Jose Mourinho stands as one of the most renowned and accomplished figure in football management. He has graced the helm of powerhouses like Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United. Yet, throughout his storied career, he never quite experienced the fervent affection from supporters as he did during his tenure at Roma.
In the enchanting city of Rome, Mourinho’s presence was exalted in manifold ways. His face adorned the city’s walls in various artistic forms, while his tremendous charisma played a pivotal role in Roma consistently selling out their home games for over two and a half seasons. Thus, it comes as no surprise that when news of his abrupt departure shattered the airwaves on Tuesday, ardent fans rushed to the club’s training complex to bid him a tearful farewell.
“We would like to thank Jose on behalf of all of us at Roma for his passion and efforts since his arrival at the club,” read a terse statement. “We will always have great memories of his tenure at Roma, but we believe that an immediate change is in the best interests of the club. We wish Jose and his assistants all the best in their future endeavors.”
Numerous media outlets reveal that the decision to sever ties with Mourinho was orchestrated by Roma’s American owner Dan Friedkin. Such was Friedkin’s unwavering determination to secure the services of the Portuguese master tactician that he personally flew to Portugal in 2021 aboard his private plane. How swiftly circumstances can change in just a few short years.
The tale of Mourinho’s appointment in the summer of 2021 is a captivating one. Merely weeks after his departure from Tottenham Hotspur, he found himself presented with the opportunity to lead Roma in the first edition of the Europa Conference League. And true to his reputation, he seized this chance with unwavering determination, guiding Roma to triumph in the tournament and putting an end to their 14-year trophy drought.
For Mourinho himself, this marked the acquisition of his 26th managerial trophy, a staggering accomplishment. Let us not forget his previous conquests, including two Champions League titles, a Europa League crown, and a UEFA Cup.
Following this resounding victory, Mourinho led Roma to the Europa League final the following season, an impressive feat in its own right. But despite their valiant efforts, the team fell short, succumbing to defeat in a penalty shootout against Sevilla. The prospect of securing back-to-back continental trophies was tantalizing, especially for a club whose trophy cabinet had long remained empty. But this remarkable achievement was not to be.
It was the woeful performance of Roma in the domestic league that ultimately proved to be Mourinho’s undoing. His team languished in sixth place for two consecutive seasons, and now sit in the ninth position, with only a solitary victory in their last six league fixtures. When assessing the numbers, it becomes apparent that Mourinho’s tenure yielded an average of just 1.61 points per game, the lowest return of any Roma manager who oversaw 50 or more matches.
The lackluster display of Roma under Mourinho has placed the team in a precarious position, jeopardizing their chances of securing a coveted spot in the Champions League next season. A failure to clinch this qualification would mean a missed opportunity to tap into the lucrative revenue streams that accompany such a prestigious tournament.
Mourinho has often highlighted the limited investment in player transfers over the past two years. Indeed, big names like Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku were acquired on free transfers, while the club managed to generate substantial profits through player sales. These facts are certainly true, but it is crucial to consider the wider context. In his first year alone, Roma invested over 100 million euros ($108 million) to bolster their squad. Furthermore, the team bear the burden of being the third-highest wage spender in Italian topflight.
Earlier in the season, when Roma encountered a tumultuous stretch of unfavorable results, Mourinho took a firm stance during a press conference, adamantly asserting that he was not the root cause of the team’s struggles. He even revealed that he had declined a golden opportunity to join a financially robust club in Saudi Arabia. “I received the biggest and most extravagant offer a coach has ever received in the history of football,” he said. “And I turned it down. Yet, three months later, it appears that I am being portrayed as the problem. I cannot accept such a notion.”
However, it is evident that Friedkin, the shrewd businessman that he is, held a different perspective. From his standpoint, the fans’ adoration Mourinho garnered through European endeavors were merely a sideshow, secondary to the primary objective of achieving success in the domestic league.