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Mourinho at Roma: How a love-hate relationship with fans shaped his tenure

José Mourinho was this week sacked by Roma after a string of poor results on the pitch and a series of outbursts off it. The Portuguese maestro, who is widely considered one of the greatest managers of all time, leaves Roma in 9th place in Serie A. Despite the sour ending of Mourinho at Roma, there is plenty he can be proud of about his time in the Italian capital.

When Mourinho arrived in the summer of 2021, he had plenty to prove after failing to win a trophy at Tottenham – the first time this had happened in his career. Mourinho had a tough task on his hands at a club with traditionally high expectations despite their trophyless run since winning the Coppa Italia back in 2008. The club had got close to glory in Europe in 1983 and 2018, but hadn't lifted a European trophy since the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup back in 1961.

That said, The arrival of a household name manager was greeted with hugeexcitement by the Roma faithful.

Jose Mourinho at Roma

Mourinho was loved by the Roma fans for the most part – Photo by Icon sport

Mourinho brought the fans back to the Stadio Olimpico

Very quickly into his tenure, the Stadio Olimpico began to fill up once more. In the last season with fans before Mourinho arrived in Rome (2019/20), the average attendance at the Stadio Olimpico for Roma matches was just 26,956 with zero sellouts. In his first season at the club (2020/21) the average attendance rose by nearly 15,000 to 41,908.

In Mourinho's second season in Rome, the average attendance rose further to 62,033 with five matches a sellout – the most since records began. It was their highest average attendance at the Olimpico 2000/01, proving that the Special One had reignited the Roman's passion for the beautiful game.

Party in the streets of Rome

The rise in attendances in Mourinho's second season at the club may have had a lot to do with the club's Europa Conference League success in 2021/22. Roma went all the way from the playoff round to the final where they beat Feyenoord in Tirana thanks to a first half goal from Nicolò Zaniolo.

It ended Roma's 14-year wait for silverware and left Mourinho in tears at full-time, as his players celebrated with the Roma fans who had travelled to Albania for the match. Upon returning to Rome, Mourinho and his squad were given a heroes welcome in the Italian capital.

Thousands of fans flooded the streets equipped with flares to welcome the team back, with the party at the Colosseum lasting long into the night. Scenes like this hadn't been seen in Rome prior to Mourinho's arrival and many fans will love him forever because of it.

Roma parade 2022
Thousands of Roma fans attended the Europa Conference League parade in 2022 – Photo by Icon sport

Failure in Budapest

Roma looked destined to finish inside the top four throughout the 2022/23 season but their Europa League commitments saw their league form curtail towards the business end of the season. The fans stood by Mourinho, though, as Roma reached consecutive European finals. This time, they took on Sevilla in the Europa League final.

Despite Paulo Dybala giving them the lead, they were pegged back in the second half and the match ended up going to a penalty shootout. Sevilla won and Mourinho lost his head afterwards, blaming the referee Anthony Taylor for the result and waiting for him in the stadium car park after the match to confront him.

The match also saw the first doubts about Mourinho creep in among Roma supporters. It wasn't just them, either, as the Roma owners reportedly considered parting ways with the ex-Man Utd boss after the final.

Mourinho at Roma comes to a bitter end

From the summer of 2023 onwards, things started to unravel at a pace for Mourinho. He bemoaned a lack of transfer activity at the club and the fans who had worshipped him for two years started to turn after results in big matches continued to disappoint.

Mourinho and his team have been booed off the pitch several times this season and things turned particularly sour after they lost to bitter rivals, Lazio, in the Coppa Italia just a few weeks ago. Firing back after the match, Mourinho said:

“The Roma fans are the most incredible I have seen. Their coach is Jose ‘Harry Potter' Mourinho and he raises expectations.”

Mourinho v lazio
A Coppa Italia loss to Lazio saw the Roma fans turn on Mourinho – Photo by Icon sport

Mourinho waved off

Despite their relationship becoming fractured at the end, Mourinho received a warm send-off from a group of Roma supporters on the day of his sacking. A group of them gathered at the club's training ground to say goodbye to the Special One and to thank him for bringing football passion back to Rome.

Mourinho will likely always have a special place in his heart for Roma and vice versa. The only question that remains – where will he end up next?

Andy Delaney

Andy is a freelance sports writer with ten years of experience covering major sporting events across Europe. He has also been a season ticket holder at Old Trafford since 2008 and has visited over 40 football stadiums in the United Kingdom and abroad following the Reds.

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