Jose Mourinho has found another managerial job, this time at AS Roma. But will he be able to reinvent himself and save a flagging career?
Jose Mourinho is a man who, even on his worst day, provides a quotable for journalists. Yet perhaps one that is most applicable to his current situation is something he said during his second stint at Chelsea. Having won the Premier League in 2015, he was quizzed on criticism over his team being ‘boring’. His reply was classic Mourinho. “In my country, they say the dogs bark and the caravans go by”.
The gist of the saying is that it is easy for people to sit and criticise. And he is right. Fans, journalists, pundits and analysts have it easier than him. After all, having to consistently deliver the goods in the ever-demanding world of top-level football is hard.
Many of these people thought after he was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur that he was finished. But AS Roma came along and Jose Mourinho is back in the limelight. The dogs barked. The cavaran went by.
That being said, it is worth asking if the patience of world football is wearing thin with the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’. That he is very successful is well-known. As is the fact that, with the Portuguese manager, things tend to end in tears.
Mourinho’s tendency to self-destruct when things go wrong is now part of football lore. His last four jobs have seen him depart in acrimonius circumstances.
At Real Madrid, he waged a political battle against the dressing room that ultimately cost him. His subsequent return to Chelsea yielded two trophies – but he was sacked again, with ‘palpable discored’ between players and the manager cited as the main reason.
The same was the case at Manchester United – his public outbursts saw him fall out with key members of the squad. As results deteriorated, so did his mood. When he got the sack, absolutely no one was surprised.
Amazingly, the exact same thing happened at Spurs. A disconnect coming from a negative style of play affected results and once again, it was bye bye Jose.
And while Mourinho loves to paint himself as a winner, it is telling that his last trophy – the Europa League – came in 2017.
Arguably the main reason for clubs overlooking his destructive tendencies – guaranteed silverware – is now no longer there. As such, clubs are less patient with him.
His recent record has even led to elite clubs overlooking him – with all due respect to Roma and Spurs, neither side fits the mould of an ‘elite’ club at present.
Spurs reached the final of the Champions League in 2019 but are now in danger of missing out on direct qualification for the tournament for the second season running.
Roma have come under new ownership but have also missed out on Champions League football for two seasons – and will miss out this year as well.
Spurs was expected to be the springboard for the Mourinho renaissance. Yet many will argue it only amplified the fact that his best days are behind him.
While it’s hard to ever rule anything out for certain, the general feeling is that if Mourinho is to succed at Roma he needs to turn his act around – and soon.
The days of big-money signings are over. Roma operate on a budget, one that will be limited given the lack of Champions League football. Mourinho struggled with this at Spurs, often claiming his squad wasn’t good enough.
Given he agreed to the job, it seems certain that he understands the constraints he will work under. Yet that knowledge did not save him when things went south at Spurs.
To make matters worse, he will be encountering a few familiar faces at Rome. The likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pedro and Chris Smalling are currently on Roma’s books. Each have seen both his good and bad when playing for him previously.
There’s also the fact that the length of Mourinho’s last four jobs became shorter and shorter. Three years at Madrid were followed by two and a half years at Chelsea and United. At Spurs, he didn’t even last eighteen months.
When his signing was announced, Roma spoke about building a “long-term and consistent winning culture”. But to do that, Mourinho will need time – something that is less likely to be afforded if results are poor.
Failure at Roma is something neither he nor the club can afford. A club of Roma’s size will always dream of the greener pastures of the Champions League. And Mourinho is defined by his ability to win trophies.
Yet while a poor spell in Rome won’t spell the end for Mourinho’s managerial career, it will almost certainly ensure that elite clubs which have deserted him will continue to maintain their distance. The dogs will bark. But the caravan is now still.