Everybody, including me, wants to paint Mourinho as the Dark Lord, the scheming scientist locked in a dungeon in a castle atop a mountain. Due to his playful and sarcastic media mind games, his personality gets depicted in a negative light. Accordingly, we transpose this "abrasive" personality onto his team - if Mourinho is such a downer in press conferences, then surely his Inter play negative catenaccio. Right? Wrong.
Mourinho tried hard to instill a 4-3-3 counterattacking ethos at Inter. He purchased Ricardo Quaresma. He purchased Mancini of Roma fame. Both flopped miserably. So instead, Mourinho offloaded the Swedish and moody winger baggage in favor of Schneijder, Diego Milito, and Samuel E'too. The result? Mourinho, the scheming master of the negative, plays a conventional 4-4-2. Does his team hemorrhage early goals? Yes. Both Chelsea and Barcelona scored at the San Siro. But the spirited remontadas have been a feast of attacking menace.
Both Mourinho's Chelsea and Inter feasted on the high Barcelona back line, springing the off-sides trap with devastating success. They also refused to get sucked into the Barcelona half, collapsing on the midfield maestros near the halfway line, but never a shade sooner. In summation, the game plan was France v. Spain at the the 2006 World Cup, NOT Italy v. Spain at the 2008 European championships.
I have already criticized the monopoly of the Cule, their stranglehold on the soccer media's collective imagination. Since when did we place such weighty emphasis on total passes? On passes completed? Should the rules of the game be amended to a timed "monkey in the middle", whereby goals are a secondary consideration to total passes completed times pass completion percentage? I vote an enthusiastic no, in part because I witnessed with horror the pre-shotclock era of basketball. Shudders.
A dictatorship starts with a shot to the adversary, but establishes power by monopolizing the imaginative realm. Journalists must disappear, editors must flee the country, a watchdog media must be converted into a lapdog. The Cule dynasty has fastened its grip on the press and this realm subtly, twisting the sporting values from goals & athleticism to ten foot passes. When the opposition raises its voice, they are painted as the enemy as the pueblo screams in terror. We must be protected from such infidels! Still, one fundamental doubt arises to the guidance of Barcelona's Kantian moral compass...
While the success of last season in a sense justified the Cruyff-Dutch-Ideal, on the other hand, doesn't commitment to an ideal entail sacrifice? Wouldn't Barcelona's dedication to the principles of Cruyff be more impressive if they continued to play this way with no success? Many a patriot has sacrificed his own life for the abstract concept of liberty - is patient passing more important than winning?
But why concern yourself with such thoughts? Keep things simple, Buy the Hype. Barcelona ='s pretty, Mourinho ='s negative mad scientist. Every time the Cules complete a pass, set your latte down for a brief round of applause. Every time an Inter defender sticks a tackle or lands a block, hiss in derision or nod in disapproval.
In a way, at the Nou Camp, Barcelona cannot lose. Granted, the result depends upon them and is entirely manageable - they have beat Inter 2-0 before. This time, there will be no travel nor dry pitch to subtly blame.
But win or lose, they will nobly carry the torch of the ten-foot-pass to either ecstasy or oblivion....