If this is how it ends for Jose Mourinho at AS Roma, he can’t be accused of bowing out quietly. The last two years of the Portuguese’s reign in Rome have rarely been dull, and the Europa League final defeat to Sevilla was no exception.
We saw the good, the bad and the ugly in Budapest: a Mourinho masterclass up to half-time, the pain of a penalty shootout defeat, and Mou’s furious attacks on referee Anthony Taylor that earned him a charge from UEFA and widespread condemnation.
Mourinho remains as divisive a figure as ever.
You didn’t need to look far to find complaints about the negative football and the histrionics of Roma’s players and staff during the match in Budapest, but the Giallorossi faithful remain devoted to a coach who has made them believe again.
The final game of the Serie A season against Spezia was a festival of Mou-mania – despite the Portuguese being suspended and unable to soak up the acclaim.
Numerous banners were held up by fans, saying things like “Rome is with you” and “our coach for 1,000 years”, while his name was roared out pre-match and sung during the game.
Nevertheless, there is still some uncertainty about whether the 60-year-old will see out the final year of his contract or not.
With that in mind, as Mourinho’s second season comes to a conclusion, how do we judge his impact so far?
Mourinho brings crowds roaring back to Roma
Arguably Mourinho’s greatest impact at Roma has been the way he has harnessed the support of the fanbase.
Over the last two years, we have become accustomed to a packed house at the Olimpico where 65,000 fans roar out ‘Roma, Roma’ before kick-off every week.
But it’s worth remembering that Mourinho arrived following a two-year spell under Paulo Fonseca where the mood was very different, and the Giallorossi’s average crowd was around 40,000.
Mourinho has brought the notoriously impatient and demanding Roma fanbase together in a way that has rarely been seen before, and he has helped create a cauldron of an atmosphere at every home game.
His impact goes even deeper than that, and it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that Italian champions AS Roma Women might not have set a new record for Italian women’s football when they had 40,000 in attendance for their Women’s Champions League game at the Stadio Olimpico in March.
A European force
Mourinho’s first job on his return to Italy was to do what he couldn’t at Tottenham – use the winning mentality he’s famed for to end a long trophy drought.
For Roma, the wait for silverware was 14 years long when Mourinho arrived. Within a year it was over, and hundreds of thousands of fans were flooding the streets of the Eternal City to celebrate their Europa Conference League victory.
Yes, the third-tier European competition isn’t the most illustrious trophy out there, but Mourinho quickly recognised the momentous importance that winning it could have for this squad.
The memory of that run to glory in Tirana undoubtedly helped the Giallorossi make a second consecutive European final in the Europa League in 2022/23.
While that ultimately ended in a heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat, the run itself provided more evidence that Mourinho’s Roma are a force to be reckoned with in knockout competitions – and relieving the pressure that came with a trophy drought has been a big factor.
Serie A struggles
For all their joy in Europe, there is no escaping the fact that Mourinho has underperformed with Roma in Serie A.
In a season where the chasing pack below Napoli have all been guilty of inconsistency, the Giallorossi still weren’t capable of a top-four finish.
Mourinho has frequently complained about a lack of investment in his squad, but Roma have the fourth-highest wage bill in Serie A and the €130 million or so they have splashed on signings since he arrived is a figure most of their rivals would envy.
Mourinho’s side have continued to struggle in big games, as they did under Fonseca, and for consistency, with poor results against lower-ranked sides continuing to plague them.
Mourinho has failed to improve Roma in Serie A; two identical sixth-placed finishes with 63 points is an underwhelming return to say the least.
Only once in the last 10 years have Roma had a lower points tally at the end of the season than in the last two seasons under Mou – and that was Fonseca being one point worse off in his final campaign in charge.