Welcome back, Daniele, it’s time to seize the present


Not entirely unexpected, yesterday saw the dismissal of Jose Mourinho by Roma. In his place, taking charge of a team facing an identity and results crisis, is Daniele De Rossi, a club legend second only to Totti, a ‘hombre vertical’ if there ever was one, but with almost no coaching experience. Will it be enough to turn the fortunes of the Giallorossi around?

Like an avalanche, sweeping down everything along its path, so did the forced departure of Jose Mourinho, dismissed yesterday as Roma’s coach, bring a mix of conflicting feelings and thoughts that are hard to decipher, especially for those emotionally invested in Roma and the two figures in succession, Mourinho and De Rossi. Yes, because, as we hoped in a 2019 post after his retirement, which, by the way, remains the most read in the ten years of this blog, yesterday marked the great return of DDR, called to be the successor to the Special One, with all that entails. Many have talked about a clever move by the club, but if you put yourself in the Friedkin’s shoes, it was actually the only possible move to prevent, or at least limit, the discontent of the many fans who supported the Portuguese despite everything—gameplay, results, the wars he waged for himself and the club. All the best coaches are obviously occupied, and among the free ones, Conte would never have taken over a mid-season team, and then who else? Igor Tudor? A former Juventus player? Then the stadium would have exploded. Was it a clever move, then? Yes, certainly, but not necessarily a wrong one, at least on paper. Since yesterday, heated discussions have been taking place among friends, on the radio, on social media, not so much about De Rossi’s appointment, but about Mourinho’s dismissal, loved by many almost to idolatry, tolerated by a small, staunch group that had already started highlighting his and his team’s limitations since last season. But what prompted the Friedkins, whose silence has become deafening, to summon one of the world’s most famous and successful coaches on any ordinary Tuesday morning, just to tell him to pack his things and clear his desk? Knowing Americans as I do, in addition to the lack of results, I believe there was something else. The results are poor, no denying it, both practically (ninth place in the league, eliminated from the Italian Cup in a derby of rare ugliness, forced into the Europa League playoffs for failing to win a group well within our reach) and aesthetically, as the team constructs very little and often does so randomly, on scrums, or on set pieces. But Mourinho deserves many mitigating factors, starting with the modesty of the squad, also due to the constraints of FFP, which, despite representing the third-highest wage bill in Serie A, still has significant shortcomings, both in quantity and quality.

Above all, credit must be given to the Special One for rekindling the love of the fans, who so much love his way of finding enemies everywhere, to rally the environment around him. But I fear that this, more than the dearth of results, was the last straw for the Friedkins: seeing the brand they had bought, that of the symbol team of the Eternal City, to be exported worldwide like the Colosseum and St. Peter’s, slowly transform into a team always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, always on the barricades, against opponents who simulate, against referees, against VAR, against TV and their pundits. A sort of ‘us against everyone’ that, while driving the fans crazy, angers those who have to enhance and sell that brand, and instead of explaining potential investors and sponsors successes and profit margins, they find themselves having to explain brawls, expulsions, and constant controversies. No one will take away from Mourinho the merit of the night in Tirana and even of that in Budapest, ignobly stolen by an incapable referee, of the many young talents launched, and of the sold-out crowds built with his charisma. But it is necessary to also attribute to him the faults and mistakes, in the choice of some players, in a certain lack of evolution over time, in always having to keep the windward side. And now? Now, DDR, who certainly cannot get blood from a turnip, but is asked to lower the temperature of a schizophrenic environment, a temperature that inevitably reaches the team. With a bit of luck and the recovery of some long-term injured players (don’t even talk about the transfer market), hoping to regain a more decent position in the standings and perhaps continue beyond Feyenoord in the race for the Europa League. His coaching experience is almost nonexistent, a few months at Spal in Serie B and a significant stint as Mancini’s assistant in the national team, but Daniele has on his side the perfect knowledge of the club, the Roman and Romanista environment, an uncommon intelligence, and the awareness of playing a possibly decisive crossroads for his second career, the one that distinguishes coaches of Serie B from those of Serie A and beyond. In short, what was Captain Future must now take the present, a present that already begins on Saturday, in a home match against Verona with three obligatory points. But let’s not delude ourselves that the players become phenoms and that a legend on the bench, like a ‘deus ex machina,’ can save the entire club, because even the Special One failed in this regard (although he remains the Special One). This, upon closer inspection, is perhaps the greatest lesson from Mourinho’s two and a half years.

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Gianluca Puzzo

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Gianluca Puzzo

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