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Rapid Reaction Roundtable: José Mourinho As Roma's New Manager

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Times like these call for an immediate response

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Today started like any other day for most of us, no doubt. Maybe you were just pulling into work, heading outside to do some yard work, picking up groceries, or, like me, you were stuck in a waiting room oblivious to the shock waves rippling through the Eternal City. But then your phone started buzzing with DMs, notifications, and news updates alerting you to this morning's seismic event: Roma have hired José Mourinho as their next manager.

We took a completely speculative pro and con look at the prospect of Mourinho as Roma's manager late last week, but even then, we weren't expecting it to actually happen. So, much like the rest of you, we're struggling to get a grasp on this potentially paradigm-changing move from the Friedkins.

To get a grasp on today's news, we assembled the crew to get our immediate reactions to this news. Enjoy and please give us your take below!


Don’t even think about it: what is your gut reaction to this move?

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Bren: Shock. Just complete and utter shock. I ripped off the Fonseca piece in about 10 minutes before I had to make an appointment, get a DM from Jimmy, thinking it was a standard scheduling question, only to find out Roma appointed the Special One as the new manager. I cannot process this! I was getting geared up for Sarri Ball and then they hit us with this. Amazing.

I have no idea what to expect, but I’m intrigued/titillated/wary. This is going to be a very interesting summer.

Jimmy Miotto: To the Friedkins: “Gentlemen, you had my curiosity, now you have my attention.” There’s no doubt that this is a huge move, even if I have absolutely no idea how it’s going to pan out. I said this before, but the one thing I think is relatively certain now is that Tiago Pinto is going to have quite the checkbook to play around with this summer.

ssciavillo: I have to say I was shocked. I got a Tweet from a listener stating that we’d have plenty to talk about on the next pod thinking he was referencing the Fonseca news only to see this. Wow! I was thinking we were 80% probability looking at Sarri. This is a shocker.

JonAS: To paraphrase a certain character from an awesome TV show: Giggity giggity giggity! Like Bren, I was already thinking about how Sarri would implement his 4-3-3 in Rome, and then they hit us with this news—totally unexpected because why would José ever choose Roma anyway? No Champions League, not even Europa League. His Inter past.

Not so long ago you might have read my excellent (ahem) piece about the pros and cons of hiring Mourinho and perhaps you already noticed I was rather in the camp of pro. And now I’m truly, madly, deeply excited about it. This can go so, so wrong or so, so right.

dallagente: Yeah, you called it Jonas, full credit there. Personally, I woke up late, so when I got the roundtable email saying we’d be talking about Mourinho, I thought we were going to extremes to take our minds off the team’s current run of form. Then I loaded up CdT’s front page and saw the news. I don’t know what to feel beyond this because we’ve still yet to see what’s to come on the summer transfer market.

What do you think this says about the Friedkins intentions for Roma’s project? Is Mourinho the big-time manager who can propel Roma over the top or has he lost some of his shine in recent years?

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Bren: Well, I had about six thousand words in the queue answering a similar question that will now never see the light of day. But, there’s no mistaking it: they’re swinging for the fences with this hire. No longer will we have to wait for a young manager to prove themselves, they went out and got the genuine article: a title-winning manager, and a treble-winning one at that.

It’s a good marriage in the sense that both parties have a lot to prove. Mourinho is likely keen to reassert his managerial dominance while Roma obviously wants to move up the Serie A pecking order, so if it works, both sides will be smiling three years from now. If not, well, Mourinho’s days with medium to big clubs are likely done.

