Whenever a new manager is named, they inherit a roster that was built for someone else—or, in Roma’s case, a couple of other managers. José Mourinho enters and finds himself with a smorgasbord of players that were purchased to whet the appetites of Eusebio Di Francesco and Paulo Fonseca. Of course, Tiago Pinto will bring in some players handpicked by The Special One, but it’s impossible to build an entire roster in his image in just one summer.
Therefore, Mourinho will have to make do with a number of players inherited from EDF and Fonseca—two managers with footballing philosophies very different from his own. Nevertheless, not all of those pieces will be misfit toys in Mourinho’s squad. In fact, quite a few players seem like they could have quite a bit of appeal to the new Roma manager. On the flip side, some players who were favorites of Fonseca may not be so appealing to Mourinho.
With that in mind, let's look a quick and dirty look at which players could be Mourinho's instant favorites and those who could find themselves on the way out of Rome. Let’s start with the current roster and then take a look at some players that will be returning from loan.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Pau Lopez: Lopez started to get back on track as the season wore on. However, he’s not the greatest shot-stopper, something that Mourinho values primarily in the keeper position. Something tells me we may have seen the last of Lopez in the capital. How they find a way to unload him after should surgery could be another story.
Antonio Mirante: The veteran looks to be over the hill. If he sticks around, he's likely no more than the third keeper, especially when you consider some of the goals he's cost Roma this season. He could also decide to hang up the gloves once and for all or move to another club for a chance to be a backup/occasional starter.
Daniel Fuzato- The young Brazilian still looks to be fairly well regarded in Roma circles, but is still a bit raw. The last four matches could be an audition for his Roma future. I can’t see him being Mourinho’s primary choice, but if he plays well then maybe he’s back as the backup to hone his skills.
Simone Farelli- Ummm. Why was he on the roster again?
Gianluca Mancini: One can’t help but think Mancini will instantly be one of Mourinho’s favorite players on Roma’s roster. The Special One had a great relationship with Marco Materazzi during his time with Inter and Mancini models his game after Materazzi’s. Whether he sticks at center back or even transitions into defensive mid like many fans would like to see, Mancini’s reading of the game, grinta, and passing ability will endear him to Mourinho.
Roger Ibañez: Much like Mancini, Mourinho will see a young defender with plenty of physical gifts and grinta that could be molded in his image. Ibañez has shown the potential to be a top-class defender with the right tutelage. With Mourinho on the bench, Ibañez could take the next step in his career.
Chris Smalling: Initially I thought Smalling could be on the way out considering he was pushed out the door at one of Mourinho’s previous stops—Manchester United. However, Smalling played fairly regularly under Mourinho in England and was marginalized by Ole Gunnar Solskjær, not Mourinho. Considering Smalling’s pace and ability to defend in space, if he can regain his health then he could be a regular again under Mourinho to provide a veteran presence in the back.
Marash Kumbulla: Kumbulla was purchased for big money this past summer. However, as much as Mourinho will likely love Mancini and Ibanez, Kumbulla might not be as appealing. The Albanian isn’t as fleet of foot as his backline mates, which could be an issue as he’d be expected to defend in transition when Roma loses possession upfield. Kumbulla seems to be better suited for a compact defense like he played at Hellas Verona under Ivan Juric. I’m not sure Roma would move on from Kumbulla already, but he’s going to have to work hard to prove to Mourinho that he’s a good fit.
Federico Fazio: Fazio has been a reliable veteran throughout his Roma career. However, the Giallorossi already tried to move on from the Argentine this past season. I find it hard to believe he’d be a part of Mourinho’s plans unless it’s as a fifth choice center back who could fill in during an injury crisis.
Juan Jesus: The Brazilian finally comes off the books this summer.
Leonardo Spinazzola: Mourinho loves having one fullback that can maraud down the flanks a la Maicon in his prime. Spinazzola doesn’t have the physical strength of Maicon, but he’s got the wheels to tear down the left flank. With a responsible stay-at-home fullback on the opposite flank and a steady defensive mid, Spinazzola could be free to burn down the flank.
