While Sevilla has won six straight Europa League final matches, Roma manager Jose Mourinho has never lost a European championship game. On Wednesday in Budapest, something must give.
The 60-year-old Portuguese coach has won five significant continental championships, including two Champions League titles, two Europa League medals, and the Italian club’s victory in the inaugural Europa Conference League last year. When Mourinho led Porto to the UEFA Cup, the Europa League’s predecessor, and the Champions League the year after, he made his big-stage debut.
Under Mourinho, Inter Milan became champions of Europe for the first time in 45 years in 2010. He celebrated his fourth continental trophy during his spell at Manchester United in 2017, winning the Europa League.
Twenty years on he is defying the naysayers who said his career was on the wane after a disappointing spell at Tottenham. If Roma lift the trophy in Hungary, Mourinho will pull clear of Giovanni Trapattoni, who also won five major European trophies in his coaching career.
“Better coach, better person, same DNA,”
The much-travelled Mourinho is in no doubt he is improving with age and experience. “Better coach, better person, same DNA,” said the Portuguese. “The DNA is motivation, is happiness. Desire for these big moments, and these are the feelings that I try to pass to the boys.
“I think you can be better and better with your experiences , your brain becomes sharper and the accumulation of knowledge is better with the years.
“I think you stop when you lose motivation. My motivation grows up every day. I think I am better now.”
Roma, who edged past Bayer Leverkusen in the semi-finals, are sixth in Serie A with one game to go but victory against their Spanish opponents this week would be a passport into the Champions League. Mourinho’s future beyond this season is uncertain but he says his only focus is on Wednesday’s match at the Puskas Arena.
Europa League Kings
To achieve his target of winning Europa League final , Mourinho must get past Sevilla, kings of Europe’s second-tier competition. Their tally of six wins is double than that of Inter Milan, Liverpool, Juventus and Atletico Madrid.
They are 11th in La Liga but have turned on the style in Europe, coming from 2-0 down at one stage in the first leg against Manchester United to see off the English giants before beating Juventus in the semis.
It is a remarkable end to the season for the club, who flirted with relegation for much of the campaign, sacking Julen Lopetegui and then Jorge Sampaoli, before Jose Luis Mendilibar steadied the ship.
Veteran wing-back Jesus Navas is aiming to win the Europa League for the fourth time, just two months after Mendilibar took charge.
“We transform (on Europa League nights) and it’s incredible how we come out in every match,” said the former Manchester City player.
“It’s a competition that has given us a lot, and the joy it provides us every time we take part in it drives us to go as far as possible.
“What Jose Luis has done with us has been fundamental. He has brought the best out of us, and when you look at the teams we have eliminated, it’s something to be very proud of. He deserves to stay with us for a long time.
“He’s a coach who always pushes us, and who has that work ethic to train hard and get the best out of us. His arrival has coincided with an incredible turnaround in our season.”