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Jose Mourinho ready for war as the new Emperor of Rome

Jose Mourinho takes charge of Roma against Fiorentina on Sunday as the new Serie A season begins
Jose Mourinho takes charge of Roma against Fiorentina on Sunday as the new Serie A season begins
Mark Pitman
EXPERT COLUMNIST

There could be no better fitting protagonist than Jose Mourinho to continue the story of Rome into the present day. The history of the Eternal City offers a unique insight into a bygone age where anarchy and unrest underpinned a continuous greed and desire for unrivaled power and glory.

On Sunday, the veteran Portuguese coach will lead his AS Roma side out into the colosseum of the Stadio Olimpico for their opening Serie A match against Fiorentina. It is now over 20 years since Roma lifted the scudetto as the great Francesco Totti established his name in Roman folklore.

Francesco Totti remains the King of Rome
Francesco Totti remains the King of Rome

But Totti is now consigned to Roman history, and it is Mourinho who will lead the team through this latest chapter with a remit to deliver silverware and success to the capital. Returning to the Italian game more than a decade after achieving UEFA Champions League glory with Inter Milan, his name alone brings high expectations.

During his time in Milan, Mourinho cut an intense and fiery character who lived his professional life on the edge.

Building a fortress around his Inter side, he enjoyed the opportunity to go to war with the Italian media, and built an 'us against the world' mentality that his players embraced. The scenes of his emotional departure offered an early signal that he would one day return.

“There’s a lot to do here,” said Mourinho at his first press conference. "I’ll be covering this role for 24 hours, except a few hours I need to sleep. If during this time we can give something to Italian football, that would be great.
"Many things can happen and I will give everything to defend my players, but I won’t be the one looking for trouble, I don’t have time for that. I have more experience now, so I am more solid emotionally, but I will always defend my club.”

Success at Inter was another step in the journey for Mourinho as he headed to Real Madrid and the cauldron of the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010.

Arriving as a European champion in the same way that he swapped Porto for Chelsea in 2004, the self-proclaimed 'Special One' underestimated the demands of the club from the Spanish capital. It ultimately left him personally defeated despite what he achieved.

Since that experience in Madrid, Mourinho has cut a different figure. His character has changed with age, and mirroring his previous intensity has become an act rather than a natural reaction as he looked to return to the top with Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

More trophies followed, but as he was never able to reach the destination he craved, his frustration led to his departure each time.

Jose Mourinho celebrates UEFA Champions League success with Inter in 2010
Jose Mourinho celebrates UEFA Champions League success with Inter in 2010

The success he subsequently achieved would have been more than acceptable for some, but for Mourinho, only being the very best will feed an ego that was developed during a career that evolved from the bottom.

The former Barcelona interpreter had defied the odds to make his name as a manager, but like the Roman Emperors of old, complete domination was the only mark of glory.

“I won three trophies at Manchester United and that was seen as a disaster,” Mourinho added. “I reached a cup final which I was not allowed to play at Tottenham, which was seen as a disaster. What’s a disaster for me is considered a great success for others.”

Jose Mourinho hoping to establish his name in the annals of Roman history

But Italy holds fond memories for Mourinho. It was the right time for him to leave England, and he will relish the opportunity to work in a city that celebrates its history with pride.

Just like Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, Constantine the Great and even Francesco Totti, he will see this latest project as the chance to establish his name in the annals of Roman history.

Tammy Abraham is an interesting addition to Mourinho's squad following his permanent move from Chelsea. It will also be intriguing to see how Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling work with Mourinho following their reportedly strained relationship with the Portuguese manager at Manchester United.

Coach Joao Sacramento has followed Mourinho to Roma from Tottenham Hotspur after his long-standing trusted sidekick Rui Faria ended their 17-year association during their time together at Old Trafford.

While Sacramento, 32, brings a youthful energy to the bench, there remains a question over his ability to successfully challenge Mourinho's decisions and influence his thoughts.

Jose Mourinho and Joao Sacramento worked together at Tottenham Hotspur
Jose Mourinho and Joao Sacramento worked together at Tottenham Hotspur

Sacramento will have learned many lessons from his time at Tottenham Hotspur, and he will be better for the experience. It is not Mourinho's job to nurture and mentor the man from the Portuguese city of Barcelos, but he will know that Sacramento did not command the same respect from the players as Faria. That in itself undermined Mourinho's influence at the London club.

Mourinho turned 58 in January, and it is almost 30 years since his coaching journey began. He will view this as one of his last club jobs at the highest-level, and a switch to international football seems the most likely future destination.

Portugal will be his dream, and while his status in the game will hold firm through his previous success, it is his ability to continue to deliver now that will dictate the next step in his career.

Tactically, Mourinho will have his pragmatic fundamentals that will be non-negotiable, and they may not be pretty. But the modern game demands tactical versatility and the ability to adapt to a continuously evolving situation on the field.

Before he can assemble the best squad in Serie A, Mourinho's Roma will need to adjust in order to succeed.

Jose Mourinho won the UEFA Europa League with Manchester United in 2017
Jose Mourinho won the UEFA Europa League with Manchester United in 2017

In the opposite dugout against Mourinho on Sunday will be new Fiorentina manager Vincenzo Italiano. The 43-year-old took charge of the club in the summer after impressing at Spezia. He won his first competitive match last weekend as his new team defeated Serie B side Cosenza 4-0 in the opening round of the Coppa Italia.

Meanwhile, Mourinho was making headlines for all the wrong reasons the week before as his Roma side went down 5-2 to Spanish side Real Betis in a friendly.

With his side reduced to eight men following three red cards, Mourinho was also dismissed in a fiery contest that offered a glimpse into his mentality for this latest challenge. This was the Mourinho we all know, but maybe not love.

Jose Mourinho will embrace a return to Italy having succeeded at Internazionale
Jose Mourinho will embrace a return to Italy having succeeded at Internazionale

No Roman leader has achieved power and glory without fight and sacrifice, and Mourinho will see this return to Serie A as an opportunity to reignite the spirited passion for the game that has been the catalyst to his past success.

With his Giallorossi army assembled, the time has come for him to lead his troops into battle, and only victory will suffice.


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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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