Mourinho already talking of Porto celebration

Uefa Cup final: Coach of Celtic's opponents lacks experience but not confidence
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The Independent Football

Jose Mourinho comes into tonight's Uefa Cup final with a reputation as a clever young man, having been a teacher, an interpreter and close confidante of Sir Bobby Robson's before turning his hand to football management. So bright, it seems, that the Porto coach could not wait for the meeting with Celtic before delivering his post-match verdict.

Mourinho revealed yesterday that he had already given an interview with a Portuguese newspaper in which he described his emotions after the game. The piece appears on Friday. Its headline, he announced with blissful ignorance of the workings of sub-editors, will be: "I'm proud of my players: they were fantastic".

So sure is he of the new champions of Portugal performing to their maximum potential that - win or lose - that he felt safe praising them in advance. But then lack of confidence is not a problem for a 40-year-old who himself informed the media in the Olympic Stadium that he is regarded as "arrogant" in his own country.

Some argue that Mourinho has risen without trace and has little, as yet, to be boastful about. The son of a Portuguese international goalkeeper, his CV covers just three years in the profession. A brief stint with Benfica ended acrimoniously, followed by a more productive spell with a provincial club, Uniao de Leiria. Over the past 18 months, he has presided over Porto's Celtic-style renaissance.

This season, his team had the title wrapped up weeks ago and have a cup final against Uniao to come as well as the small matter of European silverware. The logical extension, Mourinho argues, of the six years he spent observing Robson at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona, where he stayed to serve Louis van Gaal in the same, odd dual capacity as translator and touchline assistant.

Time will tell whether Mourinho makes a lasting impact on the European scene. If he wanted to make a favourable impression on the assembled British scribes, with a view to eventual employment in the Premiership, he probably succeeded. Apart from the ill-advised, aforementioned article, nothing he said cast him as anything other than reasonable, contemplative and even compassionate.

His only gripe was the poor state of the pitch, and he maintained Celtic shared his opinion about the need for the grass to be cut and watered. He had "big respect" for Martin O'Neill's side, saying their quality was obvious from their results and from video evidence, as well as for the "Scottish mentality - they get a corner and the noise is bigger than when a Portuguese team scores". And he expressed sadness for the missing rival strikers, John Hartson (injured) and Helder Postiga (suspended).

Asked whether he rated Porto strong favourites, as the Scottish tabloids insist he does, Mourinho replied: "It just shows that the press is the same the world over. You write what you want to write. A big final is always 50-50, not even 51-49. I'd say the same if it was Porto against Real Madrid."

Given their contrasting domestic commitments, he expected Porto to be "relaxed" and Celtic "hyper", ruling out the possibility of O'Neill springing any late surprises. "Teams play with a system, or a philosophy, and I don't believe a coach wakes up and decides to go for a different formation or a player who never normally plays. Martin is a good coach, and so am I, though they call me arrogant in Portugal."

As for his mentor, Mourinho spoke to Newcastle's grey eminence last week. But he did not ask advice about Celtic because Robson "taught me respect for other people in football" - if not about the difference between giving interviews and hostages to fortune.


Goalkeeper. Age 33.
On verge of recall to Portugal's national side.

Right-back. Age 24.
Attacking tendency could leave space to exploit.

Central defender. Age 32
Affectionately known as "The Animal" by Porto fans.

Central defender. Age 25.
Complements Costa well.

Left-back. Age 28
A threat from set-pieces.

Right midfield. Age 25.
Has physical presence not usually associated with playmakers.

Centre midfield. Age 28.
A solid presence in his first campaign with club.

Left midfield. Age 25.
Powerhouse who Mourinho signed from Benfica.

Striker. Age 25.
Highly rated Portuguese international.

Striker. Age 28.
Main goalscoring threat to Celtic. Uefa Cup's joint top scorer, on nine goals, with Henrik Larsson.

Striker. Age 23.
Recently made first-team breakthrough.

Profiles based on probable starting line-up