After landing in Rome on Friday, Jose Mourinho released his first official interview as the club’s new coach across our channels.
Mourinho was welcomed by delighted fans as he finally touched down in the Italian capital.
Here is what the Portuguese had to say, in full.
So, Jose Mourinho – first of all, welcome to Roma!
“Thank you so much.”
How excited are you for this challenge?
“I am excited since the first day. And I really mean it, since the first day. Since the first day I met the owners and Tiago [Pinto] and I had immediately this very positive feeling. And that means a lot to me.
“So that enthusiasm is based on, of course, the conversations we had, the ideas we exchanged, but also on something I value a lot: which is the human feelings. Empathy. So since Day 1 I have been looking forward to the real Day 1 - which is the first day that I arrive in Rome.”
Was it that ‘human feeling’, then, that convinced you this was the right opportunity for you, at the right time?
“It was the human feeling, but it was also ideas, information and questions and answers from both sides.
“I left our [initial] conversation with the feeling that this is not the Friedkins’ project, this is not a Jose Mourinho project, this is not a Tiago Pinto project, this is an AS Roma project. That was my feeling. And that is something that I was really impressed about.
“Because, as you know, during my career I have had different experiences and I have worked with clubs in similar situations, with let’s say a ‘foreign’ ownership, and I was impressed by the fact that Mr. Friedkin and his son [Ryan] were always speaking about the Roma fans.
"They were not speaking about themselves, they were not speaking about their project, they were speaking about the fans.
“In so many occasions you feel that the owners speak about the clubs like ‘their clubs’ – which, in reality, by one point of view is true – but I found them speaking about the club for the Romanisti, and it is for them that we want to make it. And that was very, very important for me because, of course, I know the reality. We finished the season 29 points behind the Scudetto [winners] and 16 points behind fourth place, but a club is not the last league table, the club is what a club is, in general, and I know very well what AS Roma is.
“I know the fans, I know the passion, and since Day 1 I felt the project is … if you feel it as a project of ‘I am going to arrive tomorrow and win the day after tomorrow’ then that is not a project. But this is a project where the owners want to leave a legacy, they want to do something important for the club, in a very sustainable way. Creating the basis for success.
“Hopefully that success arrives with me, because the contract is a three-year contract – or, the first contract is, maybe there will be a second one day. So I hope that the results of our work will come during my time. I really want that to happen. But let’s go step-by-step.
"I am very happy to belong to this project; which, I repeat, is not anyone’s project, but is the AS Roma project.”
It sounds a little bit that that collaborative effort, a longer term project building success, is something that is really energising you and exciting you. Is that fair to say?
“I think it is very, very important that the ideas are very clear and the project is in front of all of us in a very clear way. And what the club expects from me, and what the club expects me to give, and that is very, very important. And this is all very, very clear.
“We want to make a Roma of success, but a future of success – not an isolated moment of success. Which, of course, everyone would enjoy, but then the consequences of it – we don’t want negative consequences of it. We want to do something sustainable.
“We want to start organising the club in every area related to the football team. Of course a club is much more than a football team, it is much more than the results of a football team, but we know the barometer and the compass is based on that. So we want to make something really, really big.
"But it has to be step-by-step. And starting by all the structures around the football team: not just the infrastructures but the human structures too. And, like the owners say, this is a way of leaving a legacy for the club. Doing it for the future, for the club, for the fans.
“And I am ready for that. I am enthusiastic about it. I want to accelerate the process – that’s why I am saying that hopefully we see the results of it before the end of my three-year contract, because I want to accelerate the process. It is not in my nature just to work – of course, you know what you are doing is for the future, but it is not in my nature to wait too long for that smiling future to arrive.
"I want to try to accelerate the process. And hopefully, all together, we can make that happen as soon as possible.”
There is a lot of excitement in Italy at your return. It has been more than a decade now since you last coached in Serie A; how do you think you have changed as a coach in that time?
“I am much better now. I am serious. I am much better now, because I think this is a job where experience means a lot.
“Experience - it looks like everything becomes déjà vu because you go through so many experiences. Since I left Italy I went to Real Madrid, which was an incredible experience, and I reached my dream of winning in Italy, England and Spain. Then back to England, which is my family base, and where I wanted to return.
"You know, I have even the extreme experience of taking a team to a final and not playing the final – which is something that I thought would never happen in my career. And it happened.
“So, with so many experiences, and learning in the good moments and the bad moments, I am much more prepared now than I was. It is the kind of job where you can only get better until the day where you lose your motivation. Because I think that is the only thing that can make a football coach decide to stop, or to stop learning. That is not my case – very far from it, I am still learning every day – so I think I am much better.
“And, of course, it is one thing to come to a country for the first time and you arrive at level zero and you have everything to learn about it. In my case, that’s not the case. I know Italy as a country, I know Italy as a football culture, I know something about Roma because in my time in Italy Roma was the real rival. It was the team close to us fighting for the titles.
"So I think I am in a better position now than I was when I landed in Italy for the first time back in 2008.”
One thing you have been renowned for, throughout your career, is building a strong bond with the fans. Roma, of course, is renowned for its passionate fanbase. How excited are you about the prospect of what you can achieve by uniting those two things – and why do you think there is that passion?
“I think the passion is cultural – it’s obviously something you know much better than me, it’s something I will still have to learn. One thing is to experience it from the outside, it is another to experience it from the inside. I have only experienced it from the outside.
