How Mourinho won over the Italians

It’s taken the Italian media five long months, but they have finally, grudgingly accepted that Jose Mourinho is actually good for Serie A.

“SuperMou,” headlined La Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday before going on to wax lyrical about the Inter coach’s growing influence over the domestic game.

Mourinho’s strength, they said, was his ability to amend his approach to meet the demands of the ultra-competitive Italian league.

“He loves to play with two wingers but it wasn’t working,” argued their editorial, no doubt angling for an exclusive interview in the near future. “However, he must be credited for then employing a more pragmatic approach.”

"How do you like me now?" 

What has really impressed the locals is that the Portuguese isn't all hot air and controversial soundbites after all – he’s hard-nosed but realistic.

They admire that in a coach. Just look at Fabio Capello: not particularly liked, but revered for the way he adapts to changing circumstances.

Having dispensed of widemen Amantino Mancini and Ricardo Quaresma for a midfield trio of Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso and Sulley Muntari, the Nerazzurri have taken maximum points from the last five league games – and are now six points ahead at the top of the table. 

That solid midfield platform has enabled Mourinho to be somewhat more creative further up the pitch, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic is no longer an isolated figure.

Summer reject Dejan Stankovic has been transformed into a free-roaming midfielder behind Ibra and either Ricardo Cruz or Adriano – both rehabilitated into the grand scheme of things after facing the boss’s ire.

The Brazilian, in particular, has cut out his childish behaviour and knuckled down to act like a professional, and these efforts have been awarded. Unfortunately, teenager Mario Balotelli has not followed suit and a lack of effort in training has seen the young sensation sent to his room until he bucks up his ideas.

Muntari offers a lift in return 

Mourinho’s refreshing approach has also rubbed off on a few other forward-thinking coaches – Luciano Spalletti being the most notable. The AS Roma boss is full of admiration for his rival, proclaiming him the catalyst for change.

“The way he has conducted himself has given the rest of us strength – expressing, as he has done, his thoughts and tactics in a direct manner,” he told Gazzetta.

Italian football has always been a bastion of conservatism, but if there is one man who can beat the system then it’s the outsider who has become new darling of the press.

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