A late Gerard Pique goal saw Barcelona beat Inter Milan 1-0 at the Camp Nou, yet it is the Italian side who go through to the Champions League final at the Bernabeu after winning 3-2 on aggregate.
Many are now praising the Inter boss Jose Mourinho as the “master-tactician” (Henry Winter). Yet with Barcelona having 86.4% of possession tonight – a CL record – it’s hard to agree.
Yes, Inter played the majority of the match with ten men, as the former Barcelona midfielder Motta received his marching orders after appearing to hit Sergio Busquets with a trailing arm in the opening half.
Yet, a defensive philosophy – with time-wasting compulsory – was always a priority for the Italian side. Another staggering stat was that Inter had 67 completed passing, compared to Barcelona’s 555.
What Mourinho did, and what he also attempted at Chelsea when they faced Barcelona in 2007/08, was to unashamedly send a team lacking any offensive intend.
If being a master-tactician involves ordering 11 professional footballers to stand behind the ball at all times, feign injury, forget the simple logistics of taking a throw-in or a free-kick, then there’s no doubt that Mourinho is the master. But then so too is Phil Brown (arguably a poor man’s Mourinho).
Not wanting to play and attempt to beat Barcelona at their own game is generally viewed as clever. Think Burnley going to the Emirates and playing offensive, open football against Arsenal, hopeful of some kind of result. Silly really, wouldn’t you agree.
Mourinho was only going to beat Barcelona on his own terms. But that doesn’t mean Inter are better – or played the superior football – than Barcelona over the two legs. Far from it.
Mourinho’s tactics were only going to be as effective as their deceitful display allowed them to.
Time-wasting, trickery, committment and, to some extent, astute positioning, were all part of Mourinho’s unashamed master-plan. Only Mourinho dares abandon his team’s usual playing style, in favour of victory. A bold move which pays huge dividends, seeing as it’s Inter in the final and not Barcelona.
But let’s not allow tonight’s contest to get lost in translation. Mourinho showed tonight that he has many admirable facets, and a few unruly ones.
A winner? yes; a passionate leader? indeed; an unashamed tactician? 100%.