Mourinho Had His Sins But Paid the Price for the Roma Transfer Charade

While he undoubtedly boasts the most storied managerial career of the 21st century, José Mourinho has become synonymous with what the media has branded as “Third Season Syndrome”.

“My third season in Inter, I didn’t have a third season. My third season at Chelsea, the first time I won the FA Cup and the Carling Cup and I played the Champions League semi-finals. My third season in Real Madrid I won the Super Cup, I lost the cup final and went to the Champions League semi-finals. Click Google instead of asking stupid questions.”

This is how the Portuguese tactician brashly refuted the diagnosis in his own sarcastic fashion during his second tenure at Chelsea back in September 2015.

Yet, his time with the Blues did in fact end with a disappointing third campaign, and much more recently, what started as a promising stint at Roma has now unfolded in a similar manner.

Sadly for the Special One, denying the existence of the alleged syndrome (or rather curse) is becoming increasingly daunting with every new experience.

Looking back now, fleeing the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Florentino Perez’s car following Inter’s Champions League triumph in 2010 was probably his wisest call, as it put an end to his Nerazzurri stint with a historic treble. We will never know how Mourinho’s third campaign at Appiano Gentile would have panned, and probably for the best.

European Glory Ran Its Course

All syndromes and curses aside, Mourinho now leaves the Italian capital after guiding the club towards its first European triumph, which happened to be the inaugural edition of the UEFA Conference League. The Giallorossi came extremely close to pairing it with a second Europe trophy, but the Europa League gods will unapologetically favor Sevilla every time.

Those continental exploits may have successfully masked the club’s mediocre domestic campaigns under the guidance of Mourinho over the last two seasons. However, Roma’s most recent appalling displays became inexcusable.

Football is a wicked game. Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri spent an entire campaign getting bombarded by fans and observers alike on a daily basis, with a section of the club’s supporters flooding the club’s social media accounts with the infamous #AllegriOut hashtag.

Yet, the Livorno native held his ground, kept his composure and navigated his way through the storm while silencing his doubters (at least until further notice).

On the contrary, Mourinho, who earned the Romanisti‘s unconditional love from the day he landed in the Eternal City has now been sacked only a few days following the emergence of the first signs of friction between him and the fanbase.

Derby Woes Spelled the End of Mourinho at Roma

Football historians will recall Roma’s defeat at the hands of Milan as the last straw, but those who know the atmosphere at the capital club would tell you that Mourinho was arguably a dead-man-walking following an embarrassingly feeble display in the Derby against Lazio.

In Rome, you can never overstate the importance of the Derby della Capitale, and for Mourinho, this proved to be his Achilles Heel throughout his stint at the club.

The Giallorossi fans may forgive their coach for lying 9th in the Serie A standings, but falling short in a contest that is worth more than anything else in the campaign on four out of six occasions is simply intolerable, even if it means turning their back on their beloved manager.

But as confirmed by Allegri’s case at Juventus, power and decision-making reside in the hands of those at the club’s headquarters rather than the fans who launch passionate campaigns on social media.

And in the end, Mourinho’s failure to maintain an amicable rapport with the upper management (or perhaps even the owners) proved to be his peril.

The Roman Inner Battle

In recent weeks the former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager has been constantly aiming digs at the club’s summer transfer campaign, (the same one he hailed over the summer), and perhaps for good reason.

Whether the Special One sensed the axe coming or was totally blindsided by his sacking remains unclear, but it certainly felt as if he was daring the club directors to strike with his recent statements… and strike they did.

But was Mourinho right to criticize the management’s work so publicly?

The short answer is a stark NO.

This blunder adds to the list of sins that the ultra-famous tactician committed in recent weeks, which also includes throwing some players under the bus, causing havoc in the media with his perplexing interviews in his native language, and missing out on crucial fixtures (including Milan and Inter away) due to his notorious habit of collecting red cards.

Simply put, a manager shall never question the work of the hierarchy while journalists are in attendance. Again, we refer back to Allegri’s sample, a man who kept the walls of Continassa fortified even through the club’s darkest hours, earning himself the appreciation and trust of the top brass, which is what ultimately kept him in his job despite the great public outrage.

That being said, Mourinho had a point… one he shouldn’t have said so plainly and publicly, but it is a valid point nonetheless: Tiago Pinto and company set him to fail with their ill-advised recruitment policy.

Mourinho Was Bound to Fail After Absurd Transfer Campaign

In fairness, the departing sporting director has also been operating in tough circumstances since his job description included improving the squad while registering net profits to keep UEFA and their FFP rules at bay, which is obviously a daunting task.

That being said, the Giallorossi management appeared keen on signing any household name on display last summer, regardless of their suitability for the project.

Romelu Lukaku was hailed as the cherry on top of an exciting summer campaign. Yet, it appeared that few other suitors (outside of the Saudi Pro League) were genuinely after the striker who has been technically, physically and emotionally inconsistent since the Autumn of 2021.

The Belgian managed to put some provincial Serie A sides to the sword, and was firing on all cylinders against humble opposition in the Europa League group stage. But despite his gigantic frame, he somehow found a way to disappear every time Roma were up against a strong opponent, the likes of Inter, Milan, Juventus and of course Lazio in the Derby.

But at least Lukaku has been showing up, unlike some of the club’s other new signings who have become more familiar with the treatment table at Trigoria than the Stadio Olimpico.

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When you’re already hosting the likes of Paulo Dybala and Lorenzo Pellegrini – two stars who are arguably some of the best in their respective positions but have been constantly hindered by never-ending knocks – the last thing you need is adding more injury-prone players, especially not Renato Sanches and Houssem Aouar who have struggled to impress in recent years, and it is becoming increasingly evident how unlikely they are to fulfill their initial promise.

And this goes without mentioning Sardar Azmoun who doesn’t seem to have a clear role at the club nor did Mourinho necessarily want him there (something that the manager was also vocal about), or Leandro Paredes who managed to lock himself a starting spot despite his decent-at-best displays due to the lack of alternatives.

Moreover, Roma failed to properly address their concerning issues at the back, only poaching Evan Ndicka on a free transfer and refusing to spend cash to bolster this department despite collecting a lucrative paycheck from Roger Ibanez’s sale.

All in all, the club’s transfer campaign was one big charade. The Roman management kept luring one shiny name after the other and throwing glittering reception parties. But underneath all the glamour, they presented Mourinho a thin squad composed of injury-riddled stars, one ill-suited for building a solid foundation.

The Inevitable End

In the end, the Third Year Syndrome may have struck again, with the Special One unable to inject the same level of passion and tenacity into the souls of his players who had once appeared willing to give up their lives for the cause en route to European glory.

But this has been a familiar story for Mourinho, an inevitable demise that has been persistently blightening the most iconic managerial career of our generation.

And just like their departed coach, the Romans have once again showcased their Achilles Heel: a volatile environment where the components (players, managers, directors, owners, fanbase…) hardly ever row in the same direction, but are more often than not at odds with one another, prompting constant changes at the club.

So all in all, we can only wish new interim coach Daniele De Rossi the best following his homecoming. The legendary Giallorossi captain must know better than anyone else how even in the middle of January, the blazing Roman sun can indeed burn a young coaching career in the wilds of Trigoria.

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