Roma manager Jose Mourinho has never lost a European final while Sevilla are sixth out of six in the Europa League finals. Something has to give way in Budapest on Wednesday.
Portugal’s Mourinho has five major continental titles to his name – two Champions League victories, two Europa League trophies and last year’s triumph in the inaugural Europa Conference League with the Italian side.
The 60-year-old made his mark on the big stage in 2003 when he led Porto to the UEFA Cup, the precursor to the Europa League, before winning the Champions League a year later.
Inter Milan became European champions on his watch for the first time in 45 years in 2010, and he celebrated his fourth continental trophy during his time at Manchester United in 2017 by winning the Europa League.
Twenty years later, he defies opponents who said his career was in decline after a disappointing spell at Tottenham.
Should Roma lift the trophy in Hungary, Mourinho will overtake Giovanni Trapattoni, who has also won five major European trophies in his coaching career.
Mourinho’s many-travelling is in no doubt that he is improving with age and experience.
“Better coach, better man, same DNA,” said the Portuguese. “DNA is motivation, it’s happiness. The desire for these big moments and these are the feelings I try to convey to the boys.
“I think you can get better with your experiences. I think as you age your brain gets smarter and your accumulation of knowledge is better.
“I think you stop when you lose motivation. My motivation grows every day. I think I’m better now.
Roma, who beat Bayer Leverkusen in the semi-finals, finished sixth in Serie A, but a victory over their Spanish opponents this week would be a ticket to the Champions League.
Mourinho’s future beyond this season is uncertain, but he says his focus for now is only on Wednesday’s game at the Puskas Arena.
– Kings of the Europa League –
To achieve his goal, Mourinho must overtake Sevilla, who are the king of Europe’s second-division competition – their six-fight win tally is twice that of Inter Milan, Liverpool, Juventus and Atletico Madrid.
They are 11th in La Liga but changed style in Europe, losing 2-0 at one stage in their first leg against Manchester United to defeat the English giants before beating Juventus in the semi-finals.
It is a remarkable end to the season for a club that had been flirting with relegation for much of the campaign, sacking Julen Lopetegui and then Jorge Sampaoli before Jose Luis Mendilibar stabilized the ship.
Veteran winger Jesus Navas is aiming to win the Europa League for a fourth time, just two months after Mendilibar took over.
“We transform (Europa League nights) and it’s amazing how we come out of every game,” said the former Manchester City player.
“This is a competition that has given us a lot, and the joy it gives us every time we take part in it drives us to go as far as possible.
“What Jose Luis did with us was fundamental. He brought out the best in us and when you look at the teams we knocked out, that’s something to be very proud of. He deserves to stay with us for a long time.
“He is a coach who is always pushing us and who has a work ethic to train hard and bring out the best in us. His arrival coincided with an incredible turnaround for our season.”