By Andrew Warshaw
May 5 – The perfect fit at last, or another disaster in waiting?
Just days after leaving Tottenham Hotspur following 17 underwhelming months in charge – no doubt with a another sizeable payoff – Jose Mourinho, whose star appeared to have dimmed to the point of disappearing over the horizon, is back in yet another high-profile job – as head coach of Italian giants Roma starting next season.
The seismic appointment of Mourinho appeared to take the Eternal City totally by surprise, with Roma having seemingly lined up Maurizio Sarri to replace the sub-standard Paulo Fonseca.
Instead, as phones started buzzing and rumours turned into reality, news broke that the self-styled Special One, who was expected to take a break from the game, had been hired by Roma’s American owners.
“We are thrilled and delighted to welcome José Mourinho into the AS Roma family,” club president Dan Friedkin and vice president Ryan Friedkin said. “A great champion who has won trophies at every level, José will provide tremendous leadership and experience to our ambitious project.”
Well almost every level. Not at Tottenham – his first club without silverware and where he lost 10 league games in a season for the first time in his career.
“The incredible passion of the Roma fans convinced me to accept the job and I cannot wait to start next season,” Mourinho said in accepting the job. “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.”
Fine words reminiscent of similar sentiments when he began previous “projects”, the last few of which have ended in tears.
Will this one be any different?
Mourinho’s supporters will point to the fact that he was given far too little time at Tottenham to stamp his mark on the club and will point to the last time he coached in Italy when he led Inter Milan – ironically new Serie A champions under Antonio Conte – to a treble of titles. And that he has more chance of success there than he had in London.
But critics will argue his Inter Milan spell was more than decade ago and that Mourinho has lost touch with modern tactics and training techniques as well as employing a playing style anathema to Roma’s huge and highly demanding fan base.
The last coach to win Serie A with the club, Fabio Capello, has warned Mourinho that charisma will not be enough, given the pressure he will face in the Italian capital.
“Rome burns everyone. It is the most beautiful city in the world, but also a place where it is extremely difficult to work in football,” Capello told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“There is not a lot of patience, contrary to popular belief. The reason for a defeat is often not evaluated. The key to everything is having a solid staff and creating a group of players who are behind the coach. A united group against everyone and everything. That is what I did.
“Then, obviously, the club is fundamental: the coach must always be supported and they must prevent anyone from taking advantage of difficulties behind the scenes to stoke dissent.”
Whether such requirements fit with Mourinho’s ego, personality, dogmatic style and tendency to fall out with players must be highly questionable, especially after he was sacked from his last three positions in England by Chelsea, Manchester United and, latterly, Spurs.
Certainly he will want a major say in reconstructing Roma’s below-par squad, given the team has not won a single trophy since lifting the Italian Cup in 2008 – ironically the same year Tottenham won their last piece of silverware too.
In that respect, he has been brought in to do a similar job and clearly believes he has all the credentials to pull Roma into the top echelons of Serie A. He will be desperate to prove, just as he was at Spurs, that he still has the Midas touch but every provocative remark and every contentious decision will be pounced upon by Roma’s passionate fans.
“He’s a very prestigious coach with a lot of experience. And most of all, he’s a coach who knows Italy well,” said Capello. “Rome is a tough town but he excels in tough towns.”
Hold on to your hats.
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