05.05.2021
How Jose Mourinho can make a success of his time with Roma

So Jose Mourinho is back in management and back in Italy some 11 years on from leading Inter Milan to a stunning Treble.

Back then, Mourinho was arguably the finest manager in world football, a guarantor of success and silverware as well as being a charming character we couldn’t get enough of.

Now, after the failure of his second spell with Chelsea, his time at Manchester United and a very brief 17 months at Tottenham, it is a very different story.

Mourinho’s methods are widely viewed as stale, boring and outdated. He is seen as a prickly and divisive character happy to sow the seeds of dressing room discontent.

Compared to the styles favoured by the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, it can appear that football has left Mourinho behind in the dark ages.

Yet clearly some still value his pragmatism and believe he is a pretty sure bet when it comes to winning games and trophies.

It explains why Mourinho is back in work at Roma barely a fortnight after his acrimonious exit from White Hart Lane. He will take over at the beginning of next season, succeeding Paulo Fonseca.

But what challenges will Mourinho face when he arrives in Roma? We take a look at the Portuguese manager’s in-tray.

Sorting out Roma’s dodgy defence… and making up with Smalling

Anyone who watched them ship six goals against Manchester United last week, including five in the second-half, will realise that Roma’s defence isn’t the most watertight.

It’s something Mourinho will have to fix as a matter of urgency and, as a defensive-minded coach, it’s no doubt a challenge he will relish.

Fonseca has favoured a 3-4-2-1 system this season but it has come at the cost of conceding too many goals – 53 in Serie A alone, more than any team in the top half.

It will be expected that Mourinho makes Roma more robust in defence and no doubt he’ll revert to his tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 with more orthodox full-backs rather than wing-backs.

While the use of two holding midfield players at Tottenham only resulted in moans and groans, it would be more acceptable in Italy.

One Roma defender who knows Mourinho’s methods inside out and perhaps won’t be too happy to see him is Chris Smalling.

It was in October 2016, after United were thrashed 4-0 at Chelsea, that Mourinho described Smalling as ‘phenomenal’ after he played through the pain at Stamford Bridge.

But a fortnight later, when Smalling wasn’t able to play against Swansea, Mourinho questioned his bravery. It then emerged the defender had suffered a double foot fracture.

There was also Mourinho’s barb about Smalling’s ability to pass the ball out from the back following United’s win over Ajax in the 2017 Europa League final.

In an interview, Mourinho explained that United’s long ball tactics in the game were because he couldn’t risk Smalling giving the ball away.

‘I even joked with Smalling, ‘with your feet, we’re for sure not playing out from the back!’

It remains to be seen if Smalling remembers the remark. He only joined Roma permanently last October after a successful loan spell, is contracted until 2023 and has struggled with injuries all season.

Will he want to work under Mourinho a second time? A rapprochement between the two may be needed because Roma have missed Smalling when he’s been absent this season.

Mkhitaryan the main man?

Another player set for a reunion with Mourinho is Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who also had his run-ins with the manager when at United.

The Armenian has revealed that once Mourinho blamed him for some negative press coverage around the club and has admitted the manager was ‘difficult’ to work with.

But Mkhitaryan has also been positive about his former boss as well. In an interview with The Athletic recently, he said: ‘What I want to say is that I had a hard time but after the first two or three months there, I had a very good time.

‘I won three trophies with the club, which was amazing. You know, some players have been playing in Manchester for ages but they haven’t won anything.’

Yet Mourinho was more than happy to let him move to Arsenal in January 2018 as part of the swap deal that brought Alexis Sanchez to Old Trafford.

Now they are set to work together again and Mkhitaryan has been in good form for much of the season. He has scored 11 goals and contributed 11 assists but the majority of those came in the first half of the campaign.

Now 32, and with his Roma contract expiring this summer, you do wonder whether Mkhitaryan will fancy another dance with Mourinho.

If he stays, it could be worth the hard yards to win another trophy or two down the line.

More firepower needed

The most pressing priority will be fixing the defence but Mourinho may need to take a look at Roma’s attacking options as well.

