Mourinho discusses Roma’s preseason: “This is a close-knit team. We’re a family.”

Andy Mattioli

Jose Mourinho finally speaks for the first time since addressing the media on his press conference back in early July.

The Special One released a lengthy interview, detailing the team’s preseason, the transfer-market and more.

When asked about the overall impression from the team’s preseason preparations, the manager said:

“We’ve been working so hard! I’m very pleased. We’ve all worked so hard over the last few weeks, but it’s a pleasure when you have so many people who want to work hard, improve and are motivated to do well. I’m not just talking about the players, but everyone who’s been involved in our pre-season.”

“As we all know, it’s difficult with the temperature [here]. The weather conditions can make it hard to do our work, but we’ve been striving to improve physically and tactically, and to perform as a team. At the same time, we’re also talking about the work we’re doing to organise the club’s various internal departments that revolve around the team.

“We also mustn’t forget it’s been a very difficult transfer window to navigate and a huge workload for general manager Tiago Pinto, the scouts and, of course, the owners, who’ve had to make some tough decisions.

“After all the hard work, the time that we all enjoy is now on the horizon, although I’m a person who always says things like, “I don’t like the word ‘friendly’” and “matches are matches”. We’ve all tried to treat this period as a source of motivation for everyone. We’re playing for three points on Sunday against Fiorentina. Having said that, it’s even more difficult to play knockout football than it is to play for three points. We’re starting on Thursday in Turkey and that’s the sort of positive pressure that I want to have and that my players want to have.

“Fans certainly also enjoy themselves much more during “real games”, as I like to call them.”

Mourinho was then asked about coaching the players and the satisfaction that stems from it.

“I do really like it. I can’t say much more, but I do really like it. I also feel everyone has liked the way we’ve organised the sessions. As you say, we’ve often worked at high intensity because that’s our philosophy and that reflects the way we understand the game. At the end of the day, you play in the way that you train and you can also say that you train in the way that you play. We obviously want to play with intensity, so that’s what we’ve done every day.

“There’s also a less visible nature of our work which is harder to understand, especially for those on the outside, which is what we’ve done in the gym in terms of injury prevention and recovery.

“We’ve always focused on trying to find a direction where there are positive feelings. We have so many people working alongside the players here: fitness coaches, sport scientists, the medical department and many others who are so dedicated to their jobs.

“We have a very good relationship in terms of the scheduling of our training sessions, which I think is also something that the players feel.

“The work is hard, but at the same time they feel the club is behind them and I think that helps them feel that they can go all the way and work with real intensity because everything is under control.”

On the time spent in Portugal with the team earlier in the month:

“The two or so weeks here in Trigoria were good for making initial contact so that I could get to know them and they could get to know me.

“We were together here for a few days, not just to train. We also had dinner together and also stayed the night a few times in order to speed that process up.

“Portugal was certainly key. I’m not saying that because it’s my home and because it’s Portugal, but because the team was effectively together 24 hours a day for two weeks.

“It helped me understand so much. I think we all left Portugal as a better team both tactically and technically, but, above all, we grew as a group given that we knew one another better.

“That’s key because we’re a family here. If we all get to the end of the season, we’ll realise that we’ve spent more time with this family than with our blood relatives at home!

“We need to keep feeling the way that I believe we feel at the moment, which is that this is a close-knit team.”

On the coaching staff’s contribution:

“It’s difficult on your own. I like people who have ability, but who are also fully motivated to work together. In football, it can seem as if every incoming coach turns up on a bus that’s filled with assistants. We turned up in a small Hyundai because there aren’t many of us.

“There weren’t many of us, but now there are because we’ve taken on people from within the club, people with skills and a desire to learn. I don’t mean “learn” in absolute terms; I mean it in terms of working with me, which is a different thing.

“We’ve also given opportunities to young coaches in the academy. A Primavera fitness coach has now joined up with the first team, as that’s the way we work. I don’t like saying “I need another 12 to 15 people”. No, I need to take somebody from each department who can help me implement a working philosophy.

“There are always skilled people within the club who deserve an opportunity. That’s what we’ve done and I’m thrilled because I now can’t say “my five-man coaching staff” – that no longer exists – today my coaching staff is made up of 20 assistants.

“We feel that unity as a team and I think that’s very important for us as the coaching staff but also for the club, because I won’t be at Roma one day and when that day comes, we want to leave it as a well-organised structure that’s in a position to further the job that we’ve done.

