What has Roma’s journey been like in the Europa League up to this point?
“It’s been a long journey and quite different from our opponents who came in from the Champions League. We’ve played 14 matches in this competition to get to where we are now. We deserve to be here, no doubt about it. That’s why we’ve been saying over and over since UEFA’s media open day last week that we want to play this final.
“That’s how it is. We want to play this final, and the time has come. We’ve been working on this for the last two or three days to try to stay in shape and fight for this trophy.”
You’ve said that what’s happened in the past doesn’t matter. How will you handle the emotion, pressure and excitement?
“I think we’ll do so by working hard. It’s what we’ve been doing in this short time. In the last two months, this team have played the quarter-finals, semi-finals, league matches and travelled. We’ve not had much time to work on things, but we’ve rather focused on recovering and being in the best possible shape. However, over the last couple of days, we’ve had a chance to do that.
“The calmer the players feel going out there, the less pressure they’ll feel. I say that history doesn’t matter. My colleague Jose Luis Mendilibar thinks differently. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He thinks that Sevilla are the favourites because of what’s happened in the past.
“We’re in the final because we deserve to be there. They’ve got a history that we don’t have, experience that we don’t have. For them, playing in a Europa League final has become fairly normal, whereas for us, it’s quite incredible. For their fans, travelling to a European final is almost the same thing as going to away matches in the league in Spain, whereas for our fans it’s historic, unforgettable. Yet tomorrow, when the match starts, we’ll want show up. And we will.”
Thirteen years ago in Madrid, you won the Champions League with Inter and completed the treble, but then you left the club. Given that you’ve developed a great bond with the Roma fans, some might question whether you will bring them another moment of joy and then leave? That way, their joy might be somewhat diminished.
“I think that if someone has a question like that, maybe they should ask Mendilibar, given that he’ll be out of a contract. It seems like his situation is more complicated than mine.
“I spoke to my two captains, who asked me a similar question to yours. I answered them very objectively. They know full well what I think. It’s between me and them. There’s a very big difference with Inter. At the time, the contract was all but signed with Real Madrid. I have no contact with other clubs right now. We’re talking about a very different situation. It’s not about me right now. It’s about us as a collective. And tomorrow we’ll be a team. That’s how we as a group want to play.”
I spoke with a few friends and colleagues from Madrid. They gave me the following message: “Sevilla are a great team, but Roma have that something extra, and that something extra is Jose Mourinho.” I wanted to pass it on to you and share that they’re still very fond of you in Madrid.
“I’m very fond of Madrid too. It’s a unique situation. I’m very fond of the president and the players. Just imagine the relationship I have with the club and the Madridistas. However, as a coach, you’re not the one playing. You put a lot of work in before the match, but during the match, you don’t do much. I said to my staff, assistants and analysts today that our work is done. We’re here to help a little bit but it’s now up to the lads to determine how this story ends.
“Your colleagues in Madrid are right. Sevilla not only have a great team but two great teams. They have 25-26 top-quality players. They’ve got one kid, Manu Bueno, who’s the only one from the Primavera, and he played against Real Madrid. Beyond that, they’ve got experience, quality and lots of options. I agree with your colleagues in Madrid. However, they don’t know my boys. They don’t know how my team play as one. We’ll show up tomorrow.”
What do you think will matter more in the match? Will it be the coach’s level of experience, where you surpass Mendilibar, or the team’s track record, with Sevilla more decorated in European football? Or will it be down to the total wage bill, with Roma playing out more?
“No, I can’t believe that. Is it true? It’s strange, given the players that Sevilla have. If Roma’s wage bill is higher than theirs, then the Sevilla players mustn’t earn very much. We’re talking about a team full of high-level players. We have lads who were playing in the youth leagues last year. If players like Nicola Zalewski, Edoardo Bove and Benjamin Tahirovic earn more than Erik Lamela, Gonzalo Montiel and Youssef En Nesyri then they’re underpaid. I don’t believe that’s the case.
“In terms of my experience compared to Mendilibar, the difference is that I’ve had more opportunities in Europe. We’re two coaches from the same generation, with the same number of years’ experience and the same grey hair. We’re in a very similar position. For the players, it’s the same. Obviously, they’ve got older players than us, with more experience and more finals under their belt, but it’s not like mine are coming in with nothing. We have worked together for two years and played 29 European matches in that time.”
Over these past two years at Roma, what has been different compared to your experience at Tottenham?
“I’ve had the chance to be involved in two finals at Roma, the one in Tirana and then this year. That didn’t happen at Tottenham.”
It was at this point that the press conference with the coach drew to a close, but the journalists managed to get one more question in as Mourinho left the room. They asked about how Dybala was doing, to which he responded: “Dybala has 20-30 minutes in him.”
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