John Hartson believes that Jose Mourinho’s antics in the UEFA Cup final of 2003 was an “absolute disgrace”.
The Welshman was part of the Celtic side to fall to Mourinho’s Porto outfit 16 years ago. The 3-2 defeat remains one of the most famous days in Celtic’s history. The result wasn’t what Martin O’Neill’s heroes were after, but great pride will always be taken from that historic run to the final.
Mourinho, however, went from success to success afterward. His Porto side won the Champions League in 2004, and the rest was history for his individual career.
As we all know, Celtic have been linked with a sensational move for the Portuguese this summer. But Hartson believes he would come with baggage. As well as that, he also doesn’t think Celtic fans will be too forgiving over the nature of the UEFA Cup final defeat. Speaking in the Evening Times, Hartson had this to say:
“A lot of fans will never forgive Mourinho for the way Porto behaved against Celtic in the UEFA Cup Final. He was enticing his players to dive down under no pressure and waste time. It was an absolute disgrace.
“I don’t know the man, all I know is that he has been extremely successful throughout his career. But he comes with a lot of baggage as well.
“Until I hear it out of the horse’s mouth, I’ll stick to backing Neil as the best man for the job.”
No time for grudges
If Celtic and Mourinho were to sensationally get together for next season, not many will be moaning about the cup final back in ’03.
There’s no denying about how Porto conducted themselves that night. It was shambolic, and Hartson is right about it leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of Celtic fans.
But at the end of the day, time has moved on. The most important thing in our future is bagging 10-in-a-row. If the board feel that Mourinho is the way to go, and if he wants it of course, then we can hardly hold the UEFA Cup final against him.
It still seems far-fetched. It’s no surprise that Hartson is therefore still sticking by Neil Lennon. The Northern Irishman has taken Celtic to eight-in-a-row, and is on the cusp of securing a treble treble.
But when it comes to Mourinho vs Lennon, it’s a bit of a laughable comparison. Until something substantial happens here with regards to the Portuguese, however, Lennon has a right to feel confident.
The UEFA Cup final, however, shouldn’t even come into the equation when contemplating one of football’s greatest ever managers.