Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Forget the Wayne Rooney, Barcelona, the World Cup, the FA Cup replays... Jose is all that matters tonight. And he's taking on the world.

TWO of the best sides in Europe meet at the San Siro tonight. But Jose Mourinho has made sure only one man matters. And he won't be on the field of play.

Ah, the Special One. Not content with his third ban of the season in Serie A (this one a three week suspension for showing a hand-cuffed salute after a referee's decision last weekend), Mourinho has seen fit to accuse Chelsea's Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti of being a member of Italy's footballing mafia.

The Italians are up in arms about Mourinho's behaviour as he apparently angles for a move to Real Madrid next season. And there he was at Internazionale's training ground at Pinatina yesterday making sure we knew who the focal point of tonight's clash really is.

Responding to Ancelotti's claim that the whole of Italy will be backing Chelsea tonight because of him, Jose said: "If Ancelotti says that it's because he knows or because somebody told him. Or because he belongs to the clan."

There was more of course. There always is with Mourinho, the man thrown out in his days as a player because his dad - a Portuguese international goalkeeper - put him in the first team. The players revolted. Then he was promoted again, from Bobby Robson's interpreter to top European manager. Further revolt.

The Champions League with Porto followed, then two Premier League titles with Chelsea. Still revolting though. And now, widespread revulsion in Italy: "I'm offering them a challenge. I'm waiting for a referee to come here and say I insulted them.

"To my face. I'm interested to see if they would be brave enough."

Never forgetting that he is the man who made Chelsea great of course, even though Roman Abramovich eventually turfed him out: "You ask me what system Chelsea will play. The same systems Chelsea have played since I joined the club in 2004. Nothing has changed.

"Then I look at my old players - men like John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba. John and Frank perform week after week, year after year.

"They look as if they are never tired of playing well. Did I make a little contribution towards that? They say yes and I think they are right.

"I thank them because they never forget my contribution. They are good players because, yes, they are good anyway and because they have worked very hard.

"When I speak with people at Chelsea they always say that the culture of working very hard every day has not changed.

"The players have kept their strong mentality. The years may be passing but they are like Port wine - the older the better."

"The most beautiful thing in football for a coach is the passion and respect of his players - and the passion and respect of his supporters.

"That happens with me all the time - in Porto, Chelsea and Inter. That makes me proud."

"But I know what will happen in the San Siro in this match. I know Didier will break his legs for his team. And it's the education I gave to the players."

So yes, forget European Cup holders Barcelona, held by Stuttgart last night. Forget Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, scorer of two more headed goals against West Ham as he heads for the Golden Boot. Forget England's training camp in Rustenburg. In fact, forget the whole looming World Cup. And you can certainly ignore the FA Fifth Round replays - Aston Villa v Cyrstal Palace, Stoke v Man City, Spurs v Bolton, West Brom v Reading - which aren't even on the television tonight.

There is only one subject of fascination in the footballing globe. Tonight on ITV. Jose. The Special One. Taking on the world.

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