What next for Jose Mourinho and Roma? By Andy Murray.

What next for Jose Mourinho and Roma? By Andy Murray.

It took Jose Mourinho little more than a fortnight to find a new job after his unceremonious Tottenham sacking six days before the Carabao Cup final. Stuck in a cycle of ever-diminishing returns, the Portuguese boss is in danger of ruining his legacy.

One is a crumbling relic – an outdated, decaying symbol of one-time imperial power and ruthless success, but which last week was given a new lease of life to re-establish the glory of Rome. The other is the Colosseum, due to get a retractable €18.5m floor by 2023. 

Jose Mourinho becoming the new Roma manager would once have been cause for ripples of intrigue, excitement and anticipation, yet in 2021 it elicits little more than a weary eye roll and the punchline to a joke which took far longer to write than it should have. 

IMAGO / Shutterstock
Photo: IMAGO / Shutterstock

Nobody saw Mourinho’s Roman adventure coming. When the club tweeted last Tuesday that the one-time Special One was to become the Giallorossi’s head coach for the 2021/22 season, the collective intake of breath was palpable, even in a city built on gossip since Brutus did for Julius Ceasar. It wasn’t exactly a secret that Paulo Fonseca would depart at the end of the current campaign, but former Napoli, Chelsea and Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri was widely expected to be the frontrunner. 

Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that anyone saw the Portuguese’s sterile Tottenham Hotspur side last season and thought ‘I fancy a bit of that for my team’. Mourinho has never been shy to about his modus operandi, whereby the need to win is absolute and “the game is won by the team which commits fewer errors… whoever has the ball is more likely to make a mistake”.

IMAGO / Shutterstock
Photo: IMAGO / Shutterstock

Worryingly for Roma, Mourinho’s self-immolation at Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs has continued apace. Calling out players in public for perceived (or actual) misdemeanours no longer works in an era where players overwhelmingly prefer the carrot to the barbed public stick doubting your capacity for the fight.

In Spain, los Blancos’ captain and vice-captain Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos were no longer on speaking terms with their manager when Mourinho left in 2013. Six months after winning the Premier League at Chelsea in 2015, he left amid “palpable discord” among the squad. 

IMAGO/ PA Images
Photo: IMAGO / PA Images

“Everything just wasn’t right. We were very low in the league, the spirits were very low, the trust was very low, everything was going wrong. It made it very difficult to be fit, to be in a good position. It was just the whole thing — it wasn’t right,” said then Blues winger Pedro.

IMAGO / PA Images
Photo: IMAGO / PA Images

The Spaniard is one of three current Roma regulars who have played under Mourinho before. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling each fell out with the Portuguese at Manchester United, the former leaving for Arsenal and the latter accused of having too a low pain threshold to feature.

Mourinho’s Manchester United and Spurs squads have featured a trail of disaffection in his wake, from Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw – all subsequently rehabilitated – to Bale, Alli and Danny Rose, who he tried numerous times to sign as a Shaw replacement at Old Trafford. Work that one out.

IMAGO / Icon SMI
Photo: IMAGO / Icon SMI
IMAGO / Marco Canoniero
Photo: IMAGO / Marco Canoniero

Increasingly, Mourinho is in full self-preservation mode, desperate to maintain the thing which most defines him – that he is a winner. The last trophy the 58-year-old won was the 2017 Europa League with Manchester United.

In January, before Spurs faced eighth-tier Marine in the FA Cup, he said “if we lose to them, it’s not my fault, it’s their [the players’] fault”.

Fast-forward not even two months and the situation was markedly different. “For a long, long, long, long time we have problems in the team that I cannot resolve by myself as a coach,” he said in late February after Spurs’ 2-1 defeat to West Ham was their fifth reverse in their previous six games. “The results are the consequences of multiple situations in football. Mine and my coaching staff’s methods are second to nobody in the world.”

IMAGO / ZUMA Press
Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Press
IMAGO / ZUMA Press
Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Press

It’s little surprise that Italy would be Mourinho’s next destination. He is still very well regarded in Serie A, where memories of his treble-winning 2009/10 Inter Milan side remain fresh. There is also something of a vacuum at the top of the table, where Juventus and both Milan clubs are struggling financially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. That Juve’s scudetto monopoly has been blown apart could be ideal for Mourinho to drag Roma back to the top table. 

At least, that’s what Roma’s owners, Dan and Ryan Friedki, who bought the sleeping giants in August 2020, are hoping. “The appointment of Jose is a huge step in building a long-term and consistent winning culture through our club,” they said last week, clearly determined to restore the sleeping giants to the Italian elite.

Back in that treble-winning 2009/10 season – the last time he won the Champions League – Mourinho famously derided Roma for their “zero tituli” despite a squad containing World Cup winners Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Simone Perrotta. The Friedkis are determined for such jibes to be a thing of the past.  

The question is at what cost? Expect fireworks from Rome’s new emperor.

IMAGO / PA Images
Photo: IMAGO / PA Images

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