David Shonfield, Milan
IN MILAN, going to the football and going to the opera have two purposes in common: to see and to be seen.
La Scala is the San Siro of opera and I remember shortly after Jose Mourinho arrived in the city the musical director travelled out to Inter's Appiano Gentile training ground for a photo opportunity and of course to invite the new manager to a show.
Whether Mourinho has yet found the time to go I don't know, but as luck would have it Saturday night's performance – kicking off at just the same time as the Champions League final show in Madrid – is Wagner's Das Rheingold.
German opposition... Twilight of the Gods... it seems too good to be true, but it's entirely in keeping with Mourinho's final week in charge of the the Nerazzurri, which has been highly operatic even by his standards.
It is of course just possible that Jose won't end up at the Bernabeu, but the Gazzetta dello Sport has been preparing its readers for the worst, telling them that Mrs M (the long-suffering Tami) has been seen touring Madrid with estate agents.
A cartoon in yesterday's paper depicted The Stubbled One, suitcases in tow, loading up a lorry marked Mendes Removals – and Jorge Mendes, who also did the deal that took Cristiano Ronaldo to Madrid, seems certain of another huge fee.
The transformation of Mourinho's image this season has been complete. From pantomime villain to saviour, although some of the praise is still grudging.
If Claudio Ranieri's Roma team had pulled off the greatest rimonta (comeback) in Serie A's history there would definitely have been some smirks. But Roma stumbled in the final furlong at home to Sampdoria, and the Portuguese coach – still the only foreigner in charge of an Italian club – has become a national hero despite himself.
Were it not for Mourinho's Inter side, Italy would definitely be facing the loss of their fourth Champions League place in 2011 – with Germany overtaking them in the UEFA rankings. It could still happen, because Italians are not that optimistic about their team even getting through the group stage in South Africa.
So the scenes of triumph at Malpensa airport on Inter's return from Barcelona have been shown again and again – along with the street party that transformed the centre of Milan the night that Inter beat Siena to secure Stage Two of what would be a unique Treble.
“Don't Go, Jose! Don't Leave Us” a group of gorgeous brunettes screamed as they danced for the TV cameras in front of the cathedral.
For Inter supporters of course Mourinho already has the legend status he enjoys at Porto and Chelsea. Others have come round too. Even Sinisa Mihailovic offers honeyed words of praise where once there was venom – although that is partly politics, as Mihailovic is one of those in line to take the Inter job.
As for the media, the drama is in its final act, and they've reluctantly admitted that they're going to miss the star. Should Mourinho pull off a Wagnerian triumph on Saturday night, they are preparing - slightly shamefacedly - to elevate him to Italy's Football Valhalla.