Jimmy: Honestly, my most significant thought on this move is that it’s a huge statement of intent from the Friedkins. This is the kind of move a new owner makes when they want to win titles, and they want to win them very soon. It always felt clear that Paulo Fonseca wouldn’t have been their pick for manager, and they were just waiting for his contract to run down to make real moves for the club. If they pair signing Mourinho with some big transfers (or at least, big for Roma), it will show that Dan Friedkin is here to chew bubblegum and kick ass in Serie A, and he’s all out of bubblegum.

ssciavillo: I have to agree that this is a signal of intent from the Friedkins. You don’t make this kind of hire if you’re not looking to make noise in the league right away. Mourinho comes with the pedigree of no other manager I can think of since I’ve been a fan. That being said, his last couple spells in charge of clubs—most recently Spurs—haven’t been the most successful. However, he returns to a league where he was able to pull off the treble, which is something his supporters will point to.

JonAS: First of all, big love for Jimmy for quoting Duke Nukem. I’m so curious about the things that were said in the meeting between José and the Friedkins. Surely Mourinho won’t use a lineup with Santon, Fazio, Fuzato, or even Borja, Kumbulla, and Villar. Things are promised to Mourinho. Like BIG things. Two to three top players (not Haaland or Mbappe of course but just one lower category) might come in. Mourinho will be the boss, we’ll play by his rules.

And Bren is right, this, at first sight, looks like a good marriage. Mourinho has one last chance to redeem himself after his mediocre Tottenham and ManU stints, while there’s undeniably potential in this group of players at Roma. They just need a couple of good additions and most of all, confidence. Someone at the helm with a strong character/personality. José is your man.

dallagente: I think it’s opportunism. Mourinho only became available when he was fired two weeks ago, and now he’s hired as the Roma coach. So it can’t be some kind of sign of a well-thought-out plan by the Friedkins. They may HAVE a well-thought-out plan in the making, but this Mourinho hire is just jumping on an opportunity. It’s likely also a show of faith in Tiago Pinto, letting him continue with another co-national and someone who understands tactical periodization. Lastly, it’s an opportunity for the club to sell shirts with their press release about signing a winner. We’re no closer to knowing what plans the Friedkins really have for the club until the summer transfer market is over.

For weeks, we were led to believe Maurizio Sarri would be Roma’s next manager. Rampant speculation time: why Mourinho instead of Sarri? Was Sarri ever real or just a smokescreen?

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Bren: Well, in some ways this is perfectly in line with what we know about the Friedkins business model: loose lips sink ships. Sarri very well could have been a bluff all along or maybe he had more options than we thought and decided to wait and see what other jobs open up? I think that was the case with Allegri since those stories died rather suddenly. But then again, maybe Mourinho was the plan all along.

We just don’t know and the Friedkins aren’t likely to divulge much information along those lines anyway. It’s a shame because I think Sarri could have struck a good balance between results and entertainment but Mourinho is a winner, there’s no doubt about that at all.

Jimmy Miotto: Maurizio Sarri was probably never a real option, and the fact that the Italian media claimed he was practically signed for next season just shows how few connections they must have inside the Friedkin entourage. As for why Mourinho specifically, I think opportunity knocked at Tiago Pinto’s door when Tottenham let José go. When a club like Roma has the opportunity to sign Mourinho, they do it, even with his status as somewhat damaged goods.

ssciavillo: I think Allegri and especially Sarri were probably names discussed within the club. How close either was to accepting a job at Roma is completely unknown. However, it’s quite clear that the reports that Sarri was close were completely off. I think once Spurs let Mourinho go that he probably become the Friedkins primary target based on how quickly this happened. The Friedkins continue to prove that they have quite the loyal group of lieutenants within the club for none of this speculation to leak out.

JonAS: Smokescreens are only good during Tiësto or Dimitri Vegas & LikeMike concerts. Just like ssciavillo, I think Sarri was a serious option for the Friedkins (Serie A experience, fluid football) right until Mourinho became a free man. Then they decided to go all out for José who is the bigger name after all. Perhaps they were afraid some other club would steal Mourinho before their very eyes and teased him with a very interesting project. He suddenly was an opportunity they simply couldn’t resist.

dallagente: The Sarri story was a lot like Chris Smalling last season. It was never in Maurizio Sarri’s interest to rush talks for his next job before the end of May. Looking at it in cold terms, Sarri would wait for the offers to come in at the end of the season and then make his decision. It should be said Sky Italia did report that the last time Roma actually held any talks with Sarri was all the way back in January, so they were painting a very different story to the Roman media.