Rick Karsdorp: Karsdorp finally looks to be fulfilling the promise that Monchi once saw in him. However, if Mourinho decides to play one stay-at-home fullback while the other bombs down the opposite flank, there may only be room for one of Karsdorp or Spinazzola in many matches. Karsdorp should stick around, but he will probably have to become slightly less aggressive and more defensively responsible if Spinazzola remains a sure-fire starter.
Davide Santon: Santon has become a forgotten man for much of this season, but Mourinho’s arrival could be just what the doctor ordered for Santon. Mourinho gave Santon his start with Inter as a teenager when he was considered one of the Azzurri’s hottest prospects. He never turned into Paolo Maldini Jr., but his responsibility in the defensive phase of the game will likely be well received by his old mentor. Mourinho tends to like to play one conservative fullback, which could bode well for Santon.
Bruno Peres: Peres is out of contract and a renewal doesn’t seem likely.
Bryan Reynolds: Reynolds chose Roma over Juventus because he didn’t want to be loaned out upon his arrival in Italy this January. He’s a raw product who’s not ready for a defensive-minded manager like Mourinho. Nevertheless, of late Mourinho has been more willing to develop promising youngsters by keeping them around to train with the first team. Considering Reynolds’ physical attributes that could likely be the case for the young American.
Riccardo Calafiori: We’ve seen the gifts that Calafiori possesses during his brief Roma career. However, he’s had issues staying healthy. His situation is similar to Reynolds in that he possesses enticing physical gifts that need to be seasoned. That could be done by sticking with the first team in a limited role like this season. Or perhaps Roma finds a loan somewhere to get the Roman teen some Serie A experience.
Lorenzo Pellegrini: Some may say that Pellegrini isn’t a fit for Mourinho, but I’d disagree. The Roma captain has already started to add more defensive work rate to his game this season and with a push from Mourinho, he’d likely improve even more in this area. Pellegrini reads passing lanes well defensively and can play a killer ball on the counter. With the right players running off him, Pellegrini can become Roma’s version of Wesley Snjeider on Mourinho’s Inter.
Jordan Veretout: Veretout has a motor that is unmatched in the current Roma. His work rate and ability to get forward on the counter will likely have Mourinho chomping at the bit to work with the Frenchman. And the feeling is likely mutual. The only way this doesn’t happen is if a Champions League side can lure him away.
Bryan Cristante: Cristante has been all over the pitch since his arrival in the Italian Capital. He’s done whatever every manager has asked of him, including shifting to a libero role in defense this season. With Mourinho likely shifting to a back four, Cristante will no longer be needed there. However, one could see him playing a more box-to-box midfield role that would see his offensive skill set coupled with his physical presence in defense. Cristante seems like a guy who would run through a wall for the club and Mourinho will love that.
Gonzalo Villar: Villar had a breakout first half of the campaign this season, but has faded of late. His ceiling looks high, but the young Spaniard would’ve been much better suited for a Maurizio Sarri-type manager. Villar lacks on the defensive side of the ball and Mourinho doesn’t need a Jorginho-like regista in his midfield. I could see Villar being sacrificed for a big plusvalenza to finance a new defensive mid if the right offer comes in.
Amadou Diawara: Much like Villar, Diawara is better suited for a regista role. Diawara has a better chance of sticking around because he offers more on the defensive side of the game. However, he’s not your typical defense mid and doesn’t seem that gritty. I could also see him being on his way out for the right price.
Ebrima Darboe: The sample size is small, but Darboe has looked promising during his late-season cameos. He’ll likely be auditioning for a spot on the senior team in the last three matches this season and into the preseason. If he can perform the way he did against United and Crotone then he could stick around. Similar to Reynolds, Mourinho could opt to keep him around to train for the first team rather than loaning him out with an eye on building toward the future.
