In anticipation of the Europa League final, Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic expressed great admiration for Jose Mourinho and Roma, emphasising his concerns about the formidable unity the Giallorossi possess.
Los Rojiblancos squeaked past Juventus 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals to set up their seventh Europa League title decider despite experiencing one of the worst La Liga seasons in the 21st century.
Widely considered ‘Europa League specialists,’ Sevilla have never lost a showpiece fixture in Europe’s second-tier competition, but Rakitic fears Roma could buck that trend on May 31.
“It will be even more difficult than playing against Juventus,” Rakitic told Tuttosport, as relayed by the RomaPress.
“First of all, because Roma is led by one of the best coaches in the world, let’s say in the top three at the moment, a great manager who has already won all the European silverware in his career and not just those.
“Mourinho is a truly ‘Special’ strategist, unique, in every sense.
“I’m also worried about Roma as a team because they remain compact no matter what. In particular, there is a player that worries me and who is a big talent and World Champion: Paulo Dybala.”
Led by the charismatic Portuguese tactician Mourinho, Roma won the inaugural Europa Conference League edition last season and defied the odds to book another final date this term.
One attempt on goal throughout 90 minutes in the return leg of their semi-final tie against Bayer Leverkusen did nothing to disrupt the Special One’s bid to guide the Giallrossi into a second straight European final.
Considering Roma’s underwhelming five-game winless run in Serie A, it’s fair to assume Mourinho has intentionally sacrificed domestic competition for another taste of European glory.
While it could prove a double-edged sword, given that they’ve fallen out of the European qualification spots, it’s worth noting the former Chelsea and Manchester United boss has never lost a European final.
However, there’s a feeling Mourinho would beat Sevilla in any other competition, but the Europa League that’s been the Spanish club’s happy hunting ground in the 21st century.
Only time will tell whether the controversial manager’s choice to neglect Serie A assignments will pay dividends.
But knowing Mourinho, he somehow always has a winning hand in these history-defining moments.