Everyone knew it was coming eventually. It was bound to be, especially with the chaotic pandemic season smashing things together which meant three years felt like eighteen months, even when it had been only eighteen months. It’s why everyone expected the guillotine to drop on Jose Mourinho’s neck.
The fact that it came on the same day as the Super League’s foundation was besides the fact because even then everyone expected it to happen. It has become somewhat of a theme for Mourinho ever since he left Real Madrid, with little going his way. Trophies have been won, another title as well with the Blues but the sackings and the downfall have been long and hard. It is what has defined in many ways for the world what the name Jose Mourinho now stands for.
Excitement at appointing one of the most successful coaches in history, an impactful start and then it all comes tumbling down like a house of cards brought down by a whisker. That leads to the sacking, a big payout (he has earned more than £50 million through that) and then the cycle repeats. It’s the Mourinho way now and it’s partly why the 56-year-old struggles to get a job. And yet, he gets one because success in the modern age is defined by trophies and by that standard, ol King Jose is the man.
By that standard, there is no denying that Jose Mourinho is one of the best ever. Hell, he earns that for winning the Champions League with Porto in what was an impossible run to the final. And that defined Mourinho. It’s what, during his good days, the world remembers. Especially during his good days rather because that brings about memories of his Chelsea and Inter Milan sides.
The drought ending manager who didn’t just win trophies but did it in style, with a panache and a unique us against the world managerial style and it’s why both Manchester United and Tottenham took the risk. But neither move worked very well with Spurs sacking him seven days before a cup final. Tottenham have reached only three over the last decade and that includes two EFL Cup finals and the Champions League final.
They would go on to lose all three to fellow ‘Big Six’ sides but that’s beside the point because Tottenham would have rather played the EFL final with a 29-year-old interim rookie coach rather than Jose Mourinho. That’s how bad it became, that Tottenham, a club without a title in over 60 years and without a trophy for a dozen, sacked Mourinho.
It’s a stark difference to the way Mourinho left both Porto and Inter Milan, as glorious Champions League champions with his medal glimmering off his neck. The Inter one was even more heartfelt because of that hug he shared with Marco Materazzi before disappearing into the shadows, off to Real Madrid. He left Italy nearly a decade ago but the Italians, San Siro and Inter Milan will never ever forget the man who broke a 45 year duck in two years with a team that history will forever remember.
What happened to that Mourinho? Where did he disappear along the way? Did he lose his soul at Real Madrid as many have claimed he has or has the luster of management just fade away for Mourinho along what has been an insanely long managerial career? Because if not then where was he when both Manchester United and Tottenham needed that spell of grandiose incredulity from a manager who was so attuned to delivering it wherever he went.
At least that was the way Mourinho operated and then Tottenham sacked him a week before possibly their second most important cup final in a decade.
Yet, there was a smile on Mourinho’s face as he said “I’m always in football,” after indicating that there would be no break this time despite him signing on to be a pundit again for the Euro 2020. It’s a stark difference to his time between the Manchester United and the Tottenham jobs when Mourinho struggled to get a gig. And that’s not to say that there weren’t chances with Juventus, Inter Milan, Arsenal and Manchester City all appointing new bosses.
No move took place and eighteen months later, here we all sit in the same exact spot and nothing has changed. Or has it? Things looked like they weren’t going to change and then nine days ago it all changed. Funny isn’t it? Because all it took was one shock announcement, a move that quite literally came out of nowhere and poof, Mourinho is back. And the move might actually make sense because Roma might just be the team that ol Jose needs to renew...well, everything.
An underdog so to speak but can you really consider AS Roma an underdog?
This is a side capable of producing absolutely incredible and insane moments when they want to. This is the same side that has consistently, for the last two decades or so, finished in and around the top seven. Hell, they’ve played more Champions League football, come closer to more titles and won more trophies than Tottenham have in that period.