Give us one or two things that will (or must) immediately change under Mourinho’s Roma. Do you expect a grind it out at all costs team or can Jose balance beauty with pragmatism?

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Bren: Well, just last night there were rumors...again, rumors...that the Friedkins had already noticed the defeatist culture that seems to envelop Trigoria, so I have to imagine a change in mindset and a culture with higher expectations was driving this move. In that light, this new Roma may be more results-driven than we’re used to—no more champagne football, just results. Or, as Fallout Boy said “champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends”

I don’t think results and entertainment are mutually exclusive, so I hope we’ll see more than grimy one-nil wins but if that’s what it takes in the short-term, so be it. This is what Roma needs—a dramatic change in approach, one that offers no quarter for excuses.

Jimmy Miotto: Bren, I’m going to have to pretend that you didn’t just reference a 2000s pop-punk band in your answer, or at the very least counter it with a Drake quote: “**** a fake friend, where the real friends at / We don’t like to do too much explainin’ / Story stayed the same through the money and the fame.”

More seriously, I’m actually almost looking forward to a grit-and-grind mentality for a while. We always say that Roma is La Maggica, and it’s true that Roma’s beautiful football is what brought me to the club in the first place (along with one Francesco Totti). Given that, it’s not like we’ve been playing beautiful football the last few seasons, so if we can get a manager who brings results and instills a no-excuses mentality, I’ll take it, even if we have to stomach a lot of 1-0 wins along the way.

ssciavillo: To me, results are more important than how a team plays. I’ll gladly take pragmatic 1-0 wins if it means Roma can start to again grind out results against the top teams in the league, as well as, Europe. I think with the return of Zaniolo, the continued development of players like Pellegrini, and some quality signings we will eventually see a mix of brute and beauty, but a change of mentality and better results certainly have to be the primary objective of this signing.

dallagente: Whether or not those rumours were true, it was there to see on the pitch over the last couple of years that we’d put together a team that’s too soft. I’ve compared them to the declining years of Wenger’s Arsenal (post-2006) in the past. I also - just by coincidence - got done watching Spurs All or Nothing season this past week, where the first thing Mourinho is telling the players is nice guys don’t win, and they have to be *%@!. And he spent several weeks and several team talks, telling them that over and over. I don’t think Mourinho is comfortable unless he sees people arguing within the team and the club. That’s something he sees as constructive. I’m antagonistic, myself, so I get it. I also much prefer direct football over possession football, so I’m ok with the idea of all this. But I have no idea what the club’s plan is to fund the whole thing.

JonAS: I do recall his Porto, Chelsea (first stint), and Inter teams to be quite attractive and pleasing to the eye. And his Real side even scored 121 goals in 2011-2012 in La Liga, amassing 100 points. You can’t manage that with grinding out 1-0 wins most of the time. So why shouldn’t Roma be a beautiful team to watch? We have personnel like Zaniolo, SES, Veretout, Spinazzola and Mancini to do the job. We’ll have to wait and see.

I do expect us to be more realistic vs bigger teams and be smarter, tougher. More cunning. And Mourinho won’t hesitate to park the bus every once in a while. Suits me if we can get a draw at Atalanta, Inter, or Juve. Better than losing 4-1. Everybody wants to be Bayern or Barcelona nowadays, Roma needs to find their own identity with José. And yeah, if we have to be arrogant in the press, then so be it.

So Jimmy, back off, here’s some Sum 41 for you:

I don’t wanna waste my time

Become another casualty of society

I’ll never fall inline

Become another victim of your conformity

We’ll delve into this much more in the coming weeks, but what kind of players will Mourinho need to add to enact his brand of football in Rome? Can he work with what he has or will Roma have to spend big to give The Special One the right tools?

