Jose Mourinho has rejuvenated Roma from a trophy-starved team into Europa Conference League finalists

by 24britishtvMay 6, 2022, 8 p.m. 12

'Daje' - a traditional Roma battle cry - is what manager Jose Mourinho shouted to the fans here, when tens of thousands turned up at the airport, at the stadium, at the training ground, on the streets, to greet him on his arrival in the city last July.

It was the 6th of July to be precise, but felt more like the 4th of July to the trophy-starved supporters of the American-owned club.

'Daje' means 'Come on'. So the headline translates to Come on Mourinho!

Maybe though, a cleverer headline would be "DEJA MOU", a play on Déjà vu, because it feels like we've been here before.

Another major European cup final for Mourinho. His fifth, with four different clubs. It's never been done before.

Jose admitted shedding a tear on the final whistle after beating Leicester. Tears of happiness for followers of the club. "A giant club", he says, "without a trophy room".

Roma moved for Mourinho only a matter of hours after another club without a trophy room, Spurs, sacked him - days before a cup final.

One of the first things he asked his new employer for was big improvements to the training ground. They agreed.

For example, installed within a month, was a system called 'TILD' - Tactic Interactive LED Screen.

He'd asked Daniel Levy for similar at Spurs, but it never happened.

The system uses drones to film training sessions, beaming images to a giant screen built into the structure at the side of the pitch. It means the players can assess the session and their individual positioning and performance immediately, while still on the pitch and fresh in the mind, rather than later in the video room or at home.

Also at the training ground, parked up near an outdoor swimming pool, is something a bit less technical. Jose's Vespa. He's been pictured using it to get around.

Vespa, of course, is Italian for wasp. Wasps create a buzz. Mourinho has certainly done that in Rome.

It's no secret that some Roma players have been stung by his criticism, especially after a shock 6-1 defeat at Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League group stage.

A handful will probably leave the club in the summer, but only the ones Mourinho doesn't want.

Much bigger is the list of players giving their all for Jose. Tammy Abraham tops that list.

Mourinho has turned Abraham into a potent goal threat. He's scored 25 goals in all competitions so far this season. He's top scorer in the Europa Conference League. No player has ever scored more goals for Roma in their first season, and he's back in the England fold.

He says Mourinho is the best manager in the world, and it's a dream come true to play for him.

High praise indeed, even though Mourinho consistently refuses to repay the compliment.

After Abraham's header secured the win over Leicester, Mourinho said, "Tammy knows I refuse to speak highly of him, because he can do better and he knows that. He's a great player with potential to be even greater."

Abraham cost Roma £34m last summer. Chelsea inserted a buy-back clause, but that doesn't kick in until the summer of 2023.

Other Premier League clubs are showing an interest. But the feeling within Roma is that he's more than content to stay.

He's fast become the fans' favourite. Not only did he score the winner against Leicester, but he was cheerleader as well.

Every time the 65,000 Stadio Olimpico faithful went a bit quiet, Abraham stared at them and pumped his fists and waved his arms, goading them to give more. They responded every time.

Abraham is top of what's being called here in Rome "Mourinho's Super Six" - the six players he definitely wants to keep this summer. There are some surprising names on it.

Chris Smalling is one. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is another. Neither would be considered a raging success under Mourinho at Old Trafford, in fact he sold them both. But, this time around they are definitely in Jose's gang.

As is captain and talisman Lorenzo Pellegrini.

And then there's Leonardo Spinazzola.

'Spina', as he's known in Italy, was Mourinho's first and possibly biggest blow at Roma.

He was heralded by many at last summer's Euros as the player of the tournament, until he ruptured his Achilles in Italy's quarter-final win over Belgium. He hasn't played one second for Roma this season, but will be raring to go in the next campaign.

He's 100 per cent a Jose player. Not a left wing-back as such, but a kind of left-back-winger. Solid in a back four, and yet a potent attacking threat.

Having 'Spina' will be a big part of Mourinho's stated desire to make Roma bigger and better next season.

Mourinho told me in October that the current Roma squad would struggle to make the top four this season, and he was spot on.

A purple patch of form in Serie A between mid-January and mid-April saw them pick up more points than any of the current top four. It took them to within touching distance of fourth-placed Juventus, but recent draws against Napoli and Bologna and defeat at Inter means they are now neck and neck with big rivals Lazio to finish fifth, two places higher than last season.

This week Mourinho said he was "happy every day at Roma" but "wants more" and "wants to think bigger next season".

The gap between Roma and the top of Serie A last season was 29 points. The gap this time around is currently 18.

"Thinking bigger" is Mourinho code for closing that gap even more, maybe even to zero.

Taking Roma to the very top tier is the aim. And that would surely bring another tear to his eye.

Meanwhile, there's a European trophy to be won.


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