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    Mourinho: “The transfer window isn’t important now, we’re focused on Verona”

    José Mourinho spoke to the media on the eve of Roma's first away game of the season against Verona.

    Here is what the Giallorossi boss had to say...

    Let’s start with the latest arrival: Sarder Azmoun. You admire him as a person, for the stances he has taken. What made you choose him to be your new striker? There’s still a vacancy in attack – will Romelu Lukaku fill it? Chelsea are now willing to listen to loan offers.

    “Azmoun isn’t even a Roma player yet, so I can’t really talk about him. I’m not his coach yet. He’s in Rome but I’m not sure if he’s made it to Villa Stuart, I don’t know whether he’s signed on the dotted line, I haven’t seen him wearing a Roma shirt.

    “As for Lukaku – he’s a Chelsea player. Without wanting to dodge your question, there are coaches and clubs everywhere hoping to sign players, who have targets at the tops of their lists. There are loads of clubs, including in Italy, but more commonly in England, where a player profile is singled out and then a matchup is pursued. We’re in a different situation. What the general manager said to me was that he’s one of our strikers, not my only striker. We’re in a different situation.

    “If Azmoun is fit then he’s capable of being an asset for us. He did a great job at Zenit, not just domestically but also in Europe. Things haven’t gone well for him at Bayer Leverkusen and that’s why he’s on the market for a loan. If he's one of our strikers and he's fit, he can help out. When the sporting director suggested Azmoun to me, he said: “We’ll be signing another striker as well.” That’s music to my ears. If the other recruit is a top-class striker, then by having the triplet of Andrea Belotti, Azmoun and this third option one we’d have good options in attack. I’m relaxed, I’ll wait and see. Tomorrow's game is more important than the transfer market right now. We’ve spent this week preparing for tomorrow's match.”

    What kind of Verona side are you expecting? You’ll have three thousand fans backing you there.

    “They’ll be a tricky proposition. While the Olimpico was packed out last Sunday, not many fans really played with the team. It was a balmy day so perhaps they were more interested in getting to half time to refresh themselves with water, beer or by smoking an e-cigarette..

     “In terms of my expectations for tomorrow’s game, in the last two seasons when we’ve gone there we lost the first and came away victorious in the second thanks to a last-minute goal by Cristian Volpato. They’ve got a great new coach who’s proposing a different kind of football to the Verona of 2022-23. We’re not sure whether this team will have aligned themselves with the coach’s ideas yet or whether the playing style will be more akin to the past, but we’re ready for either outcome.

    “We’ve had a good week of preparations despite the difficulties posed by the scorching heat. While we’ve got Lorenzo Pellegrini and Paulo Dybala back in contention Renato Sanches will miss out on the game because he’s suffering a niggle. We’ve got one point so far this season and we’d like to be heading home from Verona with four.”

    You chose not to name the striker Tiago Pinto had lined up for you…

    “He’s not lined up anybody specific. He said that this week that he and the club would work as hard as possible to bring in a player who could offer something different to our current crop. I told them: “No pressure, I’ll be focusing on my work with the team.”

    Are you concerned about the fact that Azmoun, Leandro Paredes and Sanches aren’t match sharp?

    “I’ve already touched upon this matter. If we go knocking on the door of a club for a player who’s just had a fantastic season there’s no way we could afford such a player. There are clubs who would give you a flat no, while others would suggest financial terms which would be impossible for us given the situation Roma are in. We’ve got to stay in our lane when it comes to such matters, and people are aware of this.

    “Is it a surprise that Renato can’t play tomorrow? No, it’s no surprise given how things have been for him over the last two seasons. If Renato had been playing to a high standard and had been injury-free then he would be a nailed-on starter at PSG and he would never have ended up on loan at Roma. It’s the same as the Dybala situation last season – so many clubs had their doubts over his fitness and that’s how we managed to sign him. This is our reality. We’ve become specialists at working with such players, ones with both a fantastic past and a potentially fantastic future. We’re experts at this, at getting the best out of them and providing them with the stability so that they can return to their former standards. That’s what we’re about. So relax and keep expectations low. People shouldn’t be getting ideas beyond what Roma are capable of.