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Bren: I’m not exactly a Mourinho expert, but one look at the teams he’s managed gives you an indication of what he’s likely expecting from Pinto and the Friedkins. Mourinho needs his proverbial white whale; he won’t be satisfied with Roma paying €30M for an unproven teenager, so that aspect of this move excites me. I think we’ll still see a new keeper, a new striker and probably additional depth at full-back. I’ll be most curious about what he does with Roma’s midfield.

Roma can’t replace the entire roster, so he’s going to have to make do with most of Roma’s current inventory, but I can’t see him being okay with the roster as is—there has to be at least one mega purchase following this hire.

Jimmy Miotto: It seems all but certain that Mourinho won’t just be working with the players that are already signed to the Giallorossi, although I could see him taking talents like Justin Kluivert and bringing them back on to the track to superstardom. I agree with Bren that a goalkeeper and a striker are going to be the first order of business, though I think a Mkhitaryan replacement might also be a need ASAP. Expect big names - Dušan Vlahović-type big names, if I have my way.

ssciavillo: I can’t claim to be a Mourinho expert either, but I think the Friedkins have to have proposed some player spending for a manager of his caliber. He’s used to having a fairly large budget to work with. I think striker will be the primary target and I think Andrea Belotti’s work rate and grinta could be a huge draw for him. Keeper will almost certainly be addressed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the midfield rejigged a bit too. I think we need a little more grinta there to support the likes of Pellegrini, Villar, Zaniolo, and Veretout. I also agree with Jimmy that maybe the Kluiverts and Unders of the world find new life under Mourinho.

dallagente: The only consistent thing I can take out of Mourinho’s teams is that he’s a defensive coach. There was a piece from The Athletic this season that said it all: “Tactics were so obsessed with stopping opposition that players were unsure how to attack” He’ll want to make sure we defend the flanks properly and want to make sure the defensive midfielder is always on point to defend those half-spaces around Roma’s penalty area. Anything beyond that is down to individual quality as far as attack goes. I remember watching the footage of him explaining one of his best ever results, beating Barcelona 3-1 at home with Inter, and it literally just came down to Maicon and the three forwards having great chemistry to invent something on the break, all by themselves.

Mourinho is a coach who just doesn’t seem comfortable having a conversation with the team about how to attack until he’s 100% sure they’ve got the defending part done right. So I expect he will need (ideally) a serious wide player to help break out of defense—an upgrade on Karsdorp basically—and a serious complete forward. Just those two signings at the very least, and they have to be very good, serious quality and characters who want to give 110% to strike up an understanding on the pitch.

JonAS: Roma has a lot of tall, physical players so that’s a plus for Mourinho. Like I said in a previous question, I expect 2-3 big names to please The Special One. I’ll need to do some more research on his Real, Chelsea, and Porto squads but he might opt for an Inter approach: 4-3-1-2 with Pellegrini in the Sneijder role and Cristante and Veretout as midfield enforcers. Karsdorp needs to release his inner Maicon, Smalling his inner Lucio and SES needs to step up as support striker. Oh and we desperately need a new GK and ST. I fear Borja might not suffice.

At first blush, which current Roma players stand to benefit most from a Mourinho administration and which ones will suffer?

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Bren: My mind immediately jumps to the defense. I think Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibañez could do quite well under Mourinho. And certainly, Mourinho has experience with star players so perhaps he’ll help Zaniolo ascend to another level. Jose is a notoriously gruff manager, so I’ll be curious to see what he does with some of the younger players who struggled for consistency like Villar or Diawara. How much patience will he have with them? Is he capable of using a gentle touch?