They have scored just 58 Serie A goals all season and it helps explain why they’re set to be in the new Europa Conference League next season.

They have Borja Mayoral, who has scored 15 in all competitions and is the leading scorer this season, plus the 35-year-old Edin Dzeko and ex-Chelsea forward Pedro, who is 33.

It isn’t exactly a front line that will scare too many opponents.

As we’ve seen in the past, notably at United, Mourinho is a manager who demands investment in his squad.

So Dan Friedkin, the US billionaire whose Friedkin Group took Roma over at the beginning of the season from fellow American James Pallotta, can expect a request for a transfer kitty.

Mourinho was quick to thank the Friedkin family in his first quotes after accepting the job.

The club had become accustomed to Champions League football in recent seasons – even reaching the semi-finals in 2018 – and Mourinho will no doubt make it clear investment is essential if they are to challenge again.

Restoring the Roman aura

The thing that will most excite Roma fans is that Mourinho isn’t one to back down and his arrival immediately raises the club’s stature again after a season of struggle.

Having been there and won it all, Mourinho won’t be afraid of the likes of Antonio Conte at Inter, Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli or Simeone Inzaghi across town at Lazio.

The fans will love nothing more for Mourinho to make Roma into a team that everyone dreads facing, that can go toe-to-toe with Juventus and the Milan clubs.

Roma haven’t won a piece of silverware since they carried off the Italian Cup in 2008. They have won only three league titles in their entire history, the last Scudetto coming in 2001.

It’s high time they started winning something and the fans won’t really care how they achieve it. Mourinho’s slightly dull but effective football, having galvanised the dressing room behind him, will be well received if it gets results.

We will wait and see whether he can still deliver.

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  • 22 минуты назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Barcelona and Atletico Madrid cancelled each other at the Camp Nou and that meant a win-win for Real Madrid who now know they will be champions if they get maximum points from their last four games, starting Sunday at home to Sevilla.

    Barcelona’s best chance came five minutes from time when Ousmane Dembele had a free header on the edge of the six-yard box from Jordi Alba’s cross but got under it to send it sailing over Marc Andre ter Stegen’s bar.

    Messi won an 89th minute free-kick but sent it just high and just wide. Neither he nor his old pal Luis Suarez would get the win they so wanted.

    The embrace between the two came just seconds before kick-off. There was one for Sergio Busquets and Jorid Alba too. Barcelona had played some of Suarez greatest goals for them during the warm-up but with the title at stake the Uruguayan seemed oblivious to the tribute.

    Atletico started well. Thomas Lemar had a shot saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Suarez was fouled by Gerard Pique and took the free-kick himself which was saved by Ter Stegen.

    Messi linked up with Antoine Griezmann, who had no such affection shown him by former Atletico team-mates. But the Frenchman’s pass went long.

    After 12 minutes Saul Niguez replaced the hamstrung Thomas Lemar and Barcelona were soon forced into a change too.

    Busquets and Stefan Savic clashed heads and there was a drinks break in the 22 degrees heat while the midfielder received treatment.

    Griezmann had a shot saved by Oblak while Barcelona were down to ten men. Busquets came back on but was soon dizzy again sitting down in the centre-circle before being replaced by Ilaix Moriba.

    Suarez was always a threat in the first hal and he began to clash with former team-mates. He was caught in the face by Pique in one clash and when Ter Stegen got a hand to both the ball and Suarez’ head. The keeper shouted ‘no no no!’ when Suarez stayed down holding his head hoping for a penalty.

    Suarez had earlier seen his shot saved by Ter Stegen at his near post. The keeper also saved from Marcos Llorente as Atletico had the better of things.

    Saul was booked for a foul on Messi who lifted the tone considerably 10 minutes before the break weaving past four Atletico defenders. Oblak turned his shot away for a corner.

    When the half time whistle blew it was Atletico Madrid who could be happier with the performance, and Real Madrid supporters who could be happiest with the result as things stood.

    There were chances in the first minute of the second half with Clement Lenglet twisting to send a header over when half time substitute Ronald Araujo was better placed.

