José Mourinho was the last coach to win a European competition with an Italian club and tonight Serie A relies on him again to deliver success in Europe after recent disappointments and embarrassments.
The Special One completed a treble with Inter in 2010, winning the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Nerazzurri hadn’t triumphed in Europe’s elite competition for 43 years.
On the other hand, Roma have only won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1960-61 and hadn’t qualified for a European Final in 31 years, when Ottavio Bianchi’s side lost the UEFA Cup Final against Giovanni Trapattoni’s Inter.
Italian football has declined during the last decade. La Nazionale hasn’t played a World Cup knock-out game since 2006 and has failed to qualify for the most important competition in the game twice in a row.
Roberto Mancini’s boys woke up from the nightmare by winning the Euros last summer, but the bad dream continued eight months later when the Azzurri lost to North Macedonia, failing to qualify for Qatar 2022.
Mourinho’s Inter was the last Italian club to win a continental trophy 12 years ago and, since then, Juventus have obtained the best results in Europe, reaching the Champions League Final twice, in 2015 and 2017, under Max Allegri. Tonight, the Special One is once again in charge of rescuing Italian football. As La Gazzetta dello Sport put it, he must ‘take care of it.’
The Conference League may only be the third European competition for importance, but bringing the trophy to Italy would be a decent step forward for Calcio and a historic milestone for the Giallorossi.