It's been nearly six weeks since Roma's shocking appointment of José Mourinho as the club's next manager, but apart from the initial announcement, we've seldom heard a word from Mourinho about the path that led him to the Eternal City. While we've yet to see the official “Mourinho holding a Roma scarf” photo, nor the intimate exposé on the club website where a grim Mourinho is rendered in black and white, the 58-year-old Portuguese legend recently spoke at length with GQ Portugal about the latest step in his illustrious career.
Speaking to the lifestyle magazine, Mourinho revealed the shocking speed with which his decision to move to Roma was made: (translations courtesy of Football Italia, YouTube, and Google).
They really wanted me. It was almost instantly, me leaving Tottenham in the morning and Roma calling me in the afternoon. They wanted me a lot and were objective.
Something I had already felt throughout my years in Italy was the Italian passion when it comes to football, specifically around Roma, a club that has won no trophies in 20 years.
These are new owners, who have a very humble approach in a way that they recognized this was a new chapter in their amazing professional lives, a chapter in which they needed help from someone with a broad experience.
They were very honest and straightforward, and I immediately felt this passion I have for my work. So I didn’t have to think too much about it, because they really touched me with their approach. I really liked it
Given the pace with which Roma snapped up Mourinho, the lack of publicity or leaks surrounding the move suddenly makes sense, so we have to credit the Friedkins and Tiago Pinto for striking while the iron was hot.
On the basis for his move to Roma compared to his previous stops, Mourinho was at once disarming, owning up to his past transgressions, and a bit deflective, claiming he was misled by some of his previous projects. Ordinarily, I'd pillory him on that last point, but having worked with some less than forthcoming bosses in my day, I can certainly sympathize with Mourinho.
I make mistakes sometimes, I haven’t always chosen the right project, or I may have been misled about the path of some projects. I’ve made mistakes or I’ve been led in a dishonest way into accepting what I shouldn’t have, but in the end it’s all the same.
These aren’t my words, they were said by someone who was much more important than me: Whoever has goals and drive, will never grow older.’
Lately I’ve been having very different projects to before. I went to Manchester United in a phrase of transition, not to say decay
I went to Tottenham who don’t have a history of success. Now I go to Roma with new owners, but I immediately felt this empathy with the owners, the director and they straight away reignited the fire and passion I have for my job.
So here I go on another Mission: Impossible. I say impossible because people tend to look at me and in their eyes there’s only one way to measure success, which is that I have to win.
Mourinho continued to speculate about his future, conceding that he sees himself coaching the Portuguese national team one day rather than continuing in club football and touched upon the growing role of data and science in the sport:
Outside the field things have changed at all levels. I say that this is only going to stop when there are no longer coaches and computers replace us making the decisions. At the moment we are at a point where we have to extract the best technology gives us. Saying no to that is saying no to the natural evolution of the game... let me use all the data generated by it without compromising me as a coach
As a stats-obsessed fan/writer, I love this quote. Much has been made about the Americanization of Roma under James Pallotta and now the Friedkin Group, particularly as it relates to analytics and scouting, but to date, those approaches haven't borne much fruit, so it will be interesting to see the extent to which Mourinho actually uses Roma's in-house data or if he prefers his own network of scouts and analysts. Mourinho wrapped up the interview by touching on a variety of subjects including his family, his thoughts on VAR, and why Instagram is the only social media platform he uses.
While Roma has yet to officially unveil Mourinho to the masses, speculation holds that the club will present Mourinho to the media towards the end of this month, or at the very least prior to his first training retreat on July 6th.
Until then, if you have a spare 24 minutes, I highly recommend watching that interview. If most of your Mourinho impressions come from afar, you'll be pleasantly surprised by his candor and modesty. It's hard to watch that and not come away convinced that Mourinho accepted this job, not for lack of other options but because he was genuinely intrigued and motivated by the prospect of turning Roma into a winner—and thank god for that.
Roma has needed a good kick in the ass for several years now and an invigorated José Mourinho really feels like the man to do it.