For over a decade, hiring Jose Mourinho was a guarantee of instant success, but the new Roma manager’s decline has been so steep that he heads to Italy facing a last chance to salvage his tarnished reputation.
Mourinho agreed a three-year contract with Roma on Tuesday and will replace their current boss Paulo Fonseca at the end of this season.
The 58-year-old was ranked among the world’s top managers after winning the Champions League at Porto and Inter Milan, while enjoying domestic glory with Chelsea and Real Madrid.
But Mourinho’s midas touch has faded in recent years and his last three jobs all ended in the sack at Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham.
He left Tottenham in April without winning a trophy during his reign for the first time since departing Uniao de Leiria in 2002.
Once hailed as a serial winner, Mourinho finds himself reduced to working for serial underachievers.
Like Tottenham – last crowned English champions in 1961 – Roma, currently languishing in seventh place in Serie A, fit that description perfectly.
The Giallorossi won the last of their three Serie A titles in 2001 and their only European Cup final appearance ended in defeat against Liverpool 37 years ago.
There was a whiff of desperation about Roma general manager Tiago Pinto as he hailed Mourinho’s imminent arrival with the same kind of hyperbole that greeted his decision to join Tottenham in 2019.
“When Jose became available, we immediately jumped at the chance to speak with one of the greatest managers of all time,” Pinto said.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy was no less gushing two years ago, but his praise ended up being laced with irony.
“In Jose, we have one of the most successful managers in football. We believe he will bring energy and belief to the dressing room,” Levy said just 17 months before sacking the Portuguese coach.
Out of touch
Mourinho’s ability to get into the minds of his players, cajoling them to reach new heights, was unparallelled during his golden spells at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan.
But he has looked increasingly out of touch with a younger generation of players less responsive to his tough love approach and bored by his rigid tactics.
Evidence of Mourinho’s steep decline was given a high-definition gloss when Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary series went behind the scenes in his first season at Tottenham.
Dele Alli and Danny Rose felt the lash of Mourinho’s tongue on camera, with Gareth Bale and Toby Alderweireld publicly criticised by the manager this season.
Boasting that his coaching methods were “second to nobody in the world” and saying “same coach, different players” after one defeat, Mourinho blamed everyone but himself as Tottenham slid down the Premier League table.
While Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola have reaped the rewards of connecting with their players on a personal level, the acerbic Mourinho suffered 10 league defeats in a single campaign for the first time this season.
Mourinho hopes a return to Italy can revive his career in the same way he rejuvenated Inter Milan from 2008 to 2010.
He won the Italian title twice and was named Fifa’s world coach of the year in 2010 after landing a Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia treble.
However, Mourinho will inherit an ageing Roma team, whose flaws were laid bare in last week’s 6-2 defeat at Manchester United in the Europa League semi-final first leg.
Edin Dzeko, Pedro, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling are over 30 and Mourinho might struggle to lead Roma to Champions League qualification, let alone challenge champions Inter.
Tottenham, with a new stadium and Harry Kane and Son Heung-min on the roster, were a far more attractive proposition but Mourinho couldn’t end their trophy drought.
Mourinho poked fun at himself in a recent TV advert when he admitted it “isn’t easy being special”.
But the self-appointed ‘special one’ hasn’t lived up to that brash boast for some while and few expect his fortunes to change in Rome.