Mourinho's toughest task: Restoring Real's Euro glory
Jose Mourinho has never been one to shy away from a difficult challenge.
Which is just as well, given that the Portuguese coach now faces what he last week called “the toughest challenge of my career”—taking fallen giants Real Madrid back to European glory.
The egotistical “Special One” is desperate to end Barcelona’s domestic domination in Spain, but he realises that the top priority at the club is to win a record-breaking 10th Champions League.
On a personal level, Mourinho would love to become the first coach to achieve Champions League glory with three different teams.
He first earned his spurs as a coach by guiding Porto to the continental crown in 2004. He narrowly failed to repeat the trick with Chelsea, but last May took Inter Milan to triumph in Madrid.
Just three days later Mourinho was signed up, on a record salary for a coach, by ambitious Real president Florentino Perez.
On Sunday, at the club’s annual general assembly, Perez made it clear just how important the Champions League is for the whites, and promised that “I will not rest” until Real have clinched their record-breaking 10th European crown.
‘The best coach in the world’
He then praised Mourinho as “the best coach in the world .. a man who knows exactly what Real Madrid demands of him”. Mourinho’s latest quest for glory will begin in the Estadio Bernabeu on Wednesday against another team of fallen Euro giants: four-time winners Ajax Amsterdam.
“It is important that we make a good start on Wednesday by winning and going straight to the top of the group,” said Mourinho.
He will probably field a potent young strike trio of fit-again Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentine hit man Gonzalo Higuain and French starlet Karim Benzema, with German new boys Mesut Oezil and Sami Khedira providing the service from midfield.
Real have been drawn in tough Group G together with Ajax, seven-time winners AC Milan and Auxerre.
Real are the true aristocrats of the Champions Cup/League. They won the first five editions of the trophy, from 1956 to 1960, repeated the feat in 1966, then won it three more times between 1998 and 2002.
But their proud heritage has been neglected in recent years.
Not since 2004 have the whites managed to get past the round of 16. To add insult to injury, none of the teams that has eliminated them—Juventus, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Roma, Liverpool and Lyon—has gone on to with the competition.
Starting on Wednesday, Mourinho will be trying to end this cycle of failure, in the “toughest challenge” of his coaching career.—Sapa-dpa