Jose Mourinho was scathing in his criticism of his AS Roma players after they lost to Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League this week.
Well, that didn’t take long. Jose Mourinho has always been good at making headlines with his press conferences. But after his AS Roma side lost 6-1 to Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt, he did so again. All while distancing himself from the loss in record time – while throwing his players under the bus.
“I’m the one who decided to play with the team we use tonight, so it’s my responsibility,” he said after the Europa Conference League game. “Tonight we lost against a team with more quality, it’s as simple as that.”
So far so good right? But with Mourinho, there’s always a twist. And that was to arrive too – in the same interaction, no less.
“If I could use the same players every match I would. I expected better, but it’s my responsibility. The good thing is that no one will keep asking me why the same players keep playing.”
To be fair to Mourinho, he was stung by the loss. This was the heaviest defeat in his managerial career – and the first that saw him concede 6 goals.
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) October 21, 2021
But that’s where the benefit of the doubt ends.
This is straight from the Mourinho play-book; win and it is all about him, lose and the players aren’t good enough. It’s a trick as old as Mourinho’s managerial career. Whether it will be effective is another matter though.
Why Mourinho would choose to alienate a whole chunk of his squad in his first season itself is beyond this humble writer. But, given Roma would want to compete for multiple honours, it seems foolhardy at best and self-destructive at worst.
However, one can also argue that this is what Mourinho does when he wants a reaction from players. Which brings us to the next question: will this actually work out?
The sad truth is that, if Mourinho’s history is anything to go by, such outbursts do not work. Or, more specifically, they do not work anymore.
The likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard – two players Jose Mourinho propelled to superstardom in his first stint at Chelsea – have spoken in detail about how he keeps players on their toes.
He would be cheerful and full of laughs one day, and withdrawn and sullen the next. It ensured the players stayed motivated to train hard at all times, given they were never sure where they stood with him.
However, just because something worked in the past does not mean it will work again. And indeed, Mourinho’s record with man management – something he excelled at in his prime – has nosedived since his stint at Inter Milan ended.
He left Real Madrid having divided a dressing room full of big egos into factions. He departed from Chelsea a second time around with the squad feeling ‘palpable discord’ towards him.
His time at Manchester United ended in similarly contentious circumstances. And at Tottenham Hotspur, he didn’t even last through his second season; and again, he left behind a dressing room in dire straits.
It’s not hard to imagine that his outburst at his Roma squad might have a similar effect. After all, most players would be happy to be at a club of that size under a manager of Mourinho’s stature.
But to single out a whole group as not being good enough will undoubtedly leave a mark. And might just lead to hastened departures.
Perhaps Mourinho is keen to see a bit more turnaround in the transfer market. However, that is absolutely no excuse for the plight the club – and he – find themselves in either.
Roma spent lavishly in the transfer market this summer. Their outlay of nearly 100 million euros – moreso than any other Serie A side – immediately raised expectations.
It’s worth noting that the money spent on transfers does not factor in Mourinho’s contract. He is, at this point, the highest-paid coach in Italy.
And Roma’s current squad are valued at around 429 million euros, according to football data website Transfermarkt. Bodo/Glimt’s squad, by contrast, is valued at around… 14.5 million euros.
If money was everything, the Norwegian champions should never even had a sniff at beating Roma. But it’s not. Which means Mourinho should be focusing on what he has – and what he must do.
The truth is, Roma’s recent results indicate a clear downturn in form. Roma clinched a late win against Sassuolo in what was Mourinho’s 1000th game as manager.
But since then, there’s been four losses in seven matches. And while there have been mitigating circumstances – refereeing decisions have cost them and they were unlucky to lose to Juventus having defended well – it isn’t a trend that can continue for much longer.
It isn’t quite panic stations at Roma yet – they are currently fourth in Serie A and do possess plenty of quality in their squad to weather this barren run.
But there is a lot at stake for Jose Mourinho. The way things ended at Tottenham for him left many questioning if any top club would want to ever approach him.
Roma did so, to the surprise of quite a few. But this chance for Mourinho to reinvent himself might also slip away if he continues to show that he is incapable of management in the modern era of football.