Roma manager Jose Mourinho gave his first full-length interview since arriving in the Italian capital early this afternoon.
The Portuguese tactician was announced as the club’s new manager on 4 May, replacing compatriot Paulo Fonseca after two seasons.
When asked about his feelings regarding the challenge that lays ahead of him, Mourinho admitted he’s excited and eager to get started.
“I’ve been excited since the first day. And I really mean it, since the first day. Since the first day I met the owners and Tiago [Pinto] and I had immediately this very positive feeling. And that means a lot to me,” he said to Roma TV.
“So that enthusiasm is based on, of course, the conversations we had, the ideas we exchanged, but also on something I value a lot: which is the human feelings. Empathy. So since Day 1 I have been looking forward to the real Day 1 – which is the first day that I arrive in Rome.”
Mourinho joined the Giallorossi on a three-year deal after a brief, eighteen month stint with Tottenham. The 58 year-old discussed why he chose Roma after spending the past decade in the Premier League.
“It was the human feeling, but it was also ideas, information and questions and answers from both sides. I left our first conversation with the feeling that this is not the Friedkins’ project, this is not a Jose Mourinho project, this is not a Tiago Pinto project, this is an AS Roma project. That was my feeling. And that is something that I was really impressed about,” explained Mourinho.
“Because, as you know, during my career I have had different experiences and I have worked with clubs in similar situations, with let’s say a ‘foreign’ ownership, and I was impressed by the fact that Mr. Friedkin and his son [Ryan] were always speaking about the Roma fans. They were not speaking about themselves, they were not speaking about their project, they were speaking about the fans.”
“In so many occasions you feel that the owners speak about the clubs like ‘their clubs’ – which, in reality, by one point of view is true – but I found them speaking about the club for the Romanisti, and it is for them that we want to make it. And that was very, very important for me because, of course, I know the reality. We finished the season 29 points behind the Scudetto [winners] and 16 points behind fourth place, but a club is not the last league table, the club is what a club is, in general, and I know very well what AS Roma is.”
“I know the fans, I know the passion, and since Day 1 I felt the project is … if you feel it as a project of ‘I am going to arrive tomorrow and win the day after tomorrow’ then that is not a project. But this is a project where the owners want to leave a legacy, they want to do something important for the club, in a very sustainable way. Creating the basis for success.
“Hopefully that success arrives with me, because the contract is a three-year contract – or, the first contract is, maybe there will be a second one day. So I hope that the results of our work will come during my time. I really want that to happen. But let’s go step-by-step. I am very happy to belong to this project; which, I repeat, is not anyone’s project, but is the AS Roma project.”
Elaborating on the long-term project and vision that was outlined for him, Mourinho reiterated that his move to Roma isn’t about short-term, momentary success.
“I think it is very, very important that the ideas are very clear and the project is in front of all of us in a very clear way. And what the club expects from me, and what the club expects me to give, and that is very, very important. And this is all very, very clear.
“We want to make a Roma of success, but a future of success – not an isolated moment of success. Which, of course, everyone would enjoy, but then the consequences of it – we don’t want negative consequences of it. We want to do something sustainable.
“We want to start organising the club in every area related to the football team. Of course a club is much more than a football team, it is much more than the results of a football team, but we know the barometer and the compass is based on that. So we want to make something really, really big. But it has to be step-by-step. And starting by all the structures around the football team: not just the infrastructures but the human structures too. And, like the owners say, this is a way of leaving a legacy for the club. Doing it for the future, for the club, for the fans.
“And I am ready for that. I am enthusiastic about it. I want to accelerate the process – that’s why I am saying that hopefully we see the results of it before the end of my three-year contract, because I want to accelerate the process. It is not in my nature just to work – of course, you know what you are doing is for the future, but it is not in my nature to wait too long for that smiling future to arrive. I want to try to accelerate the process. And hopefully, all together, we can make that happen as soon as possible.”
Mourinho’s move to the Giallorossi marks his second stint in Italy after his sensational tenure with Inter from 2008 until 2010.
“I am much better now than my first time arriving in Italy,” he claimed.
I am serious. I am much better now, because I think this is a job where experience means a lot. Experience – it looks like everything becomes déjà vu because you go through so many experiences. Since I left Italy I went to Real Madrid, which was an incredible experience, and I reached my dream of winning in Italy, England and Spain.”
He continued, “Then back to England, which is my family base, and where I wanted to return. You know, I have even the extreme experience of taking a team to a final and not playing the final – which is something that I thought would never happen in my career. And it happened.”
