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The Mark of Mourinho: Which Players Are On His Wishlist?

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Roma’s new coach might have a preference for certain players. JonAS investigates which ones.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

No matter if you’re Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United, Frosinone Calcio, FC Beer Pong, or his butler, if Jose Mourinho asks you for something, you better find/get/buy/steal it and bring it to him. Because he’s The Special One. And so our beloved AS Roma, or more to the point, Tiago Pinto, knows what to expect this summer. Make it rain, Tiago. And I don’t mean the weather forecast.

Now, Jose probably knows Roma can’t afford to spend €100m on one player, let alone during one entire mercato. He’s no fool, he knows Roma’s financial situation and he won’t ask for Mbappe, Kane, or Haaland. But I reckon he has about three to four player profiles he wants to implement his tactics and favorite plan.

However, before Mourinho can get to work, Tiago Pinto will have to trim the roster, cutting some deadwood from the squad: players like Federico Fazio, Steven Nzonzi, and Robin Olsen. Players like Juan Jesus, Antonio Mirante, and Bruno Peres will already be gone when Mou enters Trigoria, while the future of several other players remains uncertain: Edin Dzeko, Javier Pastore, Pau Lopez, Amadou Diawara, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Davide Santon, Justin Kluivert, and Cengiz Ünder, to name a few.

Despite all of those redundancies, Roma still has an impressive crop of players raring to go. So far we know Mourinho’s spine will be Mancini, Karsdorp, Spinazzola, Cristante, Veretout, Pellegrini, Zaniolo. Guys like SES, Florenzi, Ibanez, Kumbulla, Villar, Fuzato, Borja, and Pedro will be rotation pieces but far from his ideal eleven. Let’s be real, we can’t expect Pinto to sell 15 players and buy 15 shiny new ones, this isn’t PES Master League.

Let’s say guys like Mikhi, Smalling, Santon, and Kluivert eventually remain along with some Primavera studs (Calafiori, Darboe, etc). Then he’ll still need three more solid additions. A keeper, defensive midfielder, and striker for his 4-2-3-1 formation.

So, with that in mind, let's take a look at the three most likely and realistic Mourinho additions.

Goalkeeper: Rui Patricio

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

I must admit this one’s quite tough. Roma could go the Italian route, or aim for an unknown gem in Brazil, Argentina, or Portugal. Or what about a steady veteran? Or a keeper at his peak—who is sadly also a lot more expensive? Wait, why not have a mix of all that in one person?

Enter Rui Patricio, Wolverhampton’s 33-year-old guardian between the sticks.

Recently his name popped up because his price tag, experience, and talent all sound very interesting to Roma. Portugal’s number one and Sporting Lisbon icon, Rui Patricio won multiple trophies in his home country and on the international stage (winning Euro 2016 and the Nations League 2019). Standing 1.90 meters tall (6’2”), Rui has more than 100 European club games and 90 caps for Portugal under his belt. He's been part of the Portugal national team since 2010, so he’ll bring plenty of experience to our locker room.

After 12 seasons at Sporting, his transfer to Wolverhampton in 2018 was a success as Rui only missed two Premier League games in three seasons since 2018, even finishing seventh in his first season abroad, qualifying for the Europa League 2019-2020. He would guide the Wolves to the quarter-finals in that same competition.

So how much would that all cost us? Surprisingly only around €10 million according to Transfermarkt. Just like Belotti, his contract runs until 2022 which is ideal for a bidding war this summer. He’s not in the same price category as a Donnarumma, Maignan, or Musso, who are of course a lot younger, but if I had to choose, I’d rather Roma would dream bigger in the attacking department and throw money at a star striker than keeper.

At the age of 33, Patricio can easily provide another three to four years of quality to Roma, Morgan De Sanctis style. Plus, the combo Rui Patricio-Fuzato could work well for Roma, both speak Portuguese, while one can act as the mentor to guide the younger prodigy. Simply put: if Roma gets Rui Patricio, they’re safe until at least 2024 and have more than enough time to search for a new Buffon or Alisson.

Defensive midfielder: Nemanja Matic

Chelsea v Manchester United - The Emirates FA Cup Final Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Mou & Matic, sitting in a tree. K I S S I N G. In all seriousness, Jose likes this player. A lot. There’s a reason the Giallorossi have been linked to him ever since the Special One to Roma became official earlier this month. Matic worked under Mourinho at both Chelsea and Manchester between 2014 and 2018. In 2014, Chelsea specifically bought Matic from Benfica while Man U then bought Nemanja from Chelsea, reuniting him once again with Mourinho.

