Uefa Champions League final: Bayern Munich v Inter Milan Venue: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid Date: Saturday, 22 May Kick-off: 1945 BST Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, live text commentary on BBC Sport website. Live on ITV 1 and Sky Sports 1
By Sam Lyon
In many ways, this has been the ultimate season of personal vindication for Jose Mourinho.
Reviled by the majority of the Italian media and opposition fans, he has led Inter Milan to the league and cup double, scoring more goals than any team in the country, and become a legend in the eyes of the black and blue half of the San Siro in the process.
Three years after leaving Chelsea under something of a cloud, the self-appointed 'Special One' dumped them out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage 3-1 on aggregate - a score that barely reflected his side's dominance over two legs.
Overlooked by the Barcelona hierarchy 18 months ago in favour of Josep Guardiola and taunted by a Barcelona fanbase as 'The Translator' in mocking tribute to his time at the club as an advisor during the 1990s, his Inter side dumped them out of the Champions League semi-finals with a performance that was testimony to the Portuguese's skills of preparation, motivation and man-management.
Now, in Saturday's final against Bayern Munich, he has the chance to eclipse another of his former superiors Louis van Gaal.
Van Gaal - a man under whom he worked at Barcelona in the 1990s. A man challenging him to become only the third man, after Ernst Happel and Ottmar Hitzfeld, to win the Champions League with two different clubs.
The final is a match between a team who wants to play football and a team who just wants to stop football
Bayern winger Arjen Robben
And a man who upped the ante ahead of the final by claiming to be the better manager of the two, saying: "He (Mourinho) trains to win. I train to play beautiful football and win. My way is more difficult."
It is a fascinating match-up: Van Gaal the master against Mourinho the former apprentice.
The pair first met when Van Gaal was appointed as Bobby Robson's successor at Barcelona in 1997 - and it was an encounter that made a lasting impression on the Dutchman.
Upon learning he was about to become surplus to requirements at the Nou Camp, Mourinho reacted furiously, telling then president Josep Lluis Nunez that he deserved to be kept on because of the role he had played in the club's successes in the Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup.
"Mourinho was very angry," recalled Van Gaal. "He was very irritated and shouted. That was impressive for me, because he had emotions and he was right.
"I asked him to be the coach, the trainer, because he knew the team and he could help me. He said 'yes' and stayed three years with me.
"He analysed all the games for me and did it very well. He took the individual training sessions and I also let him coach the games of the Copa Catalunya. He won it."
It proved a profitable relationship. Working together, the pair led Barcelona to successive La Liga titles and another Spanish Cup triumph.
And the successes kept coming for Mourinho when he became a manager in his own right in 2000, replacing Jupp Heyneckes as boss of Benfica.
He has won six league titles in three countries, plus eight domestic trophies, a Uefa Cup and a Champions League.
It is a CV that would cast most others' into shade, but not Van Gaal's.
The 58-year-old Dutchman has seven league titles in three countries to his name, plus seven domestic trophies, a Uefa Cup, two Super Cups, an Intercontinental Cup and a Champions League triumph.
He also managed the Netherlands for two years, although the Dutch failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup during his tenure.
Now Van Gaal and Mourinho will face-off for the top prize in club football.
If the critics - and Van Gaal - are to be believed, it is a final between two managers with very different ideologies. The Dutchman is a purveyor of quality and expansive football, while the Portuguese is the definitive "win at all costs" merchant.
Bayern winger Arjen Robben, who played under Mourinho at Chelsea, certainly believes the two men approach football in differing ways.
"Mourinho puts out a winning team, it doesn't matter if it's done with nice football or not," said Robben. "The philosophy at Bayern is the coach wants to win games by playing nice football."
And he added: "The final is a match between a team who wants to play football and a team who just wants to stop football."
Mourinho and Van Gaal face each other for the first time in Saturday's final
It is a criticism rejected by Mourinho, though. Talking to The Times newspaper, he said: "It's so unfair if somebody thinks that Inter is a defensive team.
"A football team is made of balance. I don't believe in a crazy attacking team, I don't believe in a crazy defensive team. My Porto had balance, my Chelsea had balance, and we have balance in this team. Football is made about balance."
A look at the two teams also suggests a slight blurring of the artist v architect argument.
Mourinho's Inter regularly lines up in an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation, centred around revitalised playmaker Wesley Schneider and utilising the verve of Samuel Eto'o, Goran Pandev and Diego Milito.
In his side's Champions League matches at home to Barcelona and Chelsea, it was Inter's tour de force in attack, not defence, that saw them triumph.
In fact, only an injury to Pandev in the warm-up and the sending-off of Thiago Motta prompted Inter's defensive show against Barca in the second leg - a match that saw Inter not so much park a bus in front of goal as "an aeroplane", recalled Mourinho.
And Van Gaal has been no less opportunistic in his year in charge in Germany. With Bayern down in eighth place in the Bundesliga as recently as November, he overhauled a side that already boasted 11 new signings from the summer.
Out went the likes of keeper Michael Rensing, full-back Edson Braafheid, midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk and big-money strikers Mario Gomez and Luca Toni.
In came veteran Hans-Jorg Butt, youngsters Holger Badstuber and Thomas Muller, while Van Gaal placed a deeper reliance on the likes of Robben, Bastien Schweinsteiger and Phillip Lahm.
Like Inter, Bayern have won the league and cup double this season, but as European football expert Gabrielle Marcotti noted: "At Ajax and Barcelona, where Mr van Gaal did his best work, his teams were known for a swashbuckling attacking style. This Bayern team is somewhat different, more balanced and risk-averse."
In 34 Bundesliga games, Bayern scored 72 goals, compared to Inter's 75 in 38 Serie A games. In Europe, Bayern have scored 21 goals, Inter 15, but the Germans have lost to Manchester United, Fiorentina and Bordeaux (twice) while only Barca (twice) have beaten Inter.
It all makes for a promising clash - the final few expected.
Bayern fans, certainly, would not have dared dream of reaching the final when they lost home and away to eventual quarter-finalists Bordeaux in the group stages.
Inter, too, must have feared the worst when they drew with Dynamo Kiev, Rubin Kazan and then lost to Barcelona in three of their first five games in this season's competition.
And yet the expertise of Van Gaal and Mourinho has helped mould two teams settled in their approach, brimming with confidence and on the brink of an historic treble.
Van Gaal's influence over Mourinho is not lost on the Portuguese, who admitted: "He gave me confidence. He was very important in my development."
But in response to Van Gaal's claims that he is a defensive tactician, Mourinho betrayed his sense of rivalry, describing the Dutchman's claims as like "throwing sand in your eyes".
Mourinho is the critics' and bookies' choice to emerge victorious from Saturday's contest.
Throw in the fact that the final will be played at the Bernabeu - home of Real Madrid and, purportedly, Mourinho from next season - and the backstory to an already tantalising encounter only deepens.
But, for the moment, only one question needs answering - can Mourinho lead Inter past Bayern and to a first European Cup since 1965?
"It would be an incredible achievement because the level of the competition is so high and our road to the final was an incredible road," he insisted.
"But we will play the final not with an obsession but with a dream."
And a dream it would be if the 'Special One' emerges from Saturday's final victorious, the treble in hand, and a score very much settled between protege and teacher.
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