On September 12, the Olympic Stadium in Rome hosted the meeting between AS Roma and Sassuolo, on behalf of the third day of the Italian championship. It was mostly the 1000e José Mourinho’s match as a coach. And the Portuguese “mister” could not have dreamed of a more epic scenario.
As the two teams headed for a 1-1 draw, Stephan El Shaarawy put the “Giallorossi” ahead. in additional time. The goal in itself – a recovery curled at the far post – is tasty, but it’s Mourinho’s celebration at that point that will go around the world.
Seeing the ball cross the line after hitting the post, the Portuguese sprinted around the field, jumped on his players grouped in front of the supporters of the Curva Sud, before disappearing into the fray. “I felt like Jacobs [Marcell Jacobs, le champion olympique du 100 m à Tokyo] “, jokes the technician of 58 years at the microphone of the chain of the club.
Arriving in the Eternal City in the summer of 2021, Mourinho has already won over his players – who hosted a dinner in town in honor of his 1,000e match -, popular culture – a mural depicts him driving a Vespa in the Roman quarter of Testaccio – and even local legend Francesco Totti.
“He protects the group, acts like a lightning rod; a capacity which, in a city like Rome, can prove to be decisive ”, declared the man with 786 matches under the jersey of the Louve (between 1993 and 2017) in the columns of The Gazzetta dello Sport.
This Sunday, September 26, AS Rome tackles the derby against Lazio on the impetus of an attractive start to the season: four wins in five league games, plus a clear round in the Europa Conference Conference (the new “small” European Cup). It did not take more for the Italian press to evoke a “Mou-mania”.
In Rome, more than elsewhere, we eat, drink and sleep football. “There is a radio station which speaks twenty-four hours a day about club news”, illustrates Jonathan Zebina, former defender of AS Roma, crowned Italian champion in 2001:
“Mourinho is typically the kind of character that the city delights in. “
“In the long term, its popularity will mainly depend on its ability to obtain results”
The first time he came to train in Italy, in 2008, at Inter Milan, the Portuguese polyglot generated bursts of laughter during his introductory press conference using an expression from the Lombard dialect. Upon disembarking in the Eternal City, this time, he began the media exercise by quoting the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius. “He’s someone who communicates extremely well. But, in the long term, its popularity will depend above all on its ability to obtain results ”, recalls Jonathan Zebina.
The problem with the “Special One”, as it is nicknamed, is that in recent years, in the field, its teams no longer had much special. If the 2000s were akin for his career to the ascent of a non-category pass, the peak of which was his second coronation in the Champions League in 2010 with Inter Milan, the 2010s then looked like a descent gently sloping.
He is no longer popular in England
At Real Madrid, Mourinho won titles, but ended up weighed down by the excesses of his own character (putting his finger in the eye of the assistant coach of Barcelona after a defeat, in particular). And the three experiences that followed in England (at Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham) ended with a dismissal during the season. So much so that at a time when the Premier League attracts all the best players and coaches on the continent, “the Mou” is no longer popular in England.
The capital’s club has been chasing a league title for more than twenty years
No need for a financial rating agency to see his downgrading: for the first time since his stint at Leiria in 2001-2002, José Mourinho signed this summer for a club that did not qualify for either the Champions League or the Europa League. . Roma have indeed finished seventh in the last Italian league following two already disappointing seasons (sixth in 2018-2019 and fifth in 2019-2020). For more than twenty years now, the capital club has been chasing a league title.
In his biography The Mourinho case (Hugo & Cie editions, 2013), the journalist Thibaud Leplat stated:
“José prefers the modest to the starlets. A modest is hungry. A starlet is already sated. A modest only waits for one thing: a leader to give thanks. “
What if Rome was precisely the ideal place for the rebirth of the man who was once considered the best coach in the world? After the time of euphoria, José Mourinho lowered the temperature during his last press conferences. Aware of the limits of his workforce to go the distance in the race for the Scudetto, he said this week: “We are not candidates for anything. “
The derby against Lazio on Sunday looks like a first turning point in the season. Seeing Mourinho on the bench of AS Roma will also bring back an old memory to opposing supporters. In 2003, in added time for a semi-final first leg of the UEFA Cup Porto-Lazio, the Portuguese coach had pulled the jersey of a Lazio player getting ready to quickly make a touch that could have resulted in a scoring opportunity. The Portuguese had been sent off that night, but a month later his team lifted the European trophy.