At age 60 and preparing to coach in his sixth European final, silver-haired Roma manager Jose Mourinho might prefer to call himself “the Sage One” now.
Two decades after guiding Porto to the UEFA Cup for his first continental trophy, Mourinho considers himself a “better coach” and a “better person.”
Mourinho, who famously referred to himself as a “Special One” when he was introduced as Chelsea manager in 2004, was asked Thursday what has changed for him since he emerged on the European stage.
“Our job is not like a player’s job. You can be better and better with your experiences,” Mourinho said at Roma’s media day for the Europa League final. “As a player you need your body and your body of course does not respond the same way when you are 30 or you are 40.
“As a coach I think your brain becomes sharper and the accumulation of knowledge is better with the years. I think you stop when you lose motivation, which is not the case — my motivation goes up every day. I have no problems with that. So I think I’m better now.”
Roma faces Europa League specialist Sevilla next Wednesday in Budapest, Hungary, as Mourinho looks to bring a second European trophy to the Italian capital after winning the Europa Conference League in his first season with the Giallorossi.
In all, Mourinho is five-for-five in European finals. He also won the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan and the Europa League at Manchester United.
“It’s too bad we can’t play a final every week,” Mourinho said.
With speculation swirling over whether Mourinho will return to honor the third and final season of his contract at Roma, the Portuguese coach was also asked about what he takes away emotionally from each of his clubs when he leaves.
Mourinho responded by bringing up his previous job, when dressing-room apathy and growing disillusionment at his defensive tactics cost him his position at Tottenham after 17 months at the London club — six days before the English League Cup final.
“I hope the Tottenham fans don’t get me wrong but the only club in my career where I don’t have still a deep feeling is Tottenham,” Mourinho said. “Probably because the stadium was empty (due to the pandemic), probably because (club chairman Daniel) Levy didn’t let me win a final and win a trophy. But it is the only one. Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid, Manchester United — all the clubs I feel a connection.
“I go in the streets so many times in Italy and I find Inter fans. I go in London – not just the Chelsea fans but also the Man United fans. Real Madrid all over the world,” Mourinho said. “It’s about the feeling that give you everything. … People think, ‘You cannot love every club.’ Yes, I love every club. I love every club because I felt the other way around — they also loved me. So with Roma, one day it will be hard but we will be connected forever like I am with all my previous clubs — apart (from) Mr. Levy’s club.”
Roma striker Tammy Abraham — a Mourinho favorite — also won’t commit to whether he’ll stay. After scoring 27 goals across all competitions in his first season at Roma, this campaign has been a struggle with only nine scores.
But Abraham hasn’t lost his love for Mourinho.
“I always call him my uncle of Rome,” Abraham said. “He knows how to drive me. He knows how to get under my skin. Even if I’m playing the best football of my career, he would tell me I still need to do more. As players you need someone who knows how to drive you at your best and at your worst.”
Sixth in Serie A with two matches to play, including a visit to Conference League finalist Fiorentina on Sunday, Roma might need to win the Europa League to guarantee a spot in next season’s Champions League.
With talented but often injured forward Paulo Dybala likely available for only 15-20 minutes of the final, Abraham will be counted on for goals.
But whether he scores or not, Abraham’s experience at Roma will surely end up being a positive one.
“After my career to look back at my life and to say I spent some of my life living in Rome, you will cherish it even more,” Abraham said. “I came here to learn a different part of my game, to spread my wings, to learn a different way of living. And I have no regrets. I love being here and it’s given me the experience — if say I do go back to England in the future — I can bring that experience and take it back with me.”
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