It was shortly before 2.30am yesterday morning, Central European Time, that flight AZ8051 from Barcelona touched down at Malpensa, the airport that serves Milan.
It was another half an hour before the footballers of Internazionale stepped out into the arrivals hall to be greeted by a seething mass of supporters, but it was not the players that the majority of the 5,000-strong crowd, many sporting the black and blue colours of the Italian champions, had come to see. It was Jose Mourinho.
Hours earlier, Mourinho had been sprinting joyously across the turf of Barca's Nou Camp stadium to celebrate his side's famous triumph in the semi-final of the Champions League – against the team considered the best in Europe, the defending champions, everyone's favourites, and the club that had once employed him as a translator.
It had been a success against all the odds and afterwards the self-styled Special One, a moniker he attached to himself while managing Chelsea, had demanded that the club's supporters turn out to laud his men on their return – and they did as instructed. Mourinho emerged into arrivals behind his captain, the Argentine Javier Zanetti, and was soon surrounded. He may have gone a little greyer since his days in England, but that only seems to make him stand out even more in a crowd.
Never one to play down a moment, especially when he is, literally, the centre of attention, Mourinho said: "I thought I had reached the height of emotion with Chelsea's fans but Inter's supporters are even better. I'm in love with Inter and these fans, not Italian football – I respect it, but I don't love it."Reuse content