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Jose Mourinho and a date with European destiny and redemption

Jose Mourinho is ready to rule in Europe once again
Jose Mourinho is ready to rule in Europe once again
Mark Pitman

Jose Mourinho will turn 60 next January. But there is a familiar glint in his eye as he prepares to lead AS Roma to the UEFA Europa Conference League Final on Wednesday evening.

The once dark hair may now be grey, and there be more lines across his face than before. But it is that glint which confirms that the fire still burns within the Portuguese protagonist and has been stoked further by his renaissance with I Giallorossi.

Before his arrival in the Eternal City, the unmistakable glint that defined Mourinho in his heyday of success no longer flickered.

His dismissal from Tottenham Hotspur hurt his pride and ego, and instilled a fear that he would never repeat the glory days that defined his coaching career. He was out of the game for only a month when AS Roma came calling.

The real Jose Mourinho's return

Mourinho: "The Special One story is a nonsense ... it's something you say in the beginning of your career. As you progress, mature, you start to think more about others than yourself."So that's an old story to me. Tomorrow, I will simply try to help."#ASRoma #UECL #UECLfinal https://t.co/8Fsl4K8ZYO

This was a project of mutual resurrection. It was four years since Jose Mourinho last celebrated success when he lifted the UEFA Europa League with Manchester United.

At the same time, AS Roma could only reflect on domestic success in the Coppa Italia in 2007 and 2008, having not been crowned champions of Italy for two decades.

Mourinho last enjoyed European success with Manchester United in 2017
Mourinho last enjoyed European success with Manchester United in 2017

Generations of fans in the Italian capital only understand continental frustration, with success in the now defunct Inter-Cities Fairs Cup back in 1961 their only major European trophy.

But there is a desire in Rome for their team to succeed. Inspired for decades by the evergreen Francesco Totti, AS Roma have remained a club desperate for success.

Success, that is necessary to restore their fleeting status as a leading club in the Italian game. In Mourinho, they have appointed a proven winner of a different era. But a man with the same hunger that enabled him to make his mark without the support of a successful playing career behind him.

Mourinho found himself out of the game for almost a year following his sacking from Manchester United and his surprise appointment at Tottenham Hotspur in November 2019.

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He used that time to reflect, but his reflections could not disguise the fear. He feared that the game had left him behind, and his fears were somewhat proven at White Hart Lane.

There is no doubt that Jose Mourinho would have fitted the Spurs project perfectly a decade or so earlier, but this was the right man at the wrong time.

Hunger and energy were replaced by resentment over the manner of his Old Trafford departure and the prolonged period that he spent away from the touchline. Recharged by his return to London, Jose Mourinho now has a new point to prove.

Jose Mourinho has enjoyed leading AS Roma to a European final
Jose Mourinho has enjoyed leading AS Roma to a European final

A sixth-place finish in Serie A confirmed that AS Roma will compete in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League next season. In addition to reaching Wednesday's European final, Mourinho also guided his side to the last eight of the Coppa Italia.

There were occasional lows throughout the campaign headlined by the 6-1 defeat to Norwegian outfit Bodo/Glimt in October. But the highs will define the season and there is one more match remaining to end on the ultimate positive note.

Tammy Abraham inspired by Chelsea frustration

Like Jose Mourinho, striker Tammy Abraham arrived in Rome with a point to prove. Unable to establish himself in the Chelsea side, the England international rewarded the investment to take him to the club for a significant transfer fee by scoring 27 goals in all competitions this season.

If he can add to his total against Feyenoord on Wednesday, his status as the new hero in the Italian capital will be confirmed.

But while the script is written for a successful night in Tirana, Mourinho will be careful not to underestimate Arne Slot's side. Finishing third in the Eredivisie behind PSV Eindhoven and champions Ajax, they have moved within one win of European glory.

In the process, they defeated Partizan Belgrade, Slavia Prague, and Marseille in the knock-out rounds, and will head to Albania with the weight of traditional Dutch arrogance on their shoulders.

Tammy Abraham has been the star man for AS Roma this season
Tammy Abraham has been the star man for AS Roma this season

Few cut a more arrogant figure than Mourinho in his prime. While his character has matured with age, the emotions remain just as strong. A strong affinity has developed between Mourinho and the AS Roma fans since his arrival.

If he can lead them to European glory for the first time in the modern age, expect a genuine and heartfelt release of emotion between both parties. The desperation to succeed after years of failure is mutual.

Jose Mourinho will ultimately be defined by his European success. Winning the UEFA Champions League with Porto in 2004 brought his name to international prominence.

Repeating the achievement with Internazionale in his treble-winning season in 2010 prompted Real Madrid to make their move. Although he repeated his domestic success with Chelsea by claiming the La Liga title in 2012, he could not deliver the coveted La Decima that the Madridistas craved.

Internazionale became UEFA Champions League winners under Jose Mourinho in 2010
Internazionale became UEFA Champions League winners under Jose Mourinho in 2010

Success for Jose Mourinho over the last two decades has dovetailed through periods of professional frustration. But he is on an upward trajectory with AS Roma that has reignited the hunger within him, and it has inspired emotional reactions that prove his passion is just as strong.

There will be a glint in his eye as he takes his place on the sidelines in Tirana on Wednesday night. A glint he hopes will be reflected on his latest European trophy come the final whistle.


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Q. Who will win the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League

AS Roma

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Edited by Akshay Saraswat

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