ROME – This should be fun.
José Mourinho, that most outspoken of soccer coaches, will take over next season at Roma, the team with some of the most outspoken fans in Italy.
“The incredible passion of the Roma fans convinced me to accept the job and I cannot wait to start next season,” Mourinho said in Roma's surprise announcement Tuesday.
Mourinho's task will be to challenge new Serie A champion Inter Milan — the team he memorably led to a treble of titles little more than a decade ago during his only previous job in Italy.
“We are thrilled and delighted to welcome José Mourinho into the AS Roma family,” club president Dan Friedkin and vice president Ryan Friedkin said. “A great champion who has won trophies at every level, José will provide tremendous leadership and experience to our ambitious project."
Having memorably declared himself the “Special One” when he first reached the big time at Chelsea in 2004, one of Mourinho’s most famous phrases in Italy was uttered at the expense of Roma five years later.
Shortly after a 3-3 draw between Inter and Roma that included a controversial penalty for Inter won by Mario Balotelli, Mourinho responded to outrage from Roma fans by pointing out that the Giallorossi would finish the season with “zero titles” despite possessing a squad full of “great players.”
These days, Roma is mostly a young team with a few aging stars like Edin Džeko.
The Giallorossi are captained by 24-year-old Lorenzo Pellegrini, although the team’s most talented player might be 21-year-old midfielder Nicolò Zaniolo, who has missed this entire season with an injury.
With Roma in seventh place in Serie A and having been beaten by Manchester United 6-2 in the first leg of the Europa League semifinals last week, Mourinho will face a major challenge with the club.
While Roma reached the Champions League semifinals in 2018, the team has not won a single trophy since lifting the Italian Cup in 2008.
“He’s a very prestigious coach with a lot of experience. And most of all, he’s a coach who knows Italy well,” Fabio Capello, who coached Roma to its third and last Serie A title in 2001, told the LaPresse news agency. “Rome is a tough town but he excels in tough towns. I hope for the Roma fans that he does as well as he did at Inter.”
The move to hire Mourinho came a few hours after Roma announced that current coach Paulo Fonseca will depart at the end of this season. Mourinho's contract is for three seasons, although he won't take over until after this season.
“The appointment of José is a huge step in building a long-term and consistent winning culture throughout the club,” said the Friedkins, who purchased the club last year from James Pallotta to maintain American ownership. Mourinho has also coached Porto, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Tottenham, from which he was fired last month.
At Roma, Mourinho can speak his native Portuguese with countryman Tiago Pinto, the team's general manager. The coach needs to revive his career after dressing-room apathy and growing disillusionment at his tactics cost him his job at Tottenham after 17 months at the London club.
That was Mourinho’s shortest spell with a team since he became a slick and self-confident coach of Porto at the start of the century.
“After meetings with the ownership and Tiago Pinto, I immediately understood the full extent of their ambitions for AS Roma,” Mourinho said. “It is the same ambition and drive that has always motivated me and together we want to build a winning project over the upcoming years."
Fonseca will still coach Roma during the second leg of the Europa League semifinals against United at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday, as well as the remaining four games in Serie A this season.
“I wish Paulo Fonseca all the best and I hope the media appreciate that I will only speak further in due course,” Mourinho said, before adding a cheer in the local dialect: “Daje Roma!”
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