Fresh off an evening with Conor McGregor in which The Special One couldn’t have looked more zen (look it up if you haven’t seen the pictures, they’re great), Mourinho met with the media in advance of Sunday’s massive showdown against Juventus in Turin, discussing Tammy Abraham, Gonzalo Villar, as well as the recent links with Newcastle.
Read the transcript below published on the team’s site, with some closing thoughts from yours truly.
What’s Tammy Abraham’s status? Could we see him tomorrow during the game?
“We’ll see tomorrow if Tammy plays or not. He did not train much today, not very much at all, but he will be travelling with the group.
“Tomorrow we will have to decide whether he can play, whether he can be on the bench, or if he will be in the stands. But he’s getting better day-by-day. Let’s see tomorrow”
The other doubt in the squad then is Matias Vina…
“There’s no doubt there, he’s fine.”
Juventus have not started this season very well – do you think they can still get themselves back in the title race?
“That’s a question for Max [Allegri, Juventus coach], not me. If you are asking for my answer, though, then obviously I will say yes. They are a really good side, one that is always fighting for the title and looking to win every game. They are not just a team of 11 good players, but a squad of 20 of them with a great coach who has a wealth of experience. Clearly they are a very strong candidate.”
Is Gonzalo Villar out of the squad for tomorrow?
“Why do you say he is out? It’s strange to me that you ask me about him specifically when I have 23 players in my squad. Why him and not someone else?”
Because last year he played a lot and this year he’s hardly featured.
“But that does not mean he isn’t in the squad. Perhaps someone saw him leaving Trigoria half-an-hour ago or so and they’ve come to the wrong conclusion. He’s in the squad. He won’t start tomorrow, but he will be on the bench.
“He’s a kid that works hard, that works well. He’s putting in a real effort to adapt to how I see the game of football. He’s working really hard to change the way he played compared to last season, when Roma had five at the back. I’m happy with him. His chances will come. One may even come tomorrow. But he will start on the bench.”
Tomorrow’s game sees the league’s two most successful coaches face off. What motivates you heading into games against Allegri? And do you agree with this distinction people have created between ‘risultatisti’ (results-focused coaches) and ‘giochisti’ (performance-focused coaches).
“It’s a strange discussion, for me. Those that get called ‘risultatisti’ are those that win things. It seems like that term is used negatively, but it should be the opposite. You can’t call someone who has never won anything in their career a ‘risultatista’.
“So to me it seems a mistaken concept. I’ve won things, so has Max, and that needs to be looked at positively. I’m thankful if anyone can call me a ‘risultatista’.
“As for the other part of your question, tomorrow isn’t a battle between me and Max – it’s Roma against Juve. It will be nice to see him before the game. After the game, too. There’s a mutual respect there between us.
“We’ve seen each other a lot at various UEFA events in Switzerland over the years. You can’t call it a great friendship, because we aren’t in touch that regularly, but I like Max as a person and we have a good rapport. It will be good to see him and I am happy he’s back working again. A coach like him shouldn’t be away too long on holiday.”
What sort of reception are you expecting at the stadium tomorrow? And are you wary of having Daniel Orsato as the referee?
“Let’s start with the referee – and this goes for Orsato or any of the other referees. Before each game I am always happy with whoever the referee is, I don’t worry about what happened in the past. Often I am not even bothered about knowing who the referee is – I trust in all of them and I always come with the belief that they are all good at what they do and want to do the best they can.
“In this instance, it’s a referee that has a lot of experience in the game and I’m happy about that. After games sometimes it turns out they have made a mistake and I am not happy about it – I might criticise them but that’s normal, I think. But before each game I have no problem with whoever the referee is and that will be the same tomorrow.
“I expect the same reception [at the stadium] as always tomorrow – or maybe it will be a bit different, I don’t really know. At the end of the last game there I reacted in a certain way and people saw that as a bit strange. People were left to focus on that reaction, which last 10 seconds or so, and they forgot about the 90 minutes that preceded it. These days we always talk about a certain type of attitude, about respect for people, and on that night that was all forgotten about for 90 minutes or so. But I’ve been in football a long time, it’s no issue for me.”
How are Eldor Shomurodov and Borja Mayoral doing?
“They are both doing well. If they need to play, they can play. It’s no issue for us. We have a few positions where, if we lose a player, then we have some real problems – the sort of problems that the biggest sides don’t have. In our case if Tammy can’t play then we have two other players who are perfectly ready to step in, without any issues.”