“We hope, of course, that a Roma without Jose won’t happen anytime soon. We hope it’ll be in many years’ time.”

On what stood out the most in preseason friendlies and the improvements that must follow:

“They were friendlies for you, but not for us [laughter].

“We haven’t played in any friendlies, but we did start out against teams in lower divisions, such as Serie B and Serie C, which were more of a continuation of our training sessions.

“In Portugal, we faced two Champions League sides as Porto and Sevilla are both in that competition and perform at a very high level. Those two games were crucial.

“In terms of our defensive set-up, we did very well. We conceded one goal against Porto in the 90th minute and were very well organised defensively, in order to adhere to the principles that we’ve been working on.

“We’ve seen that there’s room for improvement in possession. I want us to control the game better. I want more intensity when we’re in transition.

“Regarding our positioning, we’re preparing the team to play differently compared with in recent years.

“We obviously need time, but we’ve already improved so much.

“I like what I’ve seen from the team on an emotional and competitive level.

“Porto and Sevilla are both aggressive teams that are difficult to play against.

“I really enjoyed the small melee against Porto. In terms of keeping emotions in check, nothing really happened that was worthy of going from a yellow card up to a red card. It was simply a very good and competitive game.

“It was another story against Betis. It’s a story that I feel so many people are responsible for, given the way the match ended. In my opinion, the referee is the first such person and I’m the second because I can’t be the one who provoked what happened afterwards. The team channelled my emotional reaction and we ended up with three or four red cards.

“I repeat that it’s my responsibility, but I’d also like to think the referee got home and thought, “What did I do during a decent friendly, in a good game? What did I do for it to end this way?”

“Having said that, I do take responsibility for what happened.

“The team arrived there very tired. It was the last day and the last game after a three-and-a-half-hour coach journey from Portugal to Seville. It was incredibly hot even though we played in the evening. I also can’t forget the [Edin] Dzeko situation because it’s the truth. It was a strange one. There was a feeling that he was going to another club, but there were also doubts: “He’s going, someone else is joining or maybe not..”

“I felt the players were more worried about that situation than they were focused on finishing pre-season.

“I think we played well for 50 or 55 minutes and were very competitive once again. Eldor Shomurodov performed well having arrived just two days earlier. He immediately showed us what sort of player we have, but then it ended badly.

“Maybe that’s also a good thing for us because we then had a day’s rest. When we got back, we analysed everything that went on during the game, from the positives to the negatives, and at the time, I was myself and told to the players in the same way that I’m telling you, “I’m responsible for the lack of emotional control that we showed there.”

“Those two weeks in Portugal were, however, very important for us.”

On Tammy Abraham and the unexpected departure of Edin Dzeko:

“First of all, I  have to say the general manager and owners have been brilliant. The boss Dan, Ryan and Tiago have all been wonderful. The reality is that we started pre-season thinking that we had Dzeko and what happened was a bit of a surprise for all of us.

“In an incredibly difficult market and in a financial situation that is difficult for every, or more precisely, almost every club, having the willingness, the ambition, the respect for the fans and reacting in this way after losing Dzeko and bringing in Tammy Abraham was a real coup. Even if he hadn’t joined, I still would’ve had a positive view of the owners and the general manager, given that they did everything possible to react to the departure of a top player like Dzeko. They’ve been fantastic.

“As for Tammy, I prefer to say “wait and see”. I say that with total confidence. I’ve known him since he was a boy. He’s never played for me because he was a 14-, 15 and 16-year-old boy when I was at Chelsea, but I know him very well. I know him as a player, a person and in terms of his mentality. I know how he made the decision to leave the Premier League, which is always tough for an English player. That tells me so much about him because when you leave the Premier League, you do so because you’re ambitious. You leave because you want to get back into your national team, because you want to play at the World Cup, because you want success outside of England, where not that many English players have had brilliant careers. He comes here with that ambition and we hope to see his best qualities as a player. With Tammy, Eldor and Borja [Mayoral], we have attacking options that I’m very pleased about.

“We don’t have the experience of players who are 30, 33 or 35. We don’t have the experience that you might see at Juve with Cristiano, at Milan with [Olivier] Giroud and Zlatan, [at Atalanta] with [Luis] Muriel and [Duvan] Zapata, given they are all established and have a wealth of experience. We don’t have that, but in terms of potential, I couldn’t be happier with the players that we have.”

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MatchDay 33
22 Apr 18:30