The international break is always rife with rumors, in part because sports journalists still need to clock in from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day, and international matches simply don’t catch the attention in the same way a Serie A match does. Granted, the recent hullaballoo surrounding an alleged illegal betting ring among Italian players has made this international break a bit more lively than others; that’s to be expected when players of the caliber of Sandro Tonali and Nicolò Zaniolo are reportedly under investigation by the authorities and may lose several years of eligibility as footballers. Yet would you believe it, there is reportedly other news coming out of Italian football this week outside of questionable sites like Dillinger News (what a name) - this time from the rather trustworthy news source that is Sky Sports.
“Transfer guru” Gianluca Di Marzio, even though he’s been superseded by his protege Fabrizio Romano in several ways, still manages to get a scoop out every now and then, and this most recent one is a doozy. The Sky Sports man is reporting that Roma manager José Mourinho is likely to leave the club at the end of his current contract, which expires at the end of the 2023/2024 season. This shouldn’t be incredibly surprising given Mourinho’s tendency to stay at a club for three seasons before moving on to a greener pasture. However, given the fact that there have been alternating reports over the past several months suggesting everything from a new contract being in the works for The Special One to the idea that he might be sacked after one more poor performance, this kind of report has more of a sense of finality to it.
This report is supposedly directly related to interest from Saudi Arabia in making Mourinho the country’s next Ronaldo-level signing, and on some level, you can understand why the Saudis would be interested. There may be football managers who are thought of as better than Mourinho in this current moment like Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp, but in terms of “vibe”, Mourinho has the high level of star power combined with a general sensation of being at the tail end of his career that the Saudi Pro League tends to pounce on. In some ways, he’s the Cristiano Ronaldo of managers — so naturally the Saudis want to shower him with enough money to support a small country.
Still, I’m hesitant to say that the end of the Mourinho Era in Rome is nigh. First of all, winning is the ultimate panacea; I’m sure that if the club pulls of a Europa League win or manages to qualify for Champions League football through Serie A that Di Marzio will have a new report suggesting that Mourinho will be signing a new contract ASAP. Second, the amount that Mourinho was worked to integrate youth players into the side over the course of the past several years and the way that he talks about Roma on the whole makes me think he wouldn’t mind staying longer in the Eternal City if he’s welcome to do so.
More broadly, moving from Roma to Saudi Arabia would be like going from a hot tub to an ice bath in terms of the emotion and meaning surrounding each match. Romanisti have a passion for their club that is unrivaled; even in tough times, they have filled the Olimpico and supported Mourinho. Joining the Saudi Pro League would probably make Manchester City feel like a non-plastic club by comparison, and going straight there after becoming an icon in Rome? I just don’t buy it.
If and when Mourinho leaves Roma, there will be a laundry list of managers connected to Trigoria. Antonio Conte hasn’t exactly made it a secret that he’d be interested in managing Roma, and beyond him, I’m sure that every half-decent Italian manager with a pulse will be connected to the job over the next several months. It will never happen, but I’d love to see Roberto De Zerbi in the role; he’s been impressive both at Sassuolo and Brighton, and I think he would provide an interesting counterbalance to the Mourinho Era in terms of what Romanisti could expect from their manager. My one request? No Daniele De Rossi. He’s simply not ready, and throwing him to the wolves (literally) right now would be a massive mistake, considering he couldn’t even keep SPAL out of the Serie B relegation zone.
We’ll obviously have more on Mourinho’s status as Roma’s manager going forward as we see more news break. For all we know, the next update in this series might be a renewal for The Special One.