Football

AS Roma’s Jose Mourinho on brink of history in Europa Conference League final

AS Roma’s Jose Mourinho on brink of history in Europa Conference League final
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Jose Mourinho said he does not think he is « The Special One » anymore, but the AS Roma coach is targeting the unique achievement of becoming the first coach to win every European trophy when they play Feyenoord in the Europa Conference League final.

Mourinho, who has won the Champions League, Europa League and the UEFA Cup, now has the chance to win the inaugural third-tier European title and Roma’s first trophy in 14 years in Wednesday’s final against the Dutch side in Tirana, Albania.

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The Portuguese coach famously dubbed himself « a special one » when he first took charge of Chelsea in 2004, a moniker he now seems keen to leave in the past.

« If I win, I will become the first one to win all European trophies, but that’s only if I win, » Mourinho told reporters on Tuesday. « The ‘Special One’ story is an old story. It was when I was at the beginning [of my career]. When you have more maturity and stability, you think more about the people and less about yourself.

« It’s an old story. I don’t believe in magic. When you arrive at a final after a season of work, the work is done. It’s the team’s moment, not the moment of an individual. »

Mourinho, who took charge of Roma this season, led the club to a sixth-placed finish in Serie A to qualify for the Europa League next season. The club is seeking its first trophy since they lifted the Coppa Italia in 2008.

« I don’t believe in magical potions, I don’t believe in magical spells, » Mourinho added. « There’s nothing special to be done, just us to be us as a team. Knowing the qualities we have, knowing the limitations we have.

« For me, no matter how the final ends, this is a positive season for us. »

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Mourinho said Armenia midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has not played since April due to a hamstring injury, has returned to training ahead of the final.

« It was important for him and I trust how he feels about his physical shape. He said he is ready to play, » Mourinho said.

Tens of thousands of fans are expected to visit the Albanian capital for the final, with Tirana Airport preparing to welcome more than 300 flights in two days, the biggest number it has ever tried to manage. Other fans plan to land in neighboring Kosovo and Montenegro and drive to Tirana.

« Come in, come in, » Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, a former professional basketball player, said while addressing the tourists.

Many Italian, Dutch and other visitor have been seen walking the streets of Tirana in recent days. Up to 100,000 soccer fans are expected in the city despite each club being allocated only 4,000 tickets for the inaugural final of the third-tier European tournament, which was designed to give smaller clubs a shot at a continental competition.

Capacity at the National Arena is about 21,000. There are expected to be 650 stewards inside the stadium and thousands of police officers outside for the match.

Albanian authorities have taken several precautionary steps for what they want to be a « festive day. » Wednesday was declared a public holiday, but police, health and other service employees will be working.

Both Feyenoord and Roma are storied clubs with big fan bases. Their supporters will be gathered in separate « fan zones » about one kilometer apart.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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