    At the other end Suarez pounced on a Lenglet error and won a corner with a saved shot. Barcelona were still surprisingly cautious with three centre-backs marking Suarez. Pique did get forward on the hour to get a glancing header to a floated Messi cross but Oblak saved.

    It was the cue for Atletico to prepare Joao Felix but he was still waiting to come on when Koke pulled Messi down on the edge of the area to earn a booking.

    Messi’s free-kick was creeping in at the far post when Oblak made the save of the game to push it out for a corner.

    Simeone’s next move was to bring on the Portuguese for Saul, the sub subbed and Carrasco to left wing-back.

    Both teams had the ball in the back of the net but Araujo was offside when he headed in and when Suarez scored from a rebound the whistle had already been blown for a foul from Carrasco on Pique.

    With 20 minutes left the touchline-banned Ronaldo Koeman sent word down to the technical area for Ousmane Dembele to come on.

    He won a free-kick but Messi wasted it giving it straight to an Atletico player. Fortunately for Barcelona that player was Joao Felix who took an age to launch the counter giving Messi time to get back and help snuff out the chance.

    He’s more dangerous closer to the penalty area and he found Suarez but the Uruguayan failed to find Carrasco. The Belgian then tried to find Suarez but overhit his cross and Atletico’s last decent chance was gone

    They are still top but if Real Madrid beat Sevilla they will be second – and Barcelona third – with three games to go. It’s in Real Madrid’s hands now.

    RE-LIVE THE ACTION AS IT UNFOLDED BELOW WITH ADAM SHERGOLD

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  • 22 минуты назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Rio Ferdinand questioned the attitude of Tottenham’s players after their 3-1 defeat to Leeds United as he slammed Erik Lamela for trying to pull off a rabona while his side chased the game.

    Son Heung-min cancelled out Stuart Dallas’ early goal to draw Spurs level in the first half but Leeds hit back with a goal from Patrick Bamford shortly before halftime.

    Rodrigo Moreno struck late to seal a defeat which saw Spurs’ slim hopes of sneaking into the Champions League places fade even further.

    Substitute Lamela was the target of Rio Ferdinand’s criticism on BT Sport although the pundit extended his disbelief to the whole Spurs team after not a single player had a go at the winger for his futile attempt at flair.

    ‘Lamela came on and at times he had impact. There was a moment where he tried a rabona. You’re 3-1 down in this moment,’ Ferdinand said.

    ‘The important thing was the reaction in Spurs shirts. I was looking for someone to get on to him.’

    The former Manchester United and England defender contrasted the Spurs’ players passive reaction to his playing days and also felt their attitude also gave a boost to Leeds in protecting their lead.

    Ferdinand added: ‘I couldn’t imagine being in a team where that player doesn’t get a rollicking. There’s got to be someone in there to say, “listen, we’re here to get results”.

    ‘If there were fans here, you would have been jeered off the pitch. There would have been a queue of people wanting to get at him.

    ‘What does that signal to the other team? “They’re not serious, they’re not serious about this”. You have to look right.’

    Leeds inflicted a first Premier League defeat on Spurs’ interim coach Ryan Mason since he succeeded Jose Mourinho last month and all but ended his side’s chance of gatecrashing the top four.

    ‘Today was a massive game for us, to lose it hurts,’ Mason told BT Sport.

    ‘It’s difficult to win in the Premier League but we’ve got to have our full attention on next week now.

    ‘We had moments but we weren’t clinical enough at times.

    ‘In the second half we were the better team. The moments we had, you have to take them in these games.’

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  • 6 часов, 22 минуты назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Andy Murray is set for a comeback to the tour just in time for the busiest period of the tennis season – and will hit the practice courts with Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

    The 33-year-old Scot has his sights set on Wimbledon, but first will fly out to Rome to practice on the clay ahead of a full comeback in the week starting May 17.

    Murray also plans to tackle the coming months with some help from former coach and now TV commentator Mark Petchey, who has been on the court with him in London in recent weeks.

