BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A remarkable perfect record in European soccer must fall Wednesday when Sevilla faces José Mourinho’s Roma in the Europa League final.
Sevilla has played six and won six finals of the Europa League, or the UEFA Cup as it was called when winning the first of those titles in 2006.
Mourinho has a 5-0 career mark in finals of the three major European club competitions, dating back to the UEFA Cup triumph in 2003 with Porto.
Mourinho actually has more European title wins than Sevilla coach José Luis Mendilibar has total games managed in those same competitions. The 62-year-old Mendilibar’s career is peaking since joining then-struggling Sevilla just two months ago.
Only one record can survive their meeting at the Puskás Aréna in Budapest where the Europa League trophy is just the start of the rewards for the winning club.
Neither Roma nor Sevilla can finish in the top four of their domestic leagues that would have ensured qualifying for the Champions League.
Their only path to the Champions League next season – and the potential tens of millions of euros (dollars) in extra prize money from UEFA – is taking the group-stage place protected for the Europa League winner.
The high value of this Europa League to both clubs is in stark contrast to a Mourinho comment from 10 years ago that became infamous.
“If I win the Europa League it will be a big disappointment for me because I don’t want to play in it,” he said on being re-hired by Chelsea. It was seen as throwing shade on his predecessor Rafa Benítez who weeks earlier as Chelsea interim coach won the 2013 Europa title.
Mourinho and Benítez are among four coaches who led two different teams to win the 52-year-old competition.
The Roma coach can make more history by becoming the first coach to win the Europa League with three different clubs, joining his Porto and Manchester United (2017) teams. And this just one year after the latest team in his storied career won the inaugural Europa Conference League to make Mourinho the first coach with titles in each of the three club competitions.
Mendilibar has a more modest background yet has arguably outcoached Mourinho in his brief spell at Sevilla.
Replacing former Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli in March, Mendilibar became Sevilla’s third coach this season with the team just two points clear of the La Liga relegation zone.
Mendilibar’s Sevilla has lost only two of 11 league games, is one point off seventh place going into the final round this weekend, and is unbeaten in the Europa League while eliminating Man United — despite trailing 2-0 after 83 minutes at Old Trafford in the first leg — and Juventus.
“People did not expect we would do something like this and we have achieved it,” Mendilibar said.
Roma came to Budapest having gone seven Serie A league games without a win, and advancing to the final with a 0-0 draw in the second leg at Bayer Leverkusen, managing just one goal attempt compared to 23 for the Germans.
Still, Mourinho fans can point to that being a classic performance by one of his teams — doing exactly what was needed to win.
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