Jimmy Miotto: Nicolo Zaniolo seems to be the player who could benefit the most from training with Mourinho, and Gianluca Mancini’s mentality seems to be a perfect fit as well. I’m also curious to see what happens with Borja Mayoral this summer and if he takes well to working with José.

ssciavillo: I can’t help and think what Mourinho will do with one of my favorite players on the team—Mancini. I think Mourinho will be salivating to have a chance to work with him and Ibanez. I also agree that training with Mourinho can also benefit Zaniolo to take the next step in his career. I also like the strides Pellegrini has made this season in being more responsible defensively. Maybe Mourinho could push him even harder to be a more complete player and true leader of this side.

dallagente: I agree, it’s Mancini, Ibanez, maybe Smalling maybe not, Cristante, Carles Perez, Justin Kluivert as the easy fits. Guys like Borja Mayoral, Gonzalo Villar, and Amadou Diawara are a more interesting conversation because they’re “nice guys” and it’s make-or-break for them under Mourinho’s sh*ttesting psychology. There’s also the 27 million euros we dropped on Kumbulla, is that now going out the window? Or is Ibanez getting sold this summer to account for that? See, there’s just a ton of smoke still to clear on what the club’s direction actually is. Do we have a plan or are we just burning the old plans again?

JonAS: Mancini is a no-brainer. Piccolo Materazzi will turn into a stud and leader of the defense. He’ll also mold Zaniolo into a superstar. Smalling, Cristante, Veretout are tough enough for his taste. More fragile players like Villar, Kumbulla, or Borja will have a difficult time. It’s his way or the highway and he won’t hesitate to publicly criticize them too. It’s a far cry from gentlemen like Fonseca or Ranieri.

Prediction time: Mourinho’s deal runs through 2024. So what will we be saying about this move then?

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Bren: Well, we’re making the daring assumption that he’ll last all three years, which never happens in Roma. However, since this is the Friedkin’s first managerial hire, I think Jose will get a bit of a longer leash than his predecessors. If Roma is truly committed to this and go all out with transfers commensurate with Mourinho’s record, this could be the dawn of a new era for Roma.

If not, well, we’re right back to square one—but that’s nothing new. We can survive that. I’m cautiously optimistic this will work like gangbusters and that Mourinho will reassert himself. He should have something to prove and he hates Juve, so I’m okay with this.

Jimmy Miotto: Flip a coin. This is either going to go spectacularly or terribly, no in-between. At the very least, it seems like The Friedkin Group really means business with their plans for the club, and that’s a breath of fresh air compared to the “all talk, no action” days of Jim Pallotta and the debt-ridden days of the Sensis.

ssciavillo: Honestly I could see this going either way. I’m optimistic that he will be given the proper support from the Friedkins to turn this into a great move for Roma. If he can start to change the mentality within the club, attract some big signings, make some of our current pieces into stars, and bring Roma back into contention then we could look back at this as our turning point as a club. If not, and it fails miserably then we’re right back where we started and like bren said, we’ve done that before. So I think even though there’s some risk involved, it’s a lower risk than a De Zerbi or Juric type, with the potential for big reward.

dallagente: The thing is, with all the problems the club and uncertainty the club is facing, guys like Pinto and Mourinho aren’t going to be nearly as decisive as I’d want to believe. There are factors off the pitch that are way more important right now and for the mid-term future. The question of the Super League won’t go away. If Roma spends a ton of money just to get back to square one years down the line, we don’t honestly know what the implications of that will be because the structure of football is shifting underneath our feet. The only thing I can say about next season is Roma rarely ever finishes 8th or below 8th, so no matter who the coach was - even if it had still been Fonseca - the smart money was always on Roma going onto have a better season than the one they just had.

JonAS: After Roma wins the treble in 2023, I’ll have a Mourinho tattoo on my left cheek and a Dan Friedkin tattoo on my right cheek which results in being single again, being expelled from my parents house, and being fired at work. Who cares, all I need is Roma and my two cheeky friends.

Poll

How are you feeling about Mourinho as Roma's new manager?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Excited: He's the Special One for a reason
    (440 votes)
  • 13%
    Terrified: His best days are behind him
    (101 votes)
  • 26%
    Ambivalent: Willing to give it a chance
    (199 votes)
740 votes total Vote Now