It's been almost two months since Roma's shocking appointment of José Mourinho as the club's next manager. In the wake of the decision not to renew Paulo Fonseca's contract, pundits in and around Italy pointed towards Maurizio Sarri as the odds-on favorite for the post at Trigoria. Sarri knew the league, the players, the opponents and won the league with Juventus just last year. So when Roma selected The Special One in early May, it caught the entire league (if not the sport itself) off guard.
And in the ensuing weeks and months, the club has remained incredibly tight-lipped about its new manager. You'd think with one of the most famous managers in all of sport leading the club they'd beat their chests a bit more, but Roma has remained eerily silent since first announcing this hiring in early May.
That all changed today. Earlier this afternoon, Mourinho landed in Rome and was greeted by throngs of fans outside Trigoria, where The Special One caught a glimpse of his new surroundings. After greeting the fans, posing for photos, and touring his new his office, Mourinho sat down for his first official interview as Roma's manager.
Here are a few select highlights.
On the emotions of taking up the Roma post:
I am excited since the first day. And I really mean it, since the first day. Since the first day I met the owners and Tiago [Pinto] and I had immediately this very positive feeling. And that means a lot to me.
So that enthusiasm is based on, of course, the conversations we had, the ideas we exchanged, but also on something I value a lot: which is the human feelings. Empathy. So since Day 1 I have been looking forward to the real Day 1 - which is the first day that I arrive in Rome.
It was the human feeling, but it was also ideas, information and questions and answers from both sides.
I left our [initial] conversation with the feeling that this is not the Friedkins’ project, this is not a Jose Mourinho project, this is not a Tiago Pinto project, this is an AS Roma project. That was my feeling. And that is something that I was really impressed about.
Because, as you know, during my career I have had different experiences and I have worked with clubs in similar situations, with let’s say a ‘foreign’ ownership, and I was impressed by the fact that Mr. Friedkin and his son [Ryan] were always speaking about the Roma fans. They were not speaking about themselves, they were not speaking about their project, they were speaking about the fans.
On the nature of Roma's project compared to his previous stops, Mourinho was impressed by not only the scope but the fan-centric nature of Roma's leadership group:
In so many occasions you feel that the owners speak about the clubs like ‘their clubs’ – which, in reality, by one point of view is true – but I found them speaking about the club for the Romanisti, and it is for them that we want to make it. And that was very, very important for me because, of course, I know the reality. We finished the season 29 points behind the Scudetto [winners] and 16 points behind fourth place, but a club is not the last league table, the club is what a club is, in general, and I know very well what AS Roma is.
...since Day 1 I felt the project is … if you feel it as a project of ‘I am going to arrive tomorrow and win the day after tomorrow’ then that is not a project. But this is a project where the owners want to leave a legacy, they want to do something important for the club, in a very sustainable way. Creating the basis for success.
Hopefully that success arrives with me, because the contract is a three-year contract – or, the first contract is, maybe there will be a second one day. So I hope that the results of our work will come during my time. I really want that to happen. But let’s go step-by-step. I am very happy to belong to this project; which, I repeat, is not anyone’s project, but is the AS Roma project
Mourinho was then asked to expand on the long-term nature of Roma's project:
I think it is very, very important that the ideas are very clear and the project is in front of all of us in a very clear way. And what the club expects from me, and what the club expects me to give, and that is very, very important. And this is all very, very clear.
“We want to make a Roma of success, but a future of success – not an isolated moment of success. Which, of course, everyone would enjoy, but then the consequences of it – we don’t want negative consequences of it. We want to do something sustainable.
“We want to start organising the club in every area related to the football team. Of course a club is much more than a football team, it is much more than the results of a football team, but we know the barometer and the compass is based on that. So we want to make something really, really big. But it has to be step-by-step. And starting by all the structures around the football team: not just the infrastructures but the human structures too. And, like the owners say, this is a way of leaving a legacy for the club. Doing it for the future, for the club, for the fans
On the club's promotion of his hiring, Mourinho hinted at Roma's new penchant for preventing leaks and keeping a tight lid on club affairs:
First of all let me say that what happened, the way it happened, is almost unique in the football world. I think the club was amazing in the way they managed the situation. I believe that one minute before the official announcement no-one could even imagine that was about to happen. That is not typical of the football industry.
I think this is a lesson for the football industry, the way Roma managed the situation and kept it secret until the last second. So I think that created an incredible impact and I am really proud to be part of this, because I think it is quite an historic moment for modern football. And I am not saying that because it is me, or because it is Roma, but the situation and the way it happened is quite iconic, impossible in modern football. But it was possible.
The way people reacted… I don’t think I deserve that. Because I did nothing for them. Of course, I was emotional, I was pleased, grateful. Of course, there is even more responsibility on my shoulders to try not to let the people with that passion down.
I can only say that what they did for me, before I did something for them – because I did nothing for them yet – I can only be extra motivated to work.
Finally, Mourinho spoke about his pre-season plans and objectives:
Well the first thing is to wait for some gifts. I hope that the bosses and director Tiago have some gifts for me, because it would be nice. It would be an extra motivation for me. And it would of course give me more potential to develop, or to start the process.
But, independent of that, our pre-season is a pre-season with many different phases. Players will arrive step-by-step. The players involved in the Euros, of course they will arrive later. They will also come in different phases depending on when their national team leaves the competition.
It is also a great period for me to know the young players better, because we will start pre-season with a mixture of players in the squad. Of course, some of them played in some matches and got some minutes in the last few matches of last season, which was great for me to know them better in a certain habitat which is different from the Primavera habitat. So I want to look at them, I want to build a feeling with them.
Even the matches we will play in pre-season, they have an evolution in context; we will start playing every player for 45 minutes, we are not going to care about results, we are going to play against stronger teams and teams one step or two steps ahead of us in the sense of they started training before us so they are in a different stage of their preparation. So we will develop the team step-by-step.
The guys that I will bring with me, it’s a small nucleus of guys – I am not a guy that makes an invasion in a club with lots of people, I don’t think that’s fair. I think it is fair for the people in the club to have a chance to show what they are, to show the way they feel the club and the way they can adapt to a new coach and a new era
Now that Roma has officially presented José Mourinho to the masses, we can expect the rest of this summer's dominoes to fall in relatively short order: the kit announcements, players signing/sales, and the summer exhibition schedule.