Javier Pastore: Pastore’s time at Roma has been nothing but an utter failure due to his inability to stay healthy. One imagines that he wouldn’t be able to work at the rate expected of him under Mourinho. It’s likely the Giallorossi try and move on from El Flaco yet again if they can find a buyer.
Nicolo Zaniolo: Mourinho loves stars and Zaniolo is the closest thing Roma has to a star on its current roster. If the young Italian can prove that his knees are back to full health and hasn’t lost too much of his explosiveness, Zaniolo could explode under Mourinho. The Portuguese CT loves to give his attackers free reign on the break, which suits Zaniolo’s game perfectly. Roma has missed the Zaniolo freight-train runs this season and Mourinho would certainly make great use of them
Stephan El Shaarawy: The Pharaoh hasn’t had the most productive return to the capital thus far. However, with a left-wing role in Mourinho’s system, SES could return to a position where he’s able to cut in from the left and curl in right-footed shots like he did under EDF and Spalletti. Plus, El Shaarawy isn’t afraid to put in a shift tracking back—something that’s essential when playing wing for Mourinho.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: From a production standpoint, it’d be hard to find someone more valuable to Roma than Mkhitaryan this season. However, considering the difficult time that the Armenian had playing for Mourinho at Man United, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him look for a move elsewhere this summer. It’d likely be up to Mourinho to try and convince the veteran to stay in the capital—something I wouldn’t count on.
Pedro: Pedro has been a disappointment for much of the season. Yet, he does have a brief history with Mourinho from his Chelsea days, so that could help his cause. Plus, he provides leadership in the locker room and works hard in the defensive phase of the game. Therefore, he could stick around, especially if Mkhitaryan departs.
Carles Perez: Perez is an interesting case. He’s been a disappointment since his arrival from Barcelona about 18 months ago. He tends to dribble with his head down and doesn’t always link up well with teammates. But, he is a bit of a bulldog and that’s something that could entice Mourinho. I wouldn’t expect him to be a starter, but he may be able to carve out a bench role. I’d put his stay at 50/50.
Borja Mayoral: Mayoral will be a Roma player next season. I think he’s likely back only on loan again rather than seeing his option activated permanently, as I’m not sure he’s a Mourinho-type starting striker and funds will have to be splashed elsewhere. As he’s proved this season he’d be a low-priced reserve striker with some upside, rather than a starting striker. Roma will likely pursue a more established striker to lead Roma’s line.
Edin Dzeko: Dzeko was probably already out the door. However, Mourinho’s hire should expedite his exit as the veteran doesn’t have the legs left to lead Mourinho’s counter-attack at this point.
Robin Olsen: Call me crazy, but depending on how Roma chooses to invest in the market, Olsen could return to Rome. Mourinho won’t look to play out of the back like his predecessors did and just needs a shot-stopper. That makes Olsen a candidate to be Roma’s keeper if the club can’t find a keeper at a reasonable price and choose to allocate money elsewhere on the mercato.
Alessandro Florenzi: Florenzi presents quite the case. The former Roma captain left the capital unceremoniously on loan the past two seasons and it looked like a permanent stay in the French capital with PSG was in the works. That no longer looks to be the case. Does Florenzi want a chance at redemption under Mourinho? If he does, he fits the Mourinho mold in many ways, the question becomes: where does he fit positionally?
Cengiz Ünder: For all of Ünder’s offensive talents, his lack of defensive work rate can be maddening at times. That’s something that means he’s as good as gone even if Leicester City doesn’t look to make his move permanent.
Justin Kluivert: Like Ünder, Kluivert is also slated to return from an unsuccessful loan at RB Leipzig. The difference here is that Kluivert could be just what Mourinho is looking for in a winger. He’s a hard worker who tracks back defensively and is dangerous on the counter. Look for Kluivert to potentially be given a fairly large role under Mourinho.
So, what do you think? Can Mourhino make winners out of Roma's current roster? Which players will rise and fall under The Special One's guidance?