Monday, June 27, 2022

Europa Conference League champs: How Jose Mourinho found the perfect home at AS Roma for a career rejuvenation

AS Roma won the UEFA Conference League title on Wednesday against Feyenoord thanks to Nicolò Zaniolo, who scored the lone goal in the game’s inaugural final. Immediately after the final whistle, AS Roma fans around the world started to celebrate like they almost never done before. That’s because this was their first major European trophy in more than 60 years and their first trophy since the 2008 Coppa Italia.

The only recent comparable event was the Scudetto won in 2001, when AS Roma defeated Parma on June 17 to clinch the Serie A title. Since then, the Giallorossi managed to win a pair of Coppa Italias, with the most recent one coming in 2008 as we previously mentioned, and two Supecoppa Italiana. That’s it. They also failed to win a UEFA competition after reaching two finals. They came up short in the 1984 Champions League, losing in the final to Liverpool and a 2-1 aggregate loss in the 1991 UEFA Cup final to Serie A rivals Inter Milan. 

The Friedkin Group, who owns AS Roma since summer 2020 after taking over from American investor James Pallotta, decided to surprisingly appoint Jose Mourinho last year. With Mourinho at the helm, the American group led by billionaire businessman Dan Friedkin, wanted to give a boost to the AS Roma project. The club needed to win trophies to help propel them back to relevance. That’s why the Special One was called back to Italian soccer 10 years after his incredible treble with Inter Milan, which before Wednesday was the last time an Italian team won a UEFA competition. 

Since he was introduced as the new coach of the club, AS Roma fans went crazy for Mourinho. He was the right man at the right place at the right time. That’s because AS Roma fans are dreamers. They have not had much to celebrate in the past decades and needed a leader to believe in, someone to help bring their dreams to reality. 

It was evident for Mourinho that Rome was the perfect place to revive his coaching career after a disappointing spell at Tottenham, the only club where he failed to win a trophy. A long-term plan was set in place by the Giallorossi, which is why Mourinho was always careful to keep the ambitions low with the fans. 

He knew that they couldn’t compete with the top Italian clubs at the start of his reign in Rome. However, the inaugural installment of the Europa Conference League was the perfect place where his legacy as a winner could continue to thrive. Despite two shocking losses to Bodø/Glimt (including a 6-1 away on Oct. 21), AS Roma’s journey in the third-tier UEFA competition was more than positive, and it ended with the final victory in Tirana, the capital of Albania. 

Mourinho has an immaculate record in the UEFA competitions: He’s a perfect 5 for 5 in finals coached. The accolades include the Europa League with Porto in 2003 and Manchester United in 2017, the Champions League with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010, and now the Conference League with AS Roma. He was the last coach to win a continental trophy with an Italian club back in 2010 and as fate would have it, he’s the first to finally snap the drought by winning with AS Roma. And now he’s got Giallorossi fans dreaming for more. 

On Wednesday, aside from the travelling party to Tirana, there were approximately 50 thousand fans inside the Stadio Olimpico in Rome watching the match, baited by every twist and turn in those 90 minutes. On Thursday, there were around 500,000 boisterous fans hovering the streets of Rome to celebrate with the team. 

Mourinho himself saw his emotions get the best of him as he shed tears of joy and called this trophy special. It’s because many thought the Special One was beyond his prime and lost his winning touch. But he somehow managed to conquer the hearts of the Giallorossi in Rome. He might not be the same Special One most Italians admired 10 years ago and he has had some ups and downs along the way, but it finally feels as if he’s found a long-term home in Rome. And if you are loved by AS Roma fans, you don’t need anything else in your life, just ask club legend Francesco Totti who spent his entire career there and was anointed as “The Eighth King of Rome” for bringing so much joy to the capital.

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