PARIS – Sounding like a stuck record by a lovesick crooner, Jose Mourinho wailed why, oh, why? In the warped view of Real Madrid's coach, the dice are stacked in Barcelona's favor. "They have got great power. The rest of us have no chance," he said.
And some of Europe's most respected referees — Mourinho rattled off several of them — are seemingly part of some kind of pro-Barca plot.
Well, Jose, here's the real question: Why are you such a bad loser?
There is simply no excuse for it, and UEFA should now make it painfully clear that his hinted-at conspiracy theories, his mutterings of "scandalous goings-on" and suggestion that the European football governing body is cuddly with Madrid's historic rival are unacceptable.
"To win this way must leave a bad taste," the self-decreed "Special One" said acidly of Barcelona's deserved 2-0 Champions League semifinal victory on Wednesday, showing that he's not so special, after all. Or, to be more precise, not a good sport.
Shame, really, because Mourinho is a fine football coach, with a record of trophies and victories that speaks eloquently of his talents for organizing and motivating players, no matter their nationality or the culture he's operating in. In crafting winning teams in four countries — Portugal, England, Italy and Spain — the multilingual Portuguese has proven himself to be the ultimate European. He seems a nice enough guy, too, who will always have friends in the press box by providing an endless diet of controversy and flashes of charm and wit.
Mourinho, anti-football? Rubbish. There's no such thing. Winning is all that counts. As Arsenal's Arsene Wenger can attest, hoping to out-play or out-pass this Barcelona side is suicide, since the blue and reds so rarely share the ball. Out-foxing them is a more viable option. And Mourinho is as foxy as they come. He need not apologize, especially after the 5-0 Catalan slap in the face that Madrid got last November, for deciding that the only way to beat the Barcelona machine is to break it. Be brutish and defensive, stop them from playing. And Mourinho's scheme looked like it might work before midfielder Pepe's second-half red card opened gaps that Barcelona swarmed into.
One of the true things Mourinho said in his sour-grapes post-match press conference was that Barcelona "will kill us again" if Madrid plays an open game in the semifinal second leg at the Camp Nou next Tuesday.
Of course, the millions of viewers worldwide were, undoubtedly naively, hoping that this series of four "clasico" encounters in 18 days would prove as classic as the name suggests. But they don't pay Mourinho's handsome wage. It's entirely immaterial to him or his players if they win ugly, so long as they win. Rightly so.
Before he lost his grip on the trophy and dropped it under a bus, Madrid defender Sergio Ramos certainly was nothing but delighted to have won the Copa del Rey on April 20, with Barcelona prevented from scoring thanks in no small measure to Mourinho's bruising tactics. Nor did we hear Inter Milan players protest about Mourinho's supposed negativity when he led them to the European title last year. Instead, Inter defender Marco Materazzi rewarded Mourinho with a tearful hug.
Take it from Rio Ferdinand, who, of course, wasn't on the Santiago Bernabeu pitch Wednesday night but was, of course, watching, because he'll likely be facing Barcelona next in the Champions League May 28 Wembley final.
"If u seriously would be happy to finish your career with no medals but ya team played good football u are MAD!!" the Manchester United defender tweeted. "Great passing teams who win nothing are not remembered."
But as smart and as pragmatic as Mourinho is, none of those coaching notes that he scribbles during matches could come up with a foolproof plan to thwart Lionel Messi. The utter cheek of his second goal — ghosting past five Madrid players as if they weren't there and placing a perfect shot as his feet slid from under him — made Barcelona the worthy winner.
One cannot plan for such unpredictable genius. In asking over and over "why" Barcelona appeared unbeatable, Mourinho should have acknowledged that Messi was the honest answer on this night — not the referee, UEFA or anyone else.
Again, great coach, but Mourinho would be more of a truly special one if he was a better sport, too.
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org