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Teacher v pupil

Van Gaal and Mourinho, the master tacticians

“See you in Madrid,” Bayern boss Louis van Gaal texted his Internazionale counterpart José Mourinho, even before their respective teams had made it to the Champions League final. As it turned out, the appointment will be kept. “He’s a good friend from the world of football. And you don’t have many friends in the world of football,” said van Gaal, referring to his former assistant at Barcelona.

Inter’s Portuguese supremo, not otherwise known as a soft-hearted representative of his trade, responded with an unusually warm thought. “We’ll embrace before and after the match – I’m absolutely confident of that,” the 47-year-old Mourinho remarked.

Clash of tacticians

Despite their friendship, the pair will spend the whole of Saturday evening’s game trying to outwit and outmanoeuvre the other. “He’s a cunning tactician, just like our coach. They’ll be thinking about how to catch the other by surprise,” mused Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. More than any other Champions League final of recent years, the Madrid showdown is a battle between master strategists. Both have formed and led to the final teams which rated as unfancied before the start of the season.

There are in any case plenty of links between Van Gaal and Mourinho, as both adhere to strict plans and unbending philosophies. They are sticklers for organisation and discipline, and focus meticulously on the details, so that every player knows exactly what he has to do at all times. Addressing a news conference, Rummenigge inadvertently referred to “Louis Mourinho”, but the mistake was loaded with apt symbolism.

Robben’s praise for both bosses

Both also boast unshakeable confidence away from the field of play. Some are put off, but the players tend to be appreciative. “They’re both great coaches,” said Arjen Robben, who featured for Mourinho with Chelsea and now for Bayern under Gaal. Both are also masters of stealing the limelight and media attention in order to relieve the pressure on their players.