Matic is a left-footed, tall, powerful, intelligent, and robust midfielder who shields his defense and is not afraid to tackle a body or two. During his Chelsea days, his tackling stats were better than Kante, Henderson, or Fernandinho.

At the age of 32 (33 this summer), Matic isn’t exactly a spring chicken but look at Roma’s midfield right now. Pastore is the only guy above 30 and who knows where he’ll end up next season. So Villar, Cristante, Pellegrini, and Darboe could benefit from an older warrior who is more wise and experienced.

In Serie A, age is less of a problem. You can easily go on until you’re 35-36, so Matic could still have a few good years left in the tank. And with his mentor Jose by his side, what can possibly go wrong? Matic isn’t a starter anymore in the current Man U side with only 20 Premier League appearances this year. I reckon they won’t demand THAT much for a 32-year-old bench player, although he has a contract until 2023 so they’re not in a hurry to sell him this summer.

But if the price is right and Mou really insists, then go for it. This move is your typical low-risk, high-reward type of business. Remember: Roma needs to get back to the Champions League ASAP, not nurture a bunch of 20-year-olds for a possible Scudetto in 2028. We need men who can immediately bring AS Roma back to where she belongs.

Striker: Andrea Belotti

Torino FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Mourinho demands a strong striker; a body able to hold up play, a nightmare for every defense. A player who can blast a ball in the top of the net. A pillar. From McCarthy (Porto), Ibra, Milito, Eto’o (all Inter) to Drogba, Diego Costa (both Chelsea), and Kane (Tottenham), Mourinho always had a bond with his reliable goal-scoring machine upfront.

If Dzeko leaves, there’s a huge gap to fill. Borja will probably stay but is still too raw for this role. We’ll need a big guy. A household name. Someone with a resume that screams GOALS GOALS GOALS. A guy like... Andrea Belotti.

Lately, it seems Roma are linked to every player in Europe who classifies as ‘striker’: Weghorst, Icardi, Vlahovic, Abraham, Diego Costa, Depay. If there’s one department where Friedkin will have to break the bank, it’s upfront. You want goals, you pony up.

Although we’re linked to a ton load of strikers, not all of them are realistic. Vlahovic is already out of our price range and remains a risk in my eyes: who says his (admittedly splendid) season wasn’t just a one-off? Remember Schick or Iturbe. Depay also attracts interest from Barcelona, so yeah, good luck with that. And Weghorst will play CL next season with Wolfsburg, why would he choose Roma instead? Same for Icardi at PSG.

There’s only one guy who looks both affordable and realistic: Andrea Belotti. Torino narrowly escaped relegation and Andrea will want to avoid another disastrous season. He’s been at Torino since 2015 and might need a breath of fresh air while his contract runs until 2022. Torino will need to sell him this summer or risk losing him for free.

A striker like Belotti is perfect for Mourinho. He hustles, is strong in the air, and fairly quick. He has a high work rate and can hold up the ball. He’s also rarely injured, playing more than 220 games for Torino in six seasons, always reaching double-digit goal figures in Serie A. A fine physical specimen just like Drogba or Ibra.

Just imagine Belotti next to Mikhi, SES, Zaniolo, and Pellegrini and start drooling. I reckon a strong bid (35-40m) and perhaps a Primavera player or two could tempt Torino to part ways with Belotti. In any case, this will be the transfer of the summer—one in which the Friedkins need to put their money where their mouth is and please Mourinho. This is Roma’s game-changer for 2021-2022.

Mourinho's Possible Starting Eleven

If those deals would all go through, we could be looking at something like this for the first Serie A game of 2021-2022:

(4-2-3-1): Rui Patricio; Karsdorp, Mancini, Smalling, Spinazzola; Matic, Veretout; Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Belotti.

And with a likely bench rotation of: Fuzato, Florenzi, Ibanez, Kumbulla, Calafiori, Santon, Cristante, Villar, Pedro, SES, Kluivert, Borja

That’s one deep squad with a perfect blend of youth, experience, speed, and power, including players who are widely employable. Notice there’s one 30+ player in every section from the starting lineup.

If Pinto is able to work his magic and get this done... Mamma mia. Well my friends, then we’re in for quite a special season with the Special One.