News : José Mourinho in future at AS Roma: Relegation to the feel-good country
Five days after the 2: 6 in Manchester, that dismantling was almost forgotten. AS Roma presented their future coach, and he outshines even the most hearty European cup failure: From the coming season, the head coach will be José Mourinho.
The fact that Roma should be eliminated from the Europa League in the semi-final second leg against Manchester United (9 p.m., stream: DAZN, live ticker SPIEGEL.de) is a side note. Mourinho’s commitment is seen as a coup in Italy, even more than anywhere else. For Mourinho, 58, the nation is a land of wellbeing. Here he won the triple with Inter Milan in 2010, the Champions League victory was the last success of an Italian team in the European Cup. His reputation is based on this triumph, it explains the euphoric reactions to his commitment: “The city is going crazy,” wrote the “Gazzetta dello Sport”.
The fact that this coach is not hiring at Juventus but with the smaller Roma, currently seventh in Serie A, may seem like a big hit for them. But actually that’s not true, at least not anymore. Because José Mourinho is no longer a coach for the greatest in the football world. He first has to work for this status again.
It is doubtful whether he will succeed. His time at Tottenham Hotspur showed that. Mourinho was the man who would make the Spurs winners. Predecessor Mauricio Pochettino had formed a top team and brought it into the Champions League several times, and even into the final. But it was never enough for a title. Mourinho should do that, and he should make Tottenham shine. After all, there are hardly any bigger names in the coaching world.
The day everything turned over was March 18th. The Spurs competed in the Europa League at Dinamo Zagreb, in that second leg of the round of 16 they went with a 2-0 first leg win. Mourinho’s team just had to defend their lead. A piece of cake, actually. And Mourinho’s trademark: For years he enjoyed the reputation of the efficiency champion: to score 1-0, then close the shop and win. The Portuguese won a number of titles in this way, including twice the Champions League.
What good is Mourinho if he doesn’t win a title?
In Zagreb, however, Tottenham collapsed, and with it the Mourinho system. The Spurs lost 3-0 to the Croatian outsider, and that game showed how few old guarantees still apply. A team trained by Mourinho has long ceased to be a specialist in managing narrow leads. In the current season it happened eleven times that she was in the lead and still not won.
The Europa League exit became a symbol that Mourinho is no longer the title holder of yore. And with that came a realization: if there is no more winning, the lack of beauty that defines Mourinho’s style weighs all the more heavily.
What is coach Mourinho worth if he doesn’t win any more titles?
It seems as if the Portuguese knows that very well himself. Only the pressure to win the first trophy since 2017 apparently tempts him to make mistakes. One of them in London was hardly rotating for weeks despite the tight schedule. That went well for a while, with Tottenham still leading the Premier League in December. But at some point the team seemed overplayed.
“Your own coach, other players”
Perhaps the bigger mistake is the way Mourinho speaks publicly about his pros. He used to be notorious for the smoke candles he lit to keep pressure off his players to turn him on. The “we against the rest of the world” feeling that Mourinho created seemed unique in professional football.
But that’s yesterday’s Mourinho. When a journalist remarked at the beginning of April that it had actually been a specialty of the Mourinho team to defend leadership and that was no longer possible, Mourinho replied: “Same coach, other players.”
It sounded like Mourinho was the victim of his team. As if it wasn’t his responsibility to improve it. As if everyone else was to blame for sporting failures, just not himself. This had already been observed in a similar form at Manchester United. This makes Mourinho’s strategy easy to understand. So it is that he has now ended up with a comparatively small club like the Roma.
Conference instead of Champions League
The AS itself sees it very differently. The club’s self-image should have 30 championships on the letterhead instead of the three, and Mourinho’s compatriot Paulo Fonseca recently had to pay tribute to the constant self-inflation. After two years it is over for the coach in Rome, failed due to tactical stubbornness and a dispute with star striker Edin Džeko.
It also didn’t help that the previous transfer summer was contested without a sports director. Meanwhile, with Tiago Pinto, like Mourinho Portugiese, a new man has been installed, and the owner has also changed. The US billionaire Dan Friedkin grabbed for 600 million euros, who, with Mourinho, treats himself to a brand that is bigger than the actual sporting situation.
It may be that a success story emerges from all of this. The gap to the slightly better placed teams is not so big in terms of sport that Mourinho could not quickly show visible successes. Due to his standing in Italy, the players will possibly follow him longer than last time in England. That could also apply to the public.
In this respect, the involvement with AS can be an opportunity for Mourinho. But it is definitely a descent. In Rome, the starter coach of yore has arrived in Europe’s second row. Conference instead of Champions League. And even though Roma aren’t Manchester United, the coach shouldn’t believe he’ll get more time there. AS is known for their impatience with coaches.
“He’s still hungry,” wrote the “Gazzetta dello Sport” about Mourinho. He himself calls the club a “winning project”. You have heard all of this before. When Mourinho took over Tottenham Hotspur.