. Many have forgotten that Van Gaal was also the hottest coaching commodity on the footballing market at one time.
A decade and a half may have passed since he first exploded onto the scene, but his successes at AZ Alkmaar and now Bayern have shown that he has not lost a step.
The two rival coaches no doubt know each other's methods well, and will be looking to exploit each other's smallest weaknesses. Both have a nearly full squad to call on, with only Ribery and Motta missing the match through suspension.
They possess everything they need to add their name to the exclusive list on managers who have won the Champions League with two different clubs.
Games at this level are usually decided by tiny details or a moment of brilliance, as Barcelona and Manchester United will attest.
Whichever coach sends his players out to turn those small key moments in their favor will have earned the right to call himself the master.
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