“Of course I played against Roma, I played in the Olimpico a few times. I know the power. I know in the best moments, in the great moments, how powerful they can be. But what is really incredible is the fact that in the last couple of decades, there have not been many moments for the fans to enjoy – and it looks like their passion is always there [regardless].
“It is very easy to be a hard supporter of a team that is continuously winning, and another to be in this kind of situation – where in the last couple of decades there has not been too much to celebrate, unfortunately. That, to me, it means a lot.
“Even between friends sometimes, we joke with rivals, Portuguese teams, English teams, you have to be a big supporter and show what you are, always. And for me that is very, very obvious [that Roma fans do that]. But I also believe they need a light, and for me the light is what we are going to try to build for the future.
“And, again, I go back to the beginning, and the beginning for me was Mr Friedkin speaking about them [the fans]. And that for me is why I am excited to work for them, work with them and I hope the team is a little bit a reflection of what the fans are. The team has some qualities that they have, and that main quality is the passion they have for the club.
"So I want to try to build a team that we share these principles – and the fans can look at the team and be happy, in winning days, and still be proud on losing days.
“Many, many times in football that doesn’t happen, especially when we don’t share values. So, to change values, to change the soul, is something that sometimes takes time – but it is important that everyone who loves the club feels that internally, feels that on the grass every minute of every game, that the players feel it.”
We have seen, via your Instagram feed, that you have been doing a bit of preparation…
Okay, a lot! What have you been doing?
“I cannot share, I don’t want to share – but a lot. That’s my job! I need to know the maximum I can.
“Of course, new technologies has helped us. The [video conference technology] arrived, during difficult times, but it arrived and helped people to stay together and even after difficult times it has stayed. We are doing lots of meetings and having lots of conversations and already trying to change some things in the club so that when we arrive at Trigoria the space is more adapted to our ideas and our needs. The club is super open, everyone is super open to try to co-operate with us.
“And of course I always say that you only know a player when you actually work with them, but I am trying to know the most I can. So, of course, there are videos and stats and data and calls and trying to know most of them. But in reality only when you are with them on the pitch, when you feel them, when you look them in the eyes, when you smell it, when you look through the difficulties and when you look at the positives, that’s when you really get to know them.”
The announcement that you were joining Roma really energised the fanbase. Tributes across Rome, graffiti, on social media too. I am sure you noticed it – has it energised you too?
“Yes [I saw it]. First of all let me say that what happened, the way it happened, is almost unique in the football world. I think the club was amazing in the way they managed the situation. I believe that one minute before the official announcement no-one could even imagine that was about to happen. That is not typical of the football industry.
“I think this is a lesson for the football industry, the way Roma managed the situation and kept it secret until the last second. So I think that created an incredible impact and I am really proud to be part of this, because I think it is quite an historic moment for modern football. And I am not saying that because it is me, or because it is Roma, but the situation and the way it happened is quite iconic, impossible in modern football. But it was possible.
“The way people reacted… I don’t think I deserve that. Because I did nothing for them. Of course, I was emotional, I was pleased, grateful. Of course, there is even more responsibility on my shoulders to try not to let the people with that passion down.
“I can only say that what they did for me, before I did something for them – because I did nothing for them yet – I can only be extra motivated to work.
“And again, going back always to Day 1 and conversation one, the same way the owners think about them there is no way for me to run away from it, so I am going to try to do everything to pay, in a football way, all the love and the passion they have shown to me. I am really grateful for that.”
And now that job really starts. Your first pre-season begins – what are some of the key things you are going to try to put in place during that first pre-season with the team?
“Well the first thing is to wait for some gifts. I hope that the bosses and director Tiago have some gifts for me, because it would be nice. It would be an extra motivation for me. And it would of course give me more potential to develop, or to start the process.
“But, independent of that, our pre-season is a pre-season with many different phases. Players will arrive step-by-step. The players involved in the Euros, of course they will arrive later. They will also come in different phases depending on when their national team leaves the competition.
“It is also a great period for me to know the young players better, because we will start pre-season with a mixture of players in the squad. Of course, some of them played in some matches and got some minutes in the last few matches of last season, which was great for me to know them better in a certain habitat which is different from the Primavera habitat. So I want to look at them, I want to build a feeling with them.
“I want a good co-operation with the youth area – because there is no better thing for a coach than to bring some young players to the first team, players with a club culture. So hopefully in the future that can happen even more and more. But let’s go step-by-step.
“Even the matches we will play in pre-season, they have an evolution in context; we will start playing every player for 45 minutes, we are not going to care about results, we are going to play against stronger teams and teams one step or two steps ahead of us in the sense of they started training before us so they are in a different stage of their preparation. So we will develop the team step-by-step.
“The guys that I will bring with me, it’s a small nucleus of guys – I am not a guy that makes an invasion in a club with lots of people, I don’t think that’s fair. I think it is fair for the people in the club to have a chance to show what they are, to show the way they feel the club and the way they can adapt to a new coach and a new era.
“So let’s try, all together, to make it – the most important thing – a team. And when I say a team, I’m not saying just the 11 players on the pitch.
"A club has to be a team. Everyone needs to feel that it’s my team. Everyone has to feel, ‘I want to give everything to my team’.
"Everybody has to be happy with good results, everybody has to be sad about bad results – but everybody has to be together as a team.”