Jose Mourinho held his usual pre-match press conference on Saturday evening, with Napoli the visitors to the Stadio Olimpico this weekend.
The game gets underway on Sunday at 18:00 CEST, with Luciano Spalletti’s side coming into the game having won all eight of their Serie A matches so far.
The Giallorossi are looking to get back on track after successive defeats against Juventus and Bodo/Glimt – here’s everything Mourinho had to say heading into the contest.
Luciano Spalletti has said that this could be a pivotal game for both teams – do you agree with that? And how are Rick Karsdorp and Nicolo Zaniolo doing heading into this game?
“Both of those players are doing fine, they are fit to play. The team will be the same one that went out against Juventus – with Karsdorp and Zaniolo both in good shape.
“Is it going to be a pivotal game? I don’t think so, not for us anyway. We are having a good league campaign so far, with perhaps performances a bit more positive than the results have been. We have 15 points so far but perhaps we deserve to have a few more than that. So I don’t think it’s a turning point, but a game we want to win.
“That will be very difficult, obviously, because we are playing against a side that have won every game so far and are in great form. But, nevertheless, for us it’s a game we want to win.”
Roma started Thursday’s game against Bodo with three players – Kumbulla, Diawara, Carles Perez – who cost the club more than 70 million euros. What mistakes were made? Why are a few players not up to the task of playing for Roma? And could some of them improve and eventually become a useful option for this team in future?
“First and foremost, I don’t really want to respond in reference to specific players, like you have done by mentioning Kumbulla and Perez. But I will take the opportunity to say something, because I can already tell – with the press conference going in the direction it is – that the question will come eventually.
“There are a lot of people who are laughing at what they have done to Roma. The Friedkins inherited a situation where a lot of mistakes were made by others. Tiago Pinto inherited that too. The ownership have spent a lot of money in order to try and resolve the many mistakes made by people who are laughing, and some of them are almost certainly laughing with their pockets full of money too.
“You are right: lots of money has been spent. We have spent money in order to try and clean some things up and to create the right conditions for a successful project to be built. A project that needs time. When someone writes something like, ‘Mourinho is not happy with the ownership’ then it is a lie, you could hardly come up with a bigger lie.
“Does Mourinho want more players? Yes, Mourinho does, like every other coach does. Does Mourinho want a balanced squad, with two players for each position, with two players of the same level so he can rotate and make five changes on the hour-mark every game? Yes, but Mourinho is not an asshole. Mourinho has a huge amount of respect for the Friedkins and for Tiago and he decided to accept this job with Roma exactly because he understood what the situation involved.
“Above all, a result like that [against Bodo] happens once in a lifetime – and it could have even finished 7-1 or 8-1, if we had played five or 10 minutes more. But the only one responsible for that is me. Not the players, not the ownership, not Tiago. It’s mine and mine alone. Because I decided to put out a team that risked losing the game. Obviously I did not think it would be such a disaster. But the responsibility is mine.
“I did it with the right intentions: because of fears about injuries, because of fears about the synthetic pitch, because of fears about the weather and fears about all the games we’ve played and the fears we have about not having two players for every position. I did it because I was thinking that we then have games against Napoli, Cagliari and Milan to prepare for. And I got it wrong. The responsibility is mine and mine alone. Not the players, not the ownership. It’s mine."
Do you think that a win tomorrow will erase everything that happened in Norway?
“If we won 6-1 against Napoli it wouldn’t erase anything. It wouldn’t erase the feeling I have, it won’t cancel the feeling that I am responsible because I should have done things differently. And I have already told you that in the next game against Bodo the usual first team will play. And then if someone gets injured in that game, it will be a shame.
“But here at Trigoria we work really hard, but also here at Trigoria there is something we’ve inherited; a injury record that I have never seen before in my life. Roma has a track record of injuries in the last four or five years that I have never seen before. It’s something we focus on a lot and, in this aspect and at this level, we need to make sure it improves a lot. So we work really hard on that, as a group: the medical team, the sport science team, the fitness coaches and myself. We are very focused on it and on the data and statistics and the recovery we do.
“And that aspect also made me think that Thursday’s game was the moment to rest a few players and to give a few other good players the chance to play. Because the players that played that game are good boys, they are guys that work hard and guys that had earned the chance to play. But, when we went to Ukraine [for the game against Zorya Luhansk], we made chances too but it was a different side – Smalling, Cristante and Pellegrini all played, and the team had a balance to it.