    The double SW19 champion could be found on Friday hitting on the clay at Roehampton’s National Tennis Centre with British youngster Jack Draper, confounding thoughts that injury issues of the last two months might force him to abandon the clay season.

    Murray last played in Rotterdam at the beginning of March and a freak groin strain suffered while sleeping in Miami has kept him out since.

    He plans to enter either of the ATP events in Geneva or Lyon the week after next, the former being where Roger Federer is returning. He hopes for a wildcard into the main draw of the French Open at the end of this month, but if not will join the chorus line in the qualifying event at Roland Garros.

    ‘On Sunday I’ve got a court booked with Diego Schwartzmann and then Novak in the afternoon,’ said Murray, who was able to play full on yesterday against highly promising teenager Draper.

    A series of scans showed no serious issues after he returned from Florida, and he was given some local anaesthetic treatment. But the French authorities want to see evidence of his level before giving him a wildcard, which he is relaxed about.

    ‘They want to see me on the court competing, whether that means I need to win matches I don’t know. I don’t mind if they don’t want to give me a wildcard, that’s fine, they can give them to whoever they want to. It just makes it a bit tricky with planning.’

    Petchey, who coached him in his formative years on tour, has been added to his support team to work alongside existing coach Jamie Delgado.

    ‘Over the last few years my team and I have spent a lot of time together and there have been a lot of difficult moments because of what’s happened with the injuries and uncertainty,’ said Murray.

    ‘I felt it would be good to have fresh voice some weeks. I thought he was a very good coach and because of his TV work he is very current with his knowledge. A lot of the younger guys he knows them because he’s commentating on them all the time. We are looking at doing something longer term but nothing has been agreed yet.’

    Aside from what happened in Miami he was also forced out of the Australian Open after catching Covid in January, making it a difficult year.

    ‘It has been extremely frustrating – I never expected that things were going to be easy, when I had the operation on the hip I knew it was going to be unbelievably challenging, it just feels that there are a couple of things that have happened this year which have been very unfortunate that have been hard to take.

    ‘I’m trying to do something that has not been done before. So I knew there would be challenges but things have come up which have made it even more difficult. I’ve been in the NTC for 6 days a week. I’m a bit bored of doing that now, I want to get out there be around the top players and top tournaments.

    ‘I’m really looking forward to going away and having a good few months this summer, with Wimbledon and the Olympics. I feel good right now, the last five or six days there has been a definite improvement.’

    Murray’s coming schedule is fluid. He could play an additional clay court event in Parma, and if his business in Paris finished quickly he might play in Stuttgart in the grass court event there ahead of the Cinch Championships at Queen’s.

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  • 6 часов, 22 минуты назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Jurgen Klopp has thrown his weight behind out-of-form Liverpool ace Roberto Firmino in the midst of his disappointing campaign.

    The forward has scored just six goals from 43 appearances in all competitions this season and been unable to prevent the now-dethroned former Premier League champions from enduring a horror slump.

    But boss Klopp was quick to insist that Firmino retains his full support and has tipped the 29-year-old to return to form sooner rather than later.

    Speaking to journalists, Klopp attributed Firmino’s sharp decline in front of goal to Liverpool’s wider issues this season.

    ‘It is a mixture of the season, 100 per cent, but as well, when the boys up front don’t score as often as we’re used to then that doesn’t help,’ Klopp said.

    ‘But anyway, we are not in dreamland, so you can go through these periods. But, of course, it is temporary and not forever. There is no doubt about that.

    ‘Bobby is not old or tired or lost everything, not at all. We see everything in training, but we need to make sure we bring that more often on the pitch.

    ‘That is not only for Bobby either, but you asked about him. That is a general thing for us.’

    The Anfield giants are currently embroiled in a fierce battle to qualify for the Champions League – but they are languishing in seventh, seven points off fourth.

    Liverpool have been haunted by key injures, a failure to take good chances and sloppy mistakes, all of which brought an early end to their title defence and pushed them out of the top four.

    Reflecting back, Klopp rued the absentees in defence, with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez both ruled out long-term, and insisted that the chaos stemming from the issue has taken its toll on the whole of his team.

