Jose Mourinho's AS Roma are back on track in the Serie A season after a disappointing start, and the Giallorossi are currently fourth in the league with 24 points scored in 14 games. It's the perfect place to fight until the very end for a spot in the next UEFA Champions League.
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Mourinho's team started off badly in the new season despite the summer signing of Romelu Lukaku, who arrived from Chelsea on loan until the end of the season. AS Roma recorded only one win in the first six games (against Empoli) and struggled to keep the pace of the other competitors for the top four. Then, thanks to some key results in the last month but also thanks to some struggles of other teams, they are now fourth and fully in race to end up in the top four. Will they make it?
Mourinho is entering his last year of contract at the Italian club, and it's unclear what his future will be. Many signals indicate that he will end his three-year cycle at AS Roma next June, but some reports suggest that he might be interested to stay in Rome. The Portuguese coach, despite criticism, was able to bring the UEFA Conference League trophy in Rome in his first season and lost to Sevilla the final of the last edition of the Europa League. For a club that never won a UEFA trophy before his arrival, that's already something to remember. However, many could claim that the level of the football expressed by his side didn't improve in the past two years at the club. Dan Friedkin, the American businessman and owner of the Giallorossi, has to make a decision about the future of the manager, considering that he was the one who brought "The Special One" back to Serie A two and half years ago.
Mourinho, at the same time, already refused two leave the club twice. The first time last January, when he didn't take the job of the Portuguese national team, and then last summer when he refused to join Saudi side Al-Hilal and a €30 million net salary per year. He made a promise to his players and to the fans after the final lost to Sevilla and he stayed for his last year of contract.
Understand Saudi side Al Hilal sent huge contract proposal to José Mourinho earlier this month, before approaching Allegri. 🚨🔵🇸🇦 #AlHilal— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) June 29, 2023
Official proposal sent: €30m per season net salary.
José Mourinho turned down the bid — as he’s only focused on AS Roma project. pic.twitter.com/1tION8dpCZ
However, his relationship with the media was difficult in the recent months. Last weekend, after the game won against Sassuolo, Mourinho arrived for the post-match interview with DAZN and insisted on speaking only in Portuguese, translated by the interpreter that was provided by the club.
"The reason I am speaking Portuguese is that my Italian is not sufficiently polished to express certain concepts. When I talked about emotional stability, I was referring to a quality that in life and in football is necessary to perform at the highest level."
That happened after the Portuguese coach spoke on Saturday in pre-match press conference about the referee Matteo Marcenaro, saying that he was "worried" about him and the VAR for the game against Sassuolo. Mourinho apparently didn't like how the media reported his words.
On the pitch, the Giallorossi perform better when both Lukaku and Paulo Dybala are available. When the Argentinian striker was fit, AS Roma won most of the time. In the last six games played by Dybala, the Giallorossi won five and drew one. A clear signal that with the former Juventus star, results are more likely to come. Apart of the their individual strengths, Roma also were helped by the negative moments of their direct competitors for the top four -- Atalanta, Lazio and Napoli. The Giallorossi were able to make an unexpected comeback that put them in a good position for the European race.
Regardless what will happen to Mourinho next summer, both the manager and the club will be focused on ending in the top four for multiple reasons. The club need financial resources of the Champions League qualification to sign players such as Lukaku permanently, while Mourinho always wanted to leave the clubs he managed as a winner. Considering the level of his current team, ending up in the top four would be considered as a win by Mourinho but especially by the fans as the Giallorossi's last Champions League appearance was in 2018-19 when they were knocked out by Porto, the team where Jose Mourinho's legendary career started.