    “We’ll work as hard as possible. Maybe you’ve all been surprised to see me relaxed today and last week, and it’ll be the same next week. But anyway, what’s important is tomorrow’s game.”

    Aside from your priority of signing a striker, are you expecting any other comings and goings?

    “As for players leaving, we’ll wait and see if Saudi Arabia come swooping. Anything could happen in that regard. Our squad could get better or worse between now and the closure of the transfer window, that’s the risk. We’ll see. We’ve got four centre backs. We’ve got three right wingers, one of which has filled in at right back. If we’re able to sign someone, then great. If not, then we’ll press on.

    “I have a lot of dialogue with the players. I want them to be motivated, especially those who see less game time. There will be a point at which their contributions will be crucial. Ola Solbakken didn’t feature in the season opener and tomorrow he’ll be on the bench again. It’s a long season and everyone will be called upon at some stage.”

    If Roma are able to recruit another striker, then what objectives could you set as a team? After having two stellar seasons in Europe might the signing of a striker be the boost to see you secure fourth place?

    “If it was only us improving that would be one matter. The issue is that other teams also kick on. In terms of objectives I can’t think beyond winning the next game. That’s how it is for me.

    “I’ll state the obvious: Inter, Milan, Napoli and Juventus are all in the title race. A team fighting for the title should also logically finish in the top four. Lazio did so in 2022-23 and did very well in the league, enjoying many forays across Europe as well. Atalanta have invested a lot, Fiorentina have clear ambitions and the fact that they turned down a €42 million offer for a player speaks volumes. If a club offered us €42 million plus €3 million in add-ons for one of our players then we couldn’t say no, yet Fiorentina did, which tells you of their intensions.

    “If you were to ask me where I think Roma could finish with the current squad, I’d say between fifth and eighth, fighting it out with Lazio, Atalanta and Fiorentina. That’s how it is. If we’re able to have an outstanding season and finish in the top four then that would be fantastic. I hope that if we don’t achieve this it’s because we’ve been so busy with going far in Europe. We want to go far in the Europa League.”             

    When will Renato Sanches be back? Will he only miss Verona or will we next see him after the international break? Can [Bryan] Cristante play with Paredes in midfield?

    “I think Renato will be back after the international break. Maybe there will be a surprise, but I think that with his medical history, pushing him too soon wouldn’t be the right path to take. After the break, he’ll have a chance to recover fully from his small muscle problem and the staff will be able to get him into better shape.

    “I expected the question to be about Pellegrini being able to play with [Houssem] Aouar, but you asked if Cristante can play alongside Paredes. I say that good players can always play together. It’s down to the coach to find the right solution so that they can play well together.”

    Have you thought about a possible change of formation and playing with a back four to increase the positions available in defence?

    “We did that a bit against Salernitana when [Chris] Smalling went off and Cristante played in that position. Obviously, Bryan has the attributes to go into the midfield zone, but he can also end up in a back four.

    “With the way the full-backs were playing, it was similar to in a back three, but it was actually a back four. It’s something we can try to do. We’ll play with a back five tomorrow and then we face Milan on Friday. Then it’s over and we’ll stop playing just once a week. At the moment we have great options in midfield: Bryan, Paredes, Lorenzo, Aouar, Renato, [Edoardo] Bove. Almost two names for each position.

    “Then there’s the scope for different combinations, which can work. It also depends on the attributes of the strikers that we have. A second Dybala could be Lorenzo or Aouar. Maybe if Dybala isn’t playing, we might think about one of them as a creative forward. I’m very pleased with the midfield options. It’s a shame for Renato. Something we’ll miss is his intensity. We’re not a fast team. We play with a certain tempo, which isn’t that fast. Thinking back to when we lost the ability to get in behind and play with intensity and power through [Nicolo] Zaniolo, if Renato stays fit, he could be a really important player for us.”