    ‘The season is not one where we got into a proper flow and things were clicking game after game,’ Klopp added. ‘We had to work incredibly hard and when you have to work incredibly hard you think about different things.

    ‘So let me say it like this, when we lost our defence and stability a bit because of injuries, everybody had to play differently to protect the defence.

    ‘That means you play a yard further back, or two, or five, or 10. That keeps your focus away from an offensive situation because you would think already that when you lose the ball you have to get it back.

    ‘So there are a lot of complex things that have happened this year and so far it was why this is the season we saw. There are absolutely no excuses, and I hope that is clear, but it is a description.

    ‘Bobby is a good example of that but he is in a good moment, he trains really well and that is good.’

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  • 6 часов, 22 минуты назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Neymar has been branded as one of the most irritating players to play against by former Atletico Madrid defender Juanfran.

    Juanfran battled often with Neymar during the Brazilian’s spell at Barcelona for four years, before the latter’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record £198million in 2017.

    Having left Atletico for Sao Paulo in 2019, the 36-year-old labelled Neymar as ‘unbearable’ when asked by El Larguero at which opponent was his most irksome on the pitch.

    Juanfran said: ‘Neymar. Off the pitch they tell me he’s a good kid, but on the pitch, unbearable. He’d provoke you with or without the ball – but I wasn’t a saint either.’

    While Neymar is undoubtedly one of the world’s standout players on the ball, his gamesmanship, including a perceived overreaction to being fouled, can often infuriate opponents and fans.

    This was never enough to overshadow his talent though, with 105 goals in just 186 games sealing a move to PSG, where despite injuries he has also bagged 85 goals in just 112 games.

    Although his contract at the Parc des Princes is due to expire next summer, he could now sign a new deal in the French capital in the next few days worth around £26million a season.

    Neymar’s new contract would come as excellent news for manager Mauricio Pochettino who is also hoping to tie down fellow forward Kylian Mbappe to a new deal.

    It also reflects well on Pochettino that despite PSG’s Champions League semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Manchester City midweek, his star players are willing to stay in Paris under his tenure.

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  • 6 часов, 22 минуты назад 08.05.2021Sport

    Michael Page scored his fifth-straight Bellator victory on Friday night after the Briton stopped Derek Anderson after breaking his rival’s nose with a brutal leg kick in the first round.

    The silky smooth Hackney-born mixed martial artist met Anderson at Bellator 258 in Uncasville, Connecticut at a catchweight of 175 pounds and all but ended the bout in the opening round after landing a perfect leg kick right on the button.

    Anderson, 31, made it until the end of the round before a ringside physician stepped in to insist that the American was in no shape to continue, such was the damage done to the nose.

    WARNING – GRAPHIC CONTENT BELOW

    Page’s victory moves ‘Venom’ a step closer to a rematch with Bellator’s welterweight champion Douglas Lima, the only man to inflict defeat on the Briton in his 20-fight career.

    The 34-year-old is also the first person to defeat Anderson via TKO/KO and his victory on Friday saw him break the record for most knockout wins in Bellator.

    ‘It is a good one to come back on,’ Page said after his win. ‘Now Bellator have got going again it is a great one to start on to get me going as well and hopefully I am just active.

    ‘I feel great right now, as soon as I can get back in the cage I am going to be back.’

    MMA fans have likened Page’s fighting style to that seen in video games, and the Briton says that he is in his ‘element’ when he is in the Octagon.

    ‘Fighting genuinely is my home,’ he said. ‘I genuinely feel at peace. I don’t feel stressed, I am in my absolute element when I am fighting.

    ‘I enjoy combat, it is more of a game for me. I don’t see the brutality in it. You can see by the way I demonstrate my martial arts that that’s what it is for me. I’m just at home.’

    Fans took to Twitter to react to Page’s sensational kick, with one social media user comparing the damage sustained by Anderson to that of a crinkled can of Coke.

    ‘Michael Venom is scary’ one user wrote, while another fan labelled the 34-year-old ‘an absolute savage’.

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Sport How Jose Mourinho can make a success of his time with Roma