History is beckoning FC Porto coach José Mourinho as his side prepare to face AC Milan.
By Carlos Carvalho
History is beckoning FC Porto's coach José Mourinho.
Victory against AC Milan in the UEFA Super Cup would give his team a record fifth trophy in a calendar year - adding to the UEFA Cup, Portuguese SuperLiga, Portuguese Cup and Portuguese Super Cup the Dragons have already won in a sensational 2003.
'Chance to make history'
That feat will certainly be high on the agenda when Porto meet the UEFA Champions League winners in Monaco on 29 August. As Mourinho said: "Nobody has done it before. We have the chance to make history."
Porto showed their steel to win a thrilling UEFA Cup final 3-2 against Celtic FC in May - Derlei's silver goal settling a game that ebbed and flowed. Mourinho knows that against Milan, the pressure will be on again.
Playing to win
"The whole football world will be there," he said. "So we have a big responsibility, a special responsibility to football.
The best way to respect the game is to play well, to play to win. If we do this and AC Milan show the same spirit, then with the quality of player involved it should be a very good match."
Mourinho does not believe that Milan's European crown makes them favourites. "You can find ten or 12 top teams in the Champions League and another four or five teams of a similar standard in the UEFA Cup," he said. "But we are motivated and confident and we have no fear."
That is not to say he does not admire Milan's stellar lineup. "I am not just talking about Rui Costa or [Andriy] Shevchenko," he admitted. "Even players that cannot be there like Rivaldo and [Jon Dahl] Tomasson make the Italians a fantastic team. This match promises a lot, and players such as Vítor Baía should make it a wonderful game."
Praise for veteran
Porto keeper Baía, Portugal's most-capped custodian, is especially admired by his coach. "
Baía has won 24 trophies in his career - but he still treats every match with the same concentration and motivation," Mourinho said.
Ins and outs
Mourinho's team can also look forward to a Champions League campaign after ending the 2002/03 SuperLiga season eleven points clear of SL Benfica - and 27 ahead of third-placed Sporting Clube de Portugal. His main transfer activity since has been the sale of striker Hélder Postiga to Tottenham Hotspur FC, followed by the €3.5m signing of South African Benni McCarthy from RC Celta de Vigo.
McCarthy scored 12 goals in ten games in a loan spell at Porto in 2001/02, and Mourinho says the returning forward is an ideal replacement for Hélder Postiga. The coach said: "They have different skills and characteristics, but neither the strategy nor the tactical system will change."
As for Milan, Porto can take heart from their 2-0 aggregate win against AFC Ajax in the 1987/88 Super Cup - the only other time a Portuguese team has contested the trophy. However, it is the four pieces of silver won by Porto in 2003 that should give the European champions food for thought.