Roma, for those wondering, are no underdog but with football as insanely chaotic as it is now especially in Italy, it makes things interesting. Because the competition levels, for the first time in a decade, have made the league one of the best. Since Mourinho left, things have changed with the Milan twins sorting out their problems, with Atalanta and Gian Piero Gasperini working their magic and with added competition from Lazio, Napoli and a new wild-card side ever year which has made Italy a fierce league to be in. So where does Roma fit in the mix?
Paulo Fonseca’s side, for the next three games atleast, are at the moment a massive 27 points behind Inter Milan, and 24 points behind a Champions League place. They sit in a Europa league playoff spot and are exactly where many predicted although it isn’t the proper reflection of this squad. Injuries permitting, they were in for a top four finish before watching several key players struck down and yet, this isn’t the greatest Roma squad ever.
A great champion who has won trophies at every level, José will provide tremendous leadership and experience to our ambitious project.
They’ve got a few players the club needs to offload on big salaries, Edin Dzeko might be one of them and a few expiring contracts that could prove dicey to deal with. What could prove problematic, for Mourinho atleast, is the fact that Roma, compared to the rest, won’t be able to spend as much money and that will hurt. Even Tottenham, in a pandemic, somehow managed to scrape together enough to sign seven new players including Gareth Bale on loan. That’s big money.
Roma aren’t like that even with the Friedkin Group taking over as the club’s new owners, as they haven’t really done much so far. For the last nine months, there’s been nothing but silence from the group with many fans unhappy at the way things have gone. Especially with the new owners playing their cards really close to their chest but then, from the silence out popped Mourinho. The eerie silence was replaced with a stunned one because once again, nobody expected this.
Partly because Roma might be too small for Mourinho and partly because modern football seems to be passing the 56-year-old by. That was one of the qualms that many at Tottenham had with Jose - that he was too stubborn and stuck in his ways as he watched an empire that he built for two decades go down in a blaze of glory. And if his spell at Tottenham was anything to go by, then it shows that Mourinho may not have what it takes anymore.
His brand of football did manage to get the best out of a few players but it always seemed like a managerial spell that was nothing more than the wrong move by Spurs. Don’t get it wrong, it all started out so well but the promising start had eventually given way to paralysis and misery for all involved. It became the defining image of Mourinho’s tenure since Madrid; sour faces and a consistent protest to kick him out. And who can blame them?
Especially when he forced a team jam-packed with world-class attackers to ignore their instincts and defend one-nil leads against mid-table sides. This was a far cry from the man who shape-shifted his teams to lead them to glory on the biggest stage but that’s Jose Mourinho’s story now. And yet, that stubbornness might actually help him in Italy. The Serie A has turned into football’s fountain of youth with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Franck Ribery and so many others thriving.
That didn’t take long. Mourinho mural in Rome’s Testaccio neighbourhood. Graffiti artist Harry Greb pic.twitter.com/40tFjHI6CB— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) May 7, 2021
In any other league they’d be yesterday’s superheroes but here in Italy? They’re somehow re-invigorated and allowed to extend their glory years beyond a normal limit. And that’s what ol Jose needs; a nice long gulp out of the fountain of youth. Because you get the feeling that this could be the last big chance that Mourinho gets in a big league before they all lose sight of what he once was.
His greatest chance to show what made him so great. His chance to show the world that he is still the manager that beat that Barcelona team to a title, that transformed that Chelsea and Inter Milan side into myths and legends. That’s the stuff people write stories about but if Mourinho actually finds what once made him so revered, then this could be a coup. He’ll need to dig deep, figure out everything all over again and forge a new path over the one laden with trophies. And make no mistake, it will be tough.
It might be the toughest thing he has ever done but if he ever wants to be remembered in the same breath as Pep Guardiola then Mourinho will need to reinvent himself. Or at the very least find himself again in a league that is kinder to football’s heroes. If he manages that at the very least, then Roma have the chance to make something happen although nobody really knows what that is.
Because what does success with Jose Mourinho even mean anymore? Does it mean a title? Or a European title? Or just another cup to add to his tally? Whatever it means, Roma and the Stadio Olimpico are in for one helluva ride because that’s what you get with Jose Mourinho. Ups or downs, drama is always guaranteed.