When you’re as successful and long-lasting in your career as José Mourinho, it’s not a surprise when you see players and coaches connected to you snag managerial jobs for themselves. In American football, the Nick Saban and Bill Belichick coaching family trees have many branches; the same is true in basketball with coaches like Gregg Popovich, Phil Jackson, and Red Auerbach. The logic of a Mourinho Coaching Family Tree developing doesn’t take away the intrigue present for the Giallorossi’s upcoming match, though, as Mourinho will be facing down Thiago Motta, a key midfield cog in The Special One’s famous Inter treble.
Mourinho spoke on his relationship with Motta in his pre-match press conference, hinting that their time together extends far beyond their treble-winning successes at Inter:
On Thiago, people think that I met Thiago at Inter when we won the treble together. Actually, I first met him when I was at Barcelona and they sent me to train the kids there. Obviously I have a lot of nice memories of him. He’s one of my former players.
Among my ex-players who have gone on to take on this tough life of the football manager, I look at him, Dejan Stankovic, Cristian Chivu … they’ve all become coaches. So each week I am always wondering how they have all got on with their teams.
This time, obviously, it’s different with Thiago because we will be opponents. Before the game and after it, though, I have and will continue to have a lot of admiration for him.
Motta has been in charge at Spezia since July, and he’s managed to keep the Aquilotti just out of the relegation zone. Draws against Sassuolo and Genoa and a win over Torino have been the highlights of their season to date, showing that on their day, the side can at least play for a point here and there. Don’t expect Spezia to bring in reinforcements any time soon to firm up their place in Serie A, though, as FIFA has handed the club a two-year transfer ban effective January 2022 for illegally signing 13 minors from Nigeria.
What To Watch For
Shomurodov Versus Mayoral: Who Gets The Start?
With Nicolò Zaniolo out due to suspension, Tammy Abraham is in need of a different striking partner on the right. Sure, it might be Carles Pérez, but we haven’t seen much of him in recent weeks, so instead, I’m going to suggest that we’ll either get Eldor Shomurodov or the newly reinvigorated Borja Mayoral as Abraham’s striking partner on Monday. Neither offers the fantasista quality of The Kid, but both provide Roma’s attack with a bit of additional potency and proven ability.
Shomurodov has been going through a rough patch of form, but he’s certainly more of a Mourinho player than Mayoral. We also shouldn’t forget that at the beginning of the season, Eldor was delightful in an assist-man role, contributing to Roma’s six wins in six matches to start the season by slaloming through players in a way that is matched by only Zaniolo himself. Will that mean the Uzbek gets another chance to shine and prove his worth in Rome, or will the Spaniard who led all goalscorers for the Giallorossi last season get more playtime as Mourinho considers keeping him at the club?
Will The Youths Get Another Chance?
This match will likely feature a decent amount of rotation ahead of next week’s critical match against Atalanta; in addition to yellow card suspensions for Nicolò Zaniolo and Gianluca Mancini, the absences of Lorenzo Pellegrini and Stephan El Shaarawy mean that Monday’s match against a minnow might be a chance for certain highly-rated youngsters to shine in a Serie A context.
Felix Afena-Gyan is back from his bout with COVID-19, and if he’s fit, I wouldn’t be too surprised if he once again played the role of Mourinho’s super-sub. Similarly, Edoardo Bove has been looking pretty impressive in recent matches; sure, his promising mid-week start was against CSKA Sofia, but getting serious minutes or even another start against a side like Spezia would be a great way to figure out if the Roman teenager is truly ready for prime time. The other usual suspects like Riccardo Calafiori, Ebrima Darboe, and Bryan Reynolds may see the pitch as well; simply put, this is one of the more low-stakes opportunities for Mourinho to put his (lack of) money where his mouth is and see if his in-house depth options might be worth something.