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What a third Champions League crown means to Jose Mourinho

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Real Madrid’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho gestures from the stands before the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford, Manchester, North West England, on February 10, 2013. Real Madrid will face Manchester United at home in Spain on February 13 in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW YATES RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ?live? services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo credit should read ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images)

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Among the fascinating subplots to tomorrow’s titanic Champions League Clash, where Real Madrid and Manchester United meet in the Spanish capital, is Jose Mourinho’s march on legend status.

Yes, the man is full of bombast and bluster, and he might be more irritating than a nasty rash. But who can reasonably diminish his accomplishments? Winning a Champions League crown at relatively unheralded Porto was nothing short of stunning. He also won at Inter Milan, which has backslid since.

The long shadows may now be falling on Mourinho’s time at the Bernabeu. Little cracks are forming, the biggest indicated by Real Madrid’s inability to be competitive with major rival Barcelona in this year’s La Liga chase.

That doesn’t mean Mourinho and Madrid cannot still take European soccer by the scruff of the neck; Champions League provides that very opportunity. It’s provides the opportunity to show that Mourinho can still be a commanding force.

To put a finer point on it, he is striving to become the game’s first manager to claim Champions League glory at three different clubs. This piece from ESPN FC spells out exactly what that would mean – and what the missed opportunity would mean for Madrid’s 50-year-old manager.

The article wonders whether an “an inability to deliver the Champions League to Real Madrid constitute an ultimately failed period at the club?”

Of course, Manchester United stands in Mourinho’s way. Starting tomorrow.