“We already have six points. Then we go to Bodo: the pitch is artificial, something that always spooks people a bit. I thought it was the one chance to rest a few players. I got it wrong. My fault, my mistake. Unfortunately it will remain a part of Roma’s history now and there is nothing I can do about it. It will also remain a part of my history and I deserve that.”
In the event of a negative result, do you think the fans will still be behind the project here?
“I don’t think about a negative result.”
In the last two seasons, Roma have only won four games against big teams – is there a risk that this could become a major psychological issue for the team?
“I don’t agree with you. The numbers are right, but I don’t agree with you. In my opinion there’s just one issue: in the last two seasons, we finished sixth and seventh in the league. That’s the only thing I care about.
“If, in this first season, we do better than we did last season – and we don’t win any games against the other big teams – then that’s not a problem, in my opinion.
“I like going up against the big teams, I like facing Juventus in Torino or to go up against a Napoli side that have won every game so far. I don’t have any issue with the results in the past, I think it’s a very restrictive way of thinking about things. I won’t get involved in any of that. Tomorrow we will face Napoli and we will stand toe-to-toe with them, trying to win.”
Spalletti will be expecting an angry Roma on Sunday. Is anger what you want the team to have ahead of a game like this? Or would you feel a bit calmer if Napoli had won in midweek as well?
“I’m not superstitious, I’m not someone who thinks too much of this sort of thing. For me it’s all very objective, all pragmatic. I don’t care what has happened three days ago, it doesn’t interest me at all. It will be a game against a great team, with a great coach too. It will be a tough game for us and I don’t think it will be easy for them either: Roma has great players and a great coach too, so it won’t be easy for them.
“I will have the great pleasure of laughing and catching up with 'Spallettone' before and after the game; we are friends, we always get on well. I won’t forget Thursday’s game but if I have to then I prefer to lose that one, because I think with six points already we are still in a good position to progress in the Conference League.
"That defeat, in terms of the standings, isn’t a disaster – we have six points already and we still have two more home games to come. I think we will get through and I think we are candidates to go a long way in the competition. I would rather lose one game 6-1 than six games 1-0. But, nevertheless, that game won’t be forgotten.”
After the game against Bodo, your comments seemed to be very different from Tiago Pinto’s. Is that just a result of the disappointment you felt at the result, or is there more behind it?
“When we won our first four games in a row, I joked about visiting St. Peter’s Basilica [for good luck with injuries]. I’ll make an example where Max Allegri won’t get too angry at me: if Chiellini gets injured then De Ligt plays, if Alex Sandro is tired then Mattia De Sciglio can play. I could say the same for Simone Inzaghi and his players. In a few positions we have back-up options that are of the same level, but in others we don’t. You can’t hide from that. That shows that it is one thing to have a team, and another to have a squad.
“We are building a squad, but we still need to build that squad. And in order to do that we need more transfer windows and more money. The ownership, who are making an incredible effort in order to improve the club at all levels, needed to be respected for what they are doing. When people tell me that I have a problem with them … I have a problem with them?! I respect them. And I think the Roma fans need to respect and believe in what they are doing. And they should not talk about me, because today I am the coach and tomorrow there will be another one, because that is how football is. But people like them, and like Tiago, need to be respected – because they are building the future of the club.
“And, I’ll say it again – my mother always says that as we get older we lose our filter – there are lots of people out there with pockets full of money, full of commissions, double commissions, bonuses and then … arrivederci. When you need them, those people are gone. And who pays for that? The Friedkins pay for that, Tiago pays for that, and Mourinho pays for that as he sits in the dugout.
“But, my job is also to be honest and to say that Thursday’s choices were mine and so the responsibility for everything that happened is mine. Leave the Friedkins and Tiago in peace, leave them to do the work they need to do, because they are doing an amazing job.
“If, in January or next summer, they are able to help me a bit more – if they think they can do it – then that’s great, thank you so much. But I am here with them. And tomorrow on the bench we won’t have bad players, there won’t be any bad players there, but some of them are nonetheless very young - they are just 17, 18, 19 years old. Tomorrow Filippo Missori will be on the bench – he’s just 17.”
Napoli generally play in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with wide players that cut inside to give the full-backs room to move into. Will you be asking your attackers to sacrifice themselves a bit in order to close down those spaces?
“I think that Napoli need to be equally worried about Zaniolo and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. You are right, they are good: Insigne, Politano, Lozano. But Zaniolo, Mkhitaryan and El Shaarawy are good too.
“We don’t have any issues in that area of the pitch. Obviously we need to respect the strengths of our opponents, and attack is one of them, among others. But Spalletti is wise enough to know that he needs to be worried about us too.”