MILAN - Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho still found reasons to moan despite being on the verge of yet another extraordinary triumph after his side flattened Barcelona 3-1 in their Champions League semi-final, first leg on Tuesday.
Barca's Spain midfielder Xavi complained about the referee at full time and was involved in a San Siro tunnel spat with Mourinho, who inferred the holders were bad losers and again slammed his own player Mario Balotelli for a lack of dedication.
"It's always difficult to lose for those who aren't used to losing. I'm like that too. It's the characteristic of a team which always wins," a bristling Mourinho told a news conference when asked what had happened in the tunnel.
"I can never have a problem with Xavi because I adore him. He's one of best in the world."
The Portuguese coach, whose side have slipped up domestically as they seek a fifth straight Serie A title, was proud of his players but could not believe 19-year-old substitute Balotelli produced another lacklustre performance.
"We were in the second most important match in club football where everyone goes off (the pitch) dead and one could have done something more to help the team," Mourinho said after weeks of tension between the pair since Balotelli was pictured in an AC Milan shirt.
The highly successful former Porto and Chelsea coach also has a difficult relationship with the Italian game in general and has previously said he was not happy in Serie A, fuelling speculation he may end up at Real Madrid or Manchester United.
Far from a shrinking violet, Mourinho was happy to explain how much Inter had improved under his guidance this season having struggled on the biggest stage since enjoying back-to-back European Cup triumphs in 1964 and 1965.
"I arrived here and Inter was a little team in the Champions League. They had a fear of playing. At this point we have a chance of winning against the best team. Inter is now a great team in the Champions League," he said.
"We either go to Madrid and play the final or we go home with our heads held high."
Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola was gracious in defeat and had only one complaint about the sticky San Siro pitch, saying the Nou Camp would be watered for next Wednesday's second leg.
"The pitch was not the one we wanted. At home we can choose, we have attackers who are very quick," said the dapper coach, whose side had to spend 14 hours on a bus to reach Milan because of flight restrictions caused by an erupting Icelandic volcano.
"I'm not a doctor so I can't say how much the journey affected us," he added.comments