Is Juventus the biggest game of the season for you? And, on another topic, are you happy to see Newcastle fans calling for you to be their next manager?
“On Newcastle, I don’t have anything to say. Absolutely nothing to say. The only thing I can say is that, for many, many years, I worked with one of the most important figures in the history of Newcastle, Sir Bobby Robson. And so because of that I have always had a bit of an emotional connection with that city and that fanbase. But it’s nothing more than that. I am here, I am really happy to be here, I am 100% focused on the Roma project, the Friedkin project.
“As for games against Juventus, I think it is one of those games that you most like being involved in. There’s no negative feeling there for me. It’s all positive. I like being a part of the biggest games. It’s still just three points to play for, but I like to go up against the most talented squads, the best players … it’s always a challenge that I really like.”
Last season Roma finished 16 points behind Juventus. Do you think you have closed that gap at all?
“The season only started a few weeks ago. Sometimes it is difficult for me to answer these questions, because I feel like I am always repeating the same thing. They are trying to win the Champions League, we are trying to win the Conference League. It’s one thing for a team to have won nine titles in 10 years, it’s another thing for a team that has won 0 in 10. That squad have worked with Max for a number of years, even if there was a two-year break, and that’s different to a team with a coach who only arrived three months ago.
“It’s one thing to have a squad of 25 players of international quality, experience and then another squad with 13-14 young players who are trying to improve and learn and reach that level. There’s a difference. However, when the game starts it is still 11 v. 11, everything else is forgotten. And we need to make sure we forget all that, above all. We need to have the right attitude, personality and bravery to go there and try and win the game.”
Have you had to tweak things in anticipation of this match and the challenges it will pose?
“The only thing I can really say is that it has been hard for us to work together on things, because we haven’t had all the players available to us. Today was the first day we’ve had them all together and we did not have the chance to do much. We have a gameplan, and we know who will play. Allegri knows how we will start, the only doubt he will have is whether it will be Abraham or, if he can’t play, Shomurodov on the pitch.
“For us it’s impossible to work out how they will play. Even without Paulo Dybala, who they say is out, or Adrien Rabiot, they still have a lot of different options in different roles and systems across the pitch. So it’s much harder for us to prepare to play against them than it is for them to prepare for us. That’s something that will become important for our own future, more so than in the specific context of this game.
“We are still in a transition. We are improving and it’s important to me that we instill a clear identity. We will go there to play our way. If we don’t win then I want that to be because Juventus did something impressive, not because we fell short. All these differences between us, in terms of status and experience and potential, they go out of the window once the game kicks off. The best team will win.”
Allegri is a coach who really knows how to read a game and react accordingly…
“But that’s not because he’s a ‘risultatista’, that’s because he’s a really good coach. You think they might drop deep to prevent us trying to get in behind? That’s normal, that’s the language of the game. They will want to make the game be played a certain way. What I want is for us to make sure we don’t forget our identity – I don’t want us to be naïve. I don’t want us to gift Juventus with the sort of game they want to play. You have to try and make things hard for your opponent.
“I also like to read the games and react accordingly, making changes to things, but it’s harder for me to do that effectively than it is for him. A lot harder.”
I absolutely love that Mourinho brought up the infamous celebration against Juve in the Champions League, I’m praying that he brings it out again should Roma claim all three points on Sunday. Compared to his previous pressers, at least in terms of the ones we’ve broken down on the site thus far, Jose really seemed to place a bigger emphasis on Roma’s youth and inexperience. I suppose it makes sense when juxtaposed against Juve’s roster and the success that Allegri has had with that squad over the years, but clearly Mourinho is trying to downplay expectations going into this match, which I’m fine with. The early stages of the season have been all about changing the culture of the club and mentality of the players, so of course you want the focus placed on the performance rather than the result, whatever it may be.
Mourinho’s thoughts on being labeled a results-oriented coach as opposed to a performance-oriented coach were also interesting. It’s clear that to some extent the label bothers him, as it’s seen as a negative, but he also clearly has no intention to depart from his football philosophy, one that I believe is perfect for Roma and the young crop of players at our disposal. If being more results-oriented is the key to avoiding the same mistakes of previous iterations of this team, namely the performances in big matches, sign me up every time.