BARCELONA - Jose Mourinho is by his own admission a bad loser but after Wednesday's reverse at Barcelona put Inter Milan in the Champions League final he described it as "the sweetest 1-0 defeat of my life".
The Serie A champions survived for more than an hour with 10 men, following defender Thiago Motta's red card, and only conceded a goal by Gerard Pique six minutes from time as they went through to next month's final in Madrid 3-2 on aggregate.
"It was incredibly tense today, against a team such as Barcelona, with 10 men, it was something historical, mythical," a strangely subdued Mourinho told a news conference.
"It was the sweetest 1-0 defeat of my life but the players out there didn't deserve to lose. We were perfect tactically and defensively.
"We showed great discipline," he added. "We worked very hard to deny them space."
Inter reaching their first European Cup final since 1972 had the Portuguese showman's fingerprints all over it.
From the pre-match news conferences to the jubilant celebrations at the final whistle, Mourinho's presence was all pervading in Barcelona.
He was forced to make a last-minute change before kickoff when Goran Pandev withdrew through injury and Cristian Chivu came in.
"The game started badly. Bringing Chivu on made us more defensive but the game went as we thought," said Mourinho.
"It was much harder with 10 men because Barcelona are the best team in the world at circulating the ball but we kept them away from our goal."
Mourinho wound up the home fans before the first whistle, casually strolling out into the centre of the pitch, hands in pockets, looking every inch a man enjoying an amble in the countryside before the teams came out to warm up.
The cacophony of whistles appeared to egg him on, his histrionics on the touchline constantly catching the attention of the cameras.
Motta's sending off after 28 minutes had him laughing ironically, rolling his eyes, arms outstretched.
He dashed out of his technical area to give an instruction to one of his players in the second half, bringing the game to a stop as the referee issued the coach a warning.
TUSSLE ON PITCH
Near the end Mourinho was pointing and gesticulating at the Barca bench, having a heated exchange of opinion.
At the final whistle he sprinted not towards his players but across to where the Inter fans were massed in the top tiers of the stand on the far side of the pitch, waving his arms.
Mourinho ended up having a tussle with Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes, with security guards parting the pair.
"I think a team who win everything don't know how to lose. They are bad losers and so am I," Mourinho said.
"Valdes thought I was provoking the home fans. I was going to celebrate with my fans. It's my right."
Asked if he would ever go back to Barcelona, where he once worked as an assistant to Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal, he said: "A coach would be stupid to say no to Barcelona.
"But it's difficult to turn hate into love," he added referring to the treatment he received from the home fans.
With a final next month against a Bayern Munich team managed by his former mentor Van Gaal, Mourinho was full of respect.
"Bayern are a great team with a great coach," he said. "They are an example for many clubs. They stood by Van Gaal when they had a bad start and now they are in a final."