Reported on: March 17, 2011 12:51 PM
Reported in: Sports
MADRID, Mar 17 (AP/UNB) - Jose Mourinho just may be the coach to steer Real Madrid back to European glory after "The Special One" returned the nine-time winners into the Champions League quarterfinals following a seven-year absence.
Madrid eased past Lyon 3-0 on Wednesday to take the two-legged series 4-1 on aggregate and overcome the last-16 hurdle for the first time since 2004.
Mourinho said beating Lyon for the first time in eight meetings was the first step toward titles - but the Portuguese coach stopped short of saying this was the year Madrid was going to secure its 10th European Cup.
"These are little achievements, this is just another step. You win each of these steps and in the end you end up victorious," Mourinho said from the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where the team is 22-0 since his arrival. "Titles aren't produced from obsession, they also come from work, continuous work, collective work.
"Titles will come. If they don't come this year they'll come next year."
The former Chelsea manager, who joined Madrid after ending Inter Milan's 45-year wait for a European Cup, stayed on track to becoming the first coach to win European Cups with three different clubs after also triumphing with FC Porto in 2004.
Mourinho's love for the European competition was revealed again Wednesday as he tried to explain how things have changed at Madrid since he replaced Manuel Pellegrini, who exited at this stage last season to Lyon.
"I don't know what I brought (with me) because I don't know how things were before," Mourinho said. "I love ties, I love difficult opponents and this great competition. I feel happy and comfortable and I think the players feel it too. So to be in the quarterfinals is normal."
Eight coaches have led Madrid since it reached the 2004 Champions League semifinals, where it eventually succumbed to Monaco. Since then, it had fallen at this stage to Juventus, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, AS Roma, Liverpool and Lyon.
"One day we had to go through and it seems normal for us to advance," Mourinho said. "We were better than our rival and we played better. I'm relaxed rather than euphoric because for me this is normal. Madrid is too big a club not to be there."
Mourinho's players spoke about the importance of the triumph.
"Those of us who have been here longer have been carrying this weight," said goalkeeper Iker Casillas, the only remaining player in the squad to have advanced past this stage.
Karim Benzema continued to blossom under Mourinho as the France striker took his season goal tally to 20 with his second-half score, which came after Marcelo calmed nerves with his opener before the break. Angel Di Maria added the third.
Now, Madrid awaits a matchup with either Inter, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham, Schalke, Shakhtar Donetsk or biggest rival Barcelona, which it trails by five points in the league race and will meet in the Copa del Rey final on Apr. 20.
Playing Barcelona in the next stage would set up an unprecedented four "clasicos" over a 16-day period as the pair also meet in the league on Apr. 16.
And while drawing Schalke would return former striker Raul Gonzalez to the Bernabeu, Mourinho was clear on who he would like to avoid come April.
"I prefer to avoid Inter and Chelsea because emotionally it's difficult to play against your people, your friends," he said. "But if it has to be it will be. Playing Chelsea will not be easy but if it has to be it will be. Brothers against brothers and life continues."