“So, with so many experiences, and learning in the good moments and the bad moments, I am much more prepared now than I was. It is the kind of job where you can only get better until the day where you lose your motivation. Because I think that is the only thing that can make a football coach decide to stop, or to stop learning. That is not my case – very far from it, I am still learning every day – so I think I am much better.”
“And, of course, it is one thing to come to a country for the first time and you arrive at level zero and you have everything to learn about it. In my case, that’s not the case. I know Italy as a country, I know Italy as a football culture, I know something about Roma because in my time in Italy Roma was the real rival. It was the team close to us fighting for the titles. So I think I am in a better position now than I was when I landed in Italy for the first time back in 2008.”
Finally, Mourinho discussed the fanfare surrounding his decision to join Roma and what the plan is for the upcoming month before the season begins.
“I think the passion is cultural – it’s obviously something you know much better than me, it’s something I will still have to learn. One thing is to experience it from the outside, it is another to experience it from the inside. I have only experienced it from the outside.”
“Of course I played against Roma, I played in the Olimpico a few times. I know the power. I know in the best moments, in the great moments, how powerful they can be. But what is really incredible is the fact that in the last couple of decades, there have not been many moments for the fans to enjoy – and it looks like their passion is always there,” he said.
“I even saw the mural that was painted of me. However, let me first of all let me say that what happened (surrounding his appointment) , the way it happened, is almost unique in the football world. I think the club was amazing in the way they managed the situation. I believe that one minute before the official announcement no-one could even imagine that was about to happen. That is not typical of the football industry.”
“I think this is a lesson for the football industry, the way Roma managed the situation and kept it secret until the last second. So I think that created an incredible impact and I am really proud to be part of this, because I think it is quite an historic moment for modern football. And I am not saying that because it is me, or because it is Roma, but the situation and the way it happened is quite iconic, impossible in modern football. But it was possible.”
He added, “The way people reacted… I don’t think I deserve that. Because I did nothing for them. Of course, I was emotional, I was pleased, grateful. Of course, there is even more responsibility on my shoulders to try not to let the people with that passion down. I can only say that what they did for me, before I did something for them – because I did nothing for them yet – I can only be extra motivated to work.”
“And again, going back always to Day 1 and conversation one, the same way the owners think about them there is no way for me to run away from it, so I am going to try to do everything to pay, in a football way, all the love and the passion they have shown to me. I am really grateful for that.”
Mourinho then seemed to sent a subtle signal to Roma’s transfer market chief, Tiago Pinto, as the club is still waiting to finalise deals for Granit Xhaka and Rui Patricio.
“My first goal during the preseason? Well the first thing is to wait for some gifts. I hope that the bosses and director Tiago have some gifts for me, because it would be nice. It would be an extra motivation for me. And it would of course give me more potential to develop, or to start the process,” he said slyly.
“But, independent of that, our pre-season is a pre-season with many different phases. Players will arrive step-by-step. The players involved in the Euros, of course they will arrive later. They will also come in different phases depending on when their national team leaves the competition.”
“It is also a great period for me to know the young players better, because we will start pre-season with a mixture of players in the squad. Of course, some of them played in some matches and got some minutes in the last few matches of last season, which was great for me to know them better in a certain habitat which is different from the Primavera habitat. So I want to look at them, I want to build a feeling with them.”
“I want a good co-operation with the youth area – because there is no better thing for a coach than to bring some young players to the first team, players with a club culture. So hopefully in the future that can happen even more and more. But let’s go step-by-step.”
“Even the matches we will play in pre-season, they have an evolution in context; we will start playing every player for 45 minutes, we are not going to care about results, we are going to play against stronger teams and teams one step or two steps ahead of us in the sense of they started training before us so they are in a different stage of their preparation. So we will develop the team step-by-step.”
“The guys that I will bring with me, it’s a small nucleus of guys – I am not a guy that makes an invasion in a club with lots of people, I don’t think that’s fair. I think it is fair for the people in the club to have a chance to show what they are, to show the way they feel the club and the way they can adapt to a new coach and a new era.”
“So let’s try, all together, to make it – the most important thing – a team. And when I say a team, I’m not saying just the 11 players on the pitch. A club has to be a team. Everyone needs to feel that it’s my team. Everyone has to feel, ‘I want to give everything to my team’. Everybody has to be happy with good results, everybody has to be sad about bad results – but everybody has to be together as a team.”