José Mourinho’s team management at Roma is under question and Kaustubh Pandey reckons the Special One’s methods harm the club as much as his players.
Over the last few years, Jose Mourinho’s methods of management have become quite predictable. There are times when even an average fan of the game can pick out patterns in his approach and it becomes obvious what will happen next. More often than not, the question revolves around his methods and not the intention.
The recent case of Mourinho questioning the squad quality and depth at Roma is a classic example. While he certainly exaggerated when he said that the line-up against Bodo/Glimt wasn’t better than the Norwegian opponents on Thursday, his intention was quite clear. And his views about the Roma squad have been evident since the summer transfer window when the Portuguese dropped slight hints that Tiago Pinto should have given him a deeper team. Despite that, Roma were the highest spenders in Serie A and one of the top 10 in Europe.
It was barely a surprise that before the game in Norway last week, Tiago Pinto was asked about his relationship with Mourinho and he backed away from giving a concrete answer.
In truth, you can see why Mourinho believes that the squad doesn’t have too much depth, particularly in terms of quality. Roma have a bunch of ready-made players that can live up to the standards. The likes of Lorenzo Pellegrini, Tammy Abraham, Jordan Veretout, Gianluca Mancini and Nicolo Zaniolo are among them. However, in Mourinho’s view, many other players are not good enough to start. Marash Kumbulla isn’t cut to play in a flat back four yet, Bryan Reynolds is too raw, while Ebrima Darboe and Riccardo Calafiori are still growing.
Those aren’t bad footballers at all. They are just players who seem like projects in many ways. Gonzalo Villar and Amadou Diawara are the sort of players who can play for other Serie A clubs, but the duo is clearly not part of Mourinho’s plans and the Special One has done nothing to hide it. Mourinho dropped them from the Roma squad in the two games that followed the humiliating 6-1 defeat in Norway.
Mourinho is a coach who came across similar issues at Manchester United and Tottenham. Those are clubs with much more viable financial resources than Roma, but the Special One also issued similar complaints about their squads. And it isn’t as if Mourinho didn’t know what he was getting into at the Giallorossi. He knew it all along.
He knew that this was a club under shiny new ownership, a club in transition and seeking a new identity. And changes take time, especially if they involve going from one playing style to another. Mourinho knew it and if he didn’t, he made a mistake in agreeing to join Roma weeks after his axing at Tottenham.
On top of that, Mourinho had publicly talked about Darboe, Reynolds, Kumbulla and Calafiori in a negative tone after the loss to Juventus. When that happens, it goes one way or another – the rare ones rise to the challenge and the others take it as negatively as it was meant to be. And perhaps, the act of throwing those young players under the bus had a role in the 6-1 disaster in the Conference League. Mourinho is not going to change his approach as he showed after the 0-0 draw against Napoli when he announced the line-up for Roma’s next game. “It will be the same one as today,” he said.
So, while it can be justified that Mourinho should be given a better squad to compete with, going public with it just months into the job can’t be tolerated. After all, Roma aren’t a super-club that can build right from the bottom in a matter of weeks. Mourinho is known to be a great motivator, but this can’t be said if he only takes 13 or 14 players on board, leaving the others under the rain. It’s not a good service he does for the team, nor for the club, as those players who remain in the stands lose value on the market.
Mourinho has had well-documented issues with the higher-ups at every club he’s been in and he seems to be having those at Roma too. But if the problem at literally every club is the same, maybe Mourinho himself has become the problem. Maybe he is the one who has failed to adjust to this ever-changing and ever-evolving, commercialised game.
Roma are a club with a provable, recent history of struggles in the boardroom. Two of the club’s most legendary figures – Daniele de Rossi and Francesco Totti, know all about it even though Jim Pallotta is no longer around. The club is in a transition period of culture, promise, playing style and ambition under the new Friedkin ownership. And they view Mourinho as the face of all that. And for the Portuguese, it should matter.
He needs to be patient and private, not impatient and public – even though he’s used to the latter. This is not Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham or Real Madrid. Things can and will most certainly take time. In his unveiling press conference, one of Mourinho’s first lines was: “Roma don’t want success today, but they want a sustainable project for the future. That’s why I am here.” By acting as he is, he seems the first one not to believe in what he said.