The Emperor of Rome! Jose Mourinho is the saviour of the Italian capital ahead of their Europa League final… but with no cash to splash, fans fear history will repeat itself and he’ll walk away after leading a team to European success
- Roma are looking to win their second European trophy in as many years
- Jose Mourinho’s side face Sevilla in the Europa League final on Wednesday
- There’s fears past may repeat itself and he leaves after more European success
The man once referred to by an irate Pep Guardiola as the ‘f**king master of the press room’ is in good form at Roma’s Fulvio Bernardini Training Center ahead of Wednesday’s Europa League final.
Jose Mourinho waits patiently while a journalist asks a long question about his relationship with referees in Italy.
‘Nice speech but I prefer not to answer,’ the Roma coach says when the reporter finally finishes. ‘Don’t waste your time with that s**t,’ he then says to the well-meaning interpreter sat beside him as he begins to translate the question into English.
It’s the only question that has managed to annoy Mourinho. The rest focus on the fact that he is about to play his sixth European final; that he has won all five of the previous; that the Roma fans adore him; and that they fear he will leave after the meeting with Sevilla in Budapest.
There are real shades of 2004 for Mourinho at the moment – a second European final inside two seasons and the expectation that he will use it as a stage on which to bow out.
Roma fans are concerned Jose Mourinho will leave the club even if he guides them to more European success
Mourinho and Roma won the Europa Conference League last season and are looking to go one better this year as they play Sevilla in the Europa League final on Wednesday evening
If Roma return to the Champions League they will need investment which is not forthcoming
Porto won the Uefa Cup and the Champions League in 2003 and 2004 and no sooner was the medal around Mourinho’s neck that he was off to Chelsea.
Last season he led Roma to their first trophy in 14 years. The Circo Massimo — an ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium next to the Colosseum which stages concerts and victory parades – is getting ready for another party. Will it be Mourinho’s leaving do?
It wasn’t just at Porto that he said goodbye after a trophy win. When he won the Champions League in Madrid with Inter in 2010, he stayed in the Spanish capital and signed for Real instead of returning to Milan with his victorious players.
There is no prearranged destination this time. He was keen on a return to one of his former clubs Chelsea and Real Madrid.
Chelsea now have their man for next season, but the Brazilian Football Federation have not given up on Carlo Ancelotti despite there being one year left on his contract.
Paris Saint-Germain also have Mourinho under consideration for when they sack Christophe Galtier this week, although he is not the only candidate.
The motivation for moving on is his frustration at not being given the funds to compete.
If Roma are back in the Champions League next season the squad will need big investment and there is no expectation that it will be forthcoming.
Roma fans love Mourinho as shown by murals around the city with this one depicting him as an emperor with he Europa Conference League trophy last year
Another mural on a wall in Rome of Mourinho where he is seen driving a vespa
Earlier this season, when asked about guiding Roma to a return to the top Europe’s top table after a five-year absence, he said: ‘Reaching the Champions League with just 7m euros spent in the transfer market, that’s not making history, that’s not even a miracle, it’s Jesus Christ coming to Rome and taking a stroll around the Vatican.’
Mourinho is no stranger to referencing the messiah while in Italy. Back in 2009 at Inter he appeared on ‘Chiambretti Night’ a late night chat show and was asked about a perceived unpopularity.
‘Not everyone liked Jesus,’ he said, ‘and even fewer people like me’.
He has been Roma’s football saviour ever since he agreed to sign. The date his arrival was announced, May 4, 2021, would be an official holiday in the Italian capital if it were up to Roma fans.
There were murals dedicated to his arrival before a ball had been kicked and they have only multiplied in time. He has been depicted as Saint Jose clutching the European Conference League, as Emperor Jose also with the newly-won trophy, or just as plain Jose on a Vespa motorcycle with a Roma scarf around his neck.
They wanted to be relevant again and his fiercely competitive spirit has made them so.
They don’t care about the style of football — they just want to win. No one minded that, in the semi-final against Bayer Leverkusen, Roma had just 29 per cent of possession and no shots on target to their opponent’s six.
Another workmanlike display is expected in Wednesday’s final. There is a contradiction with Mourinho’s craving for more funds as he has often excelled with modest resources.
He left Porto for Chelsea after guiding the Portuguese side to the Champions League in 2004
He also left Inter Milan for Real Madrid after winning the Champions League back in 2010
Mourinho would like to return to Real Madrid and he has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain
He won the Champions League at Inter with journeyman centre forward Diego Milito, and yet never managed it with Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
The tireless talisman up front this time will be former Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham. The England man’s goal tally has shrunk from 27 to nine in his second season but the sacrifice is still there and Mourinho will want him leading the line in the final.
‘I always call him my uncle of Rome,’ Abraham says of Mourinho. ‘He knows how to drive me, how to get under my skin. Even if I am playing the best football of my career, he will tell me that I still need to do more.’
The squad is united behind Mourinho in a way that has perhaps not happened since those heady days of Inter, Chelsea and Porto.
It’s now been two decades since that first European trophy, won with the Portuguese club.
‘I’m a better coach and a better person,’ he tells Mail Sport when asked how the Mourinho of now compares to the manager of 2003.
‘The DNA is the same – motivation, happiness, desire for these big moments. And that is what I try to pass on to the players. Coaches get better and better. As a player your body does not respond the same way when you are 30 as when you are 40.
‘But as a coach your brain becomes sharper and with the accumulation of knowledge you get better with the years. You only stop when you lose the motivation. And that has not happened to me.’
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