Football Features

An awkward reunion? Winners and losers from Jose Mourinho’s Roma appointment

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 13:56, 6 May 2021

In an announcement that shocked pretty much everyone, José Mourinho has been confirmed as the next Roma manager, taking over from Paulo Fonseca.

The Portuguese coach will replace his compatriot, who has been in the job for two seasons now, starting in July for the 2021/22 campaign. Fonseca led Roma to fifth place in Serie A in 2019/20 but this season they have fallen out of the top four and face a battle keep hold of their Europa Conference League spot, while their Europa League semi-final with Manchester United has also been a disaster.

So, literally weeks after he was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur, José Mourinho lands on his feet and finds another job. He will come in with either third-tier, or no European football and the intention to build a winning project. Who are the winners and losers of his appointment, however?

Winner: José Mourinho

Who can be a bigger winner than Mourinho here? Two weeks ago he got sacked by Spurs in the build up to the League Cup final against Manchester City (and as much as Spurs were the underdogs there, Mourinho remains the only person to beat Pep Guardiola in a cup final). And now, six days after his signing to be a pundit for a radio broadcaster during Euro 2020 was met with widespread mockery, he’s back in a job.

And not just any job, but a fully serious job at a proper club. Roma are a historic club who, even though they are nowhere near their peak, have still managed to make their presence felt in Europe. In the last three years alone Roma have mounted a historic comeback against Barcelona, played a Champions League semi-final, a Europa League quarter-final and now a semi-final.

Mourinho getting to manage a club like that despite his recent track record being abysmal, and one that could be out of Europe next season, means he might get a season of training with his players every single week, and with that much time to drill his philosophy into the players maybe, just maybe, this time things will work out. And even if Roma do qualify for the Europa Conference League, they’ll surely be among the favourites – handing him a good opportunity for a trophy in his first season.

Loser: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

After a decent(ish) first season together at Manchester United, that finished with Mkhitraryan scoring in a Europa League final win, things began to unravel. Mourinho started to bench the Armenian, openly expressing frustration with him.

“I was not happy with his last performances,” Mourinho said. “I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing.”

Mkhitaryan later admitted it was “difficult” to work with Mourinho because, “he’s a winner by nature. He wants you to win and you do what he asks you.” And, well, after escaping Mourinho and enjoying himself in Rome, poor Henrikh now has to endure the difficulties again.

Winner: Chris Smalling

Mourinho has also criticised Chris Smalling, but the Englishman responded with nothing but stoic acceptance. The centre-back said that Mourinho was simply being “professional” when he criticised Smalling for not playing through the pain.

That Smalling didn’t consider Mourinho calling him out to be a problem, coupled with the fact that he has been legitimately great for Roma and tall, powerful centre-backs nearly always thrive under Mourinho – you have to think that Smalling will be a huge winner here. A powerful presence at the heart of the back-line as Mourinho rebuilds the side in his image.

Loser: Pedro

Pedro was convinced to play for Chelsea by Cesc Fabregas, but also Mourinho. Obviously he and the Portuguese had been sworn enemies in the Clásico wars of the early 2010s, but Pedro the professional was willing to give it a try.

It didn’t last long as Mourinho was sacked four months into the season. Afterward Pedro said of the situation: “Everything just wasn’t right. We were very low in the league, the spirits were very low, the trust [with the manager] was very low, everything was going wrong.”

“It made it very difficult to be fit, to be in a good position. It was just the whole thing – it wasn’t right.”

Now, Pedro as a player was always given trust by Mourinho, playing all but two Premier League games during the brief time they worked together, so the reunion won’t be bad for that reason. But Pedro will have to have a very awkward conversation with Mourinho where he explains just how things weren’t right and why trust was low.

Winner: @ASRomaEN

Roma’s English language twitter account has made a name for itself as possessing an excess of personality. Everything they do is interesting and makes you want to invest more time with the Giallorossi.

José Mourinho also has an overabundance of personality. He can’t help but be a meme, both in iconic and derisory terms. Mourinho genuinely produces more fodder for “content” than any other manager on the earth, and so his appointment to Roma should lead to an exceptional increase in the quality of Roma’s English language twitter account’s output.

Loser: Inter (and Serie A)

Speaking about Inter’s 2010 Treble, Mourinho once said: “it was a perfect way for me to leave such a club. A club I love so much.” He went on to add: “the [Inter] supporters are special. The president is more than special. It was a real family and that season we did everything.”

Obviously he doesn’t love them so much that he wouldn’t take a job with another Serie A club! Now Inter just won Serie A so their fans are a bit preoccupied right now but once the buzz of that wears off they may find Mourinho’s decision to join the league to oppose a team he “loves so much” to be a bit of a kick in the teeth.

And Serie A itself will be a loser as Mourinho returns to its shores. Either the Portuguese will be a success with Roma and grind his way to the title (or at least to challenge for the title, given they will play just once a week). Or he won’t be a success and will become such a belligerent force that he will sour the whole experience for everyone concerned.