The two rival coaches have 28 major titles between them and Mourinho puts his reputation as one of the game’s history changers on the line against an experienced rival who has won league titles in four different countries.
Having led Chelsea to its first English league title in 50 years, Mourinho is out to lead one of European football’s biggest clubs to its first European Cup triumph since 1965.
He will do so amid strong speculation that he will then walk out on Inter Milan and move to Real Madrid, the club whose ground will be the stage for tomorrow’s final.
Mourinho has won six league titles in Portugal, England and now Italy, among his 13 major successes. Having worked under Bobby Robson and Van Gaal at Barcelona, first as a translator and then as a coach, the 47-year-old self proclaimed “Special One” is one of the most sought after managers in the game.
“In Porto we won the Uefa Cup, the (league) championship and the Portuguese Cup. The next year we won the (European) Super Cup, the championship and the Champions League, so we did all three,” he said during the buildup to tomorrow’s final.
After Porto’s 2004 Champions League triumph, Mourinho moved to a Chelsea side armed with the immense wealth of Roman Abramovich and guided the west London club to its first league title since 1955, as well as collecting the FA Cup and League Cup.
Despite two Premier League titles in a row, he failed to achieve Champions League success with Chelsea and left the club, unhappy that the Russian owner was making transfer decisions without his approval.
He eventually took over an Inter side that had dominated Serie A but failed in Europe. The owners wanted someone to end that long wait for the biggest prize in European club football.
“This would be an incredible achievement, because the level of the competition is so high and our road to the final was an incredible road,” said Mourinho, whose team had to play defending champion Barcelona both in the group phase and the semifinal. Inter also beat Chelsea home and away and his former club has gone on to win both the Premier League and the FA Cup.
“It was an incredibly difficult way to get to the final.”
Now Mourinho has to decide whether to tinker with his tactics to overcome a Bayern team that also had a tough route to the final but capitalised on a little good fortune along the way.
On the brink of going out, Bayern came from behind to knock out Juventus in the group phase thanks to a 4-1 win away from home. A clearly offside goal from Miroslav Klose gave Bayern a 2-1 first leg lead over Fiorentina and the German side advanced on away goals in the first knockout round.
Bayern appeared to be on the way out when it trailed Manchester United 3-0 in the second leg at Old Trafford, but it hit back to again go through on away goals, the English side complaining that Bayern contrived to get one of the United players sent off.
Bayern went on to beat Lyon and reach its eighth final, then stretched its Bundesliga record number of titles to 22 and outplayed Werder Bremen 4-0 in the German Cup final. Back in November, however, Bayern was in eighth place in the Bundesliga, on the brink of being knocked out of the Champions League at the group phase, and Van Gaal sensed his time was short.
“If I don’t produce, I will be fired,” the 58-year-old Bayern coach said at the time.
Eventually his pedigree and ability to turn around a struggling team produced an amazing transformation and Mourinho will know that this Bayern team will fight all the way to the final whistle.
The Dutchman won the Champions League with Ajax in 1995, so both he and Mourinho are out to join Ernst Happel (Feyenoord 1970 and Hamburg 1983) and Ottmar Hitzfeld (Borussia Dortmund 1997 and Bayern 2001) as winners with two different clubs.
Both teams are missing key players. Inter is without Brazilian defensive midfielder Thiago Motta and Bayern will not have French winger Franck Ribery. Both were sent off in the semifinals. –– AP.