"I have no plans, I am going on with my normal life. I feel fresh. I feel calm. I am on holiday.
"I have more time to be doing my homework and analysis. I'll wait to be back in football.
"Not just for the right club, but for the right culture. Maybe next season is premature, we will see."
Rome ‘a very strange’ place to work for ‘not that special’ Mourinho - Inside Europe
Those were the words of Jose Mourinho just a matter of days ago when he did a big interview with The Times following his sacking as Tottenham Hotspur manager.
You can forgive fans for being confused. After all, just a day after his sacking was announced he was tracked down at his home by Sky Sports whom he told: "No need for a break. I'm always in football."
The interview with The Times, where he wasn’t just ambushed on his doorstep, sounded more thoughtful, perhaps showing an awareness that he needed to take some time to examine his options, maybe spend some time reflecting on his style that blew up spectacularly at three Premier League clubs in a row.
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Nope. In a move that caught the football world completely off-guard on Tuesday, Roma announced that they had agreed terms with Mourinho to take over from Paulo Fonseca. It was just a few hours after the club had confirmed that Mourinho’s compatriot Fonseca would be leaving the club at the end of the season.
"Nope, nobody knew about it," says Eurosport Italy's Davide Bighiani when we asked him about the move. "The last thing we heard is 'Inter was a special team, but if some other club would call me...'. It was just two days ago, so it seems something was already happening."
Plenty of fans, perhaps rightly, thought the announcement was some kind of joke, but it was anything but.
“After meetings with the ownership and Tiago Pinto, I immediately understood the full extent of their ambitions for AS Roma. It is the same ambition and drive that has always motivated me and together we want to build a winning project over the upcoming years."
That is a snippet from Mourinho’s statement in the press release, it reads similarly to the ones that were put out when he joined Manchester United and Spurs. Clearly he’s been told he will be backed in the transfer market, it’s hard to see him taking any job where that is not the case. Any Roma fans anxious about the appointment should at least look at that as a silver lining - investment from the new owners should be coming.
Image credit: Getty Images
Make no mistake he is walking into an extremely tough job. Fonseca did a great job rebuilding Roma after the failed Monchi experiment but they are lagging behind the rest of Serie A. With four games to go they are 27 points behind new champions Inter Milan. They are 14 points off Milan in the Champions League spots and perhaps worst of all, nine points behind arch-rivals Lazio. The club of Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi is not just the romantic runner-up, they are no longer in the conversation. They did reach the Europa League semi-finals, but they were embarrassed by Manchester United in the first leg of that tie.
"Fonseca seemed to have the team under control but from a certain point of the season on they suffered a lot of injuries and they completely lost the thread and now they are also losing the chance to play in Europe next season," says Bighiani.
Paulo Fonseca a testa bassa dopo la sconfitta in Sampdoria-Roma Serie A 2020-21
Image credit: Getty Images
"They lost every direct confrontation against the big teams and they never made that 'quality step' which is why we think the club is asking Mourinho now.
"Fonseca maybe lost his team in the last few weeks but he had the chance to enhance some players such us [Gonzalo] Villar, [Leonardo] Spinazzola, [Rick] Karsdorp, [Gianluca] Mancini, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan and [Lorenzo] Pellegrini. For sure Jose can restart from them."
Of course one of the things Mourinho will bring is theatre, and we will certainly get that with Antonio Conte. The pair are about as combustible as they come and we should be in for more fireworks if their time together in England was anything to go by.
Conte now manages Mourinho's old Inter, will that be a problem for anyone?
"Inter fans will always be grateful to Jose Mourinho, who was the man of Triplete," Bighiani says.
"On the other side, I don’t think Roma fans would care much about his past, but I’m sure they are quite interested in what he could still have in his pockets for the future."
Speaking of horribly awkward reunions. One of Roma’s better players this season has been Henrikh Mkhitaryan whose time under Mourinho went not so well. Chris Smalling is another who didn’t necessarily have the greatest of relationships with the former Manchester United boss…
It is worth stating that there is a lot of talent in this team even if Mourinho decides to ostracise those two once more. Lorenzo Pellegrini has developed into one of the best midfielders in Italy and former Aston Villa man Jordan Veretout has hit 10 goals in the league this season. And next year he will get Roma golden boy Nicolo Zaniolo back from injury.
Plus despite recent attacking advances (three teams in Italy this season have scored over 70 goals compared to just one in England) Serie A is still a league where defensively sound football will be rewarded. Mourinho has shown at times that he can coach a defence and there are some solid parts to build around there.
Roma are a very weird club and their financial/leadership situation has been turbulent at best in the past few years. But the potential is there, the fanbase is enormous and extremely passionate and it seems as if the new ownership group wants to invest. Giving Mourinho a three-year contract proves that as he will not come cheap.
One other thing to keep an eye on is his relationship with general manager Tiago Pinto, one of the personnel wonderkids. Pinto is still in his 30s and has had a meteoric rise, quickly taking charge at Benfica before joining the Italian side earlier this year. Contrary to what you may expect Pinto is very much his own man and doesn’t have any official ties to super-agent Jorge Mendes. His choosing of Mourinho is extremely interesting and also a gamble for someone so young so early in such a big job.
History suggests that Mourinho’s time in Roma will go up and down, and eventually end in some kind of implosion. It will make Roma a lot more relevant and it makes Serie A even more captivating after Juventus’ dominance was finally ended this season. Ultimately, in the short-term at least, Mourinho will add to the competitiveness of Serie A, which is good for Roma and good for the league. Whatever happens it’s going to be fascinating to watch.
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