Jose Mourinho's feet are already well and truly under the Real Madrid table.
Ever since Wednesday he has been a resident at the Mirasierra Suites, the club's official team hotel. He has been training his Internazionale players at Real's plush Valdebebas training complex since Thursday and tonight he will be occupying the visitors' dugout just a few metres from the home bench, where he will almost certainly be sitting next season.
Such is the crackpot, knee-jerk, short-termism that reigns at the Bernabeu that no one would be surprised if voices inside the club did not start calling for Louis van Gaal to be installed as Real's new manager should he get the better of Mourinho tonight, but it seems nothing can now stop the Portuguese's arrival at what Madrid fans refer to as "The White House".
A three-year deal worth €10m (£9m) a year is ready for him to sign next week. "This result counts for nothing in terms of my future. My decision will not change for one game. Inter owes me nothing and I owe Inter nothing," he said in a two-day charm offensive in the Madrid paper Marca aimed at convincing wavering fans that he is the right choice to take over. If all goes according to plan he will take that €2m pay cut – Inter are offering him €12m to stay – and take charge of his first Real Madrid training session on 2 July.
Club directors decided this week to delay the sacking of Manuel Pellegrini to leave no gap between his exit and the arrival of his replacement. They know Mourinho taking over has not found unanimous support and did not want any time for a whole range of other options to be floated to supporters.
Those opposed would prefer Real went for a well-mannered Spaniard who will never bring the club into disrepute but the club president, Florentino Perez, is tired of good guys who lose, he wants a winner.
In his seven years at the helm, divided into two spells, Perez has worked with eight coaches and of those eight only his first manager – the one he inherited from the previous president, Lorenzo Sanz – has won him anything.
Vicente del Bosque won two leagues titles and a Champions League but Perez sacked him before embarking on a hiring-and-firing spree that has seen him win precisely nothing. Mourinho will get up people's noses but it will be worth it to end such a horrendous run of expensively barren seasons.
The club saved €12m in bonuses by not claiming the league title last weekend and will also pocket €2.5m if Wesley Sneijder, now of Inter, is on the winning side tonight. That should be enough to land the most expensive coach in football who has already said: "It is not about money, it is about being respected. Italy does not respect me."
Everything is on hold at Real because of Mourinho's imminent arrival. The club's failures this season mean they do not have to play the two-legged Spanish Super Cup in the middle of August, contested between the league and cup winners. This allows them to tour Asia to play three games that will earn around €8m, but nothing will be decided until Mourinho gives it the thumbs up.
Changing the habit of a lifetime and letting the coach plan everything is the price Real are willing to pay for no more embarrassing home defeats. Mourinho has not lost a home game since February 2002, winning 111 of his 136 matches since.
Real will trust that run continues, thereby eliminating the risk of another Alcorcon, or Lyons or Barcelona. They were dumped out of the Spanish Cup by a team of part-timers, the European Cup by an average French side and ultimately lost the league to Barça, all on home soil this season.
Mourinho's first task will be to bring in some of his own players. David Luiz, a 23-year-old Brazilian defender who plays for Benfica and his country's under-20 team, is first on the list. The 22-year-old Benfica winger Angel di Maria is another wanted man and Fabio Coentrao, a Portuguese 22-year-old box-to-box midfielder who also plays for Benfica, is another option. Before those three arrive, a new left-back is Real's priority and Mourinho has his eye on the Serbian youngster Aleksandar Kolarov who has been a revelation at Lazio this season.
Inter's Diego Milito has also been mentioned but Real's top-heavy side already have one of the most impressive squad of forwards in Europe and Mourinho's priorities will surely lie elsewhere. Along with Sneijder, Milito has been the Inter coach's shrewdest signing and he poses the biggest threat to Bayern tonight in a final that has divided Spain.
Real fans will roar on Inter having adopted them after they knocked out Barcelona in the semi-finals. Some supporters even wore the famous blue and black striped shirts in their last home game of the season after Mourinho's men averted every local's worst nightmare – Barça in the final at the Bernabeu.
Barcelona supporters will be backing Van Gaal's Bayern for two reasons. They find Mourinho even more objectionable than ever after, as he put it, he parked the plane at the Nou Camp to protect his first-leg lead in that semi-final. Barça fans also have happy memories of two league titles won under Van Gaal even if they did open the trapdoor on him after no longer supporting what by their uniquely high standards they considered the Dutch coach's functional football.
One man who was on the coaching staff when Van Gaal and Mourinho were directing things, and before when the Portuguese had an ostensibly lesser role under Bobby Robson, is the former player Carlos Rexach. He recalls how Mourinho took charge right from the off.
He said: "He was Robson's interpreter and he would often go his own way with the translations. Because Robson's Spanish was not very good he would introduce his own shades of meaning. The players saw him very much as one of them.
"I remember when he came back to Barcelona with Chelsea once, and a journalist asked him: 'You have progressed a lot, you were an interpreter and now you are the Chelsea manager'. Mourinho replied: 'Yes, and you on the other hand are still asking the same questions'. But he was a really nice guy and a lot of the persona that he portrays now is very much a show to keep a distance. He is a great coach who has had good teachers along the way."
One of those, Van Gaal, stands between him and his second European Cup tonight. Like the Dutchman, Mourinho will become only the third coach to win the tournament with two teams if he is successful: he has taken it with Porto and Van Gaal with Ajax. Ernst Happel won it with Feyenoord in 1970 and Hamburg in 1983, while Ottmar Hitzfeld was successful with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Bayern in 2001.
Mourinho can join that pantheon by beating his former mentor and then set about another career landmark – winning a league title in every one of Europe's top football nations. Win or lose here tonight, he will be back very soon.Reuse content