‘Mourinho feeds Rome with dreams and emotion’

Roma and the city of Rome are in a complete trance before the Europa League final in Budapest. This is due to the almost mystical relationship Jose Mourinho has built with both players and fans.

Rome lives in a condition of mass hysteria since the ‘Special One’ landed in the Italian capital in July 2020.

That was a coup de theatre of the finest art – no-one expected such a high calibre manager and such a character to return to Italy after his successes and controversial moments at previous club Inter Milan, least of all depressed Roma fans.

Much has happened since then. Fourteen years after their last Coppa Italia title, Roma’s captain Lorenzo Pellegrini lifted the Europa Conference League trophy to the Tirana sky last May, a first ever continental success for the club.

Two months later, in front of an ecstatic crowd, superstar Paulo Dybala was unveiled during an emotional night. Mourinho has been the driving catalyst behind the commendable turnaround.

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‘Either you are with Mourinho or against’
What impresses most is the continuous process through which Mourinho moulds a true team. His players follow him blindly and are ready to throw themselves into the fire for him when needed.

“Jose is the king, we are his queen,” Dybala recently said.

Mourinho is unique at gaining such buy-in from players. Tottenham Hotspur, who he teased during Uefa’s open media day, are the only former club he couldn’t really get on side.

At any small referee decision, a conceited group of Roma players scream for explanation.

If the fourth official intervenes, or doesn’t, the whole dugout stand up and gesticulate wildly. Mourinho recently admitted to wearing a recorder, just to defend himself from the fourth official.

This is deliberately exaggerated and upsets many people. Albeit aged 60, the Portuguese remains histrionic and polarising: either you are with him or against.

The city was waiting for a Messiah, Mourinho understood that and he’s been feeding it with dreams and emotions for the past two years.

People love his continuous critics against referees, the system and his own club, too weak and incapable of putting together a competitive team. He and his players won the Conference League and built a deep empathy with the fans.

Roma supporters are extremely passionate by nature, but the last 15 inconsistent years, with the decline and departure of Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi, left a mark.

Mourinho recreated a community and gave it an identity.

Not many football characters can boast a mural in Italy, yet he has one in the Testaccio area, in which he rides his Vespa, a present of the Friedkin family he jealously guards at the Trigoria training centre.

Dybala adds spark to Mourinho’s ‘solid’ Roma
The Stadio Olimpico is sold out for every game and will be also on Wednesday, when fans gather to watch the final against Sevilla (20:00 BST) on large screens.

Despite Sevilla’s qualities and their great run under boss Jose Luis Mendilibar, Roma have all it takes to win the title, especially if they can count on Dybala.

The Argentine striker, who’s been struggling with an ankle knock, is the squad’s most talented player, capable of adding creativity to a solid side. He hasn’t played from the start for one and a half months and he’s been preserved in the league recently.

Even so, he has the quality to decide any game.

Roma haven’t won any of their last seven fixtures, the longest streak since Mourinho’s arrival, but have a clear identity and won’t renounce it now: maximum defensive attention, extreme aggression on every ball, a filtering midfield and dangerous counter attacks.

“We won’t travel to Budapest on holiday,” Mourinho felt the need to specify.


And Mourinho is to be judged on results, not his style of play. His side earned important wins when it came to it, at least in Europe, conceding one goal on home soil after the group stage.

Results weren’t as satisfying in the league, though. Roma rank sixth, like last year, and would be seventh without Juventus’ 10-point deduction. If they beat Spezia next weekend, they will end up with 66 points, exactly like last season.

This is surely not in line with their expectations; Roma have Serie A’s third-highest payroll, behind only Juventus and Inter. The Giallorossi have lost 11 league games, five at home, and both derbies against Lazio.

Champions League qualification, the club’s ultimate goal which would bring around 50m Euros, can still be clinched via a win against Sevilla. Mourinho has put all his cards on this moment.