APPIANO GENTILE, Italy (AP) — Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho says the Champions League is bigger than the World Cup.
Inter plays Bayern Munich in the final in Madrid on Saturday.
"This game is the most important in the world," Mourinho said on Tuesday. "It is even bigger than the World Cup because the teams in it are at a higher level than national teams, who can't buy the best players.
"If you hold it to be important, you have to transmit that to the players."
Mourinho has led Inter to its first European Cup final since 1972, when it lost to Ajax. It is even longer since Inter last held the cup, in 1965.
After being eliminated in the first knockout round in the last two seasons, Inter ousted eventual English champion Chelsea, CSKA Moscow and defending European champion Barcelona to reach this year's finale.
Following the second leg at Camp Nou, where Barcelona won 1-0, Inter was accused of playing overly negative football that lacked the flair of 2009 champion Barcelona. Mourinho vigorously defended his side.
"I think that this season I haven't seen a match like the one between Inter and Barcelona at the San Siro," Mourinho said. "I haven't seen a team play the way we did.
"We attacked aggressively against the champion of Europe. We scored three goals against the champion of Europe.
"We won the tie in Barcelona, but everyone talks about Barcelona winning and says we parked the bus in front of the goal. We didn't park the bus, we parked the airplane and we did it for two reasons. One, because we only had 10 men and two, because we beat them 3-1 at San Siro, not by parking the bus, or the boat or the airplane, but by smashing them at the San Siro.
"I haven't seen anyone play the way we did against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea isn't a small team, it is the champion of England and no one plays like that at Stamford Bridge. Only we have played two games of the level we did against Chelsea and against Barcelona."
Inter and Munich will be missing important players. Inter is without midfielder Thiago Motta and Munich will line up without winger Franck Ribery, both of whom were sent off in the semifinals.
"Motta's absence is more important than that of Ribery for Munich," Mourinho said. "He is a player who has played a Champions League final and would bring that experience with him. He gives our midfield balance and doesn't give the ball away easily. It is a great shame that he isn't playing and it only happened because a fellow player did not behave in the correct way."
Both teams have concerns over flight plans to Spain, with the possibility that further volcanic ash from Iceland will cause havoc with flight schedules in the next few days.
Inter was due to fly to Madrid on Friday, but it may yet leave on Wednesday to avoid any possible ash disruption.
"The team has to travel tomorrow, but I would rather work here and travel the day before the match," Mourinho said.