In Bologna, Italy, on December 17, 2023, Jose Mourinho, the head coach of AS Roma, was observed observing the Serie A TIM match between Bologna FC and AS Roma at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara. The influence of Mourinho’s existence in the Eternal City is clear every week. After two and a half years in charge, the Portuguese manager still manages to draw large crowds at the Stadio Olimpico, receive passionate chants, and generate media attention. Ever since Mourinho took over as the coach, the loyal fans of Roma have been completely caught up in the frenzy surrounding him. The number of people attending Roma matches has soared from an average of 40,000 during Paulo Fonseca’s tenure to more than 60,000 since Mourinho’s arrival. Known as the ‘Special One,’ Mourinho was regarded as the accomplished victor that this club, longing for triumph, was desperately seeking. He proved his worth in his first season by clinching the UEFA Europa Conference League, putting an end to the club’s 14-year dry spell without a trophy. Nevertheless, despite achieving success in Europe, Roma has failed to meet expectations in Serie A. With Mourinho at the helm, they have consistently finished in sixth place for two years in a row, leading to a prolonged absence from the UEFA Champions League for a total of five years. A major hurdle in Roma’s quest to secure a spot in the top four has been their difficulties in crucial matches against their direct competitors.
However, the forthcoming ‘Derby del Sole’ against reigning champions Napoli offers Mourinho and his squad a chance to alter the prevailing storyline. This crucial game possesses the potential to become a defining moment in their season. After being involved in a controversy for his remarks about a referee, Mourinho has openly stated his intention to continue his coaching journey at Roma. The devoted fans have demonstrated unwavering support for him by displaying a banner declaring Mourinho as a lifelong Romanista.
Despite Mourinho’s tendency to move on from clubs within a span of three years throughout his career, it appears that he has discovered a sense of belonging in Rome and wishes to establish a lasting presence there. Nevertheless, his future with Roma remains uncertain as the Friedkin Group, the club’s American owners, have not yet extended his contract beyond the current season. With a high salary compared to other coaches in Serie A, the Friedkins and the supporters of Roma have higher expectations for the team’s performance in the league this year. The continuation of Mourinho’s tenure in the city of Rome is contingent upon the team’s display in the latter part of the season. The owners desire a significant outcome from their financial commitment, specifically securing a place in the Champions League. Alarming is the team’s track record against formidable opponents vying for a top-four position since Mourinho’s arrival, having lost 14 out of 24 matches. In the ongoing season, they have already experienced two defeats and one draw in encounters against these adversaries. The upcoming matches of Roma against Napoli, Juventus, Atalanta, and AC Milan will play a decisive role in determining their chances of making it to the Champions League again and potentially securing a contract extension for Mourinho. Napoli, who have practically given up on defending their title, come to Rome with their own issues. Despite appointing Walter Mazzarri as their second coach this season, they have not witnessed any notable improvement in their performance. The “Derby del Sole” holds great importance for both Roma and Napoli in their respective seasons.