A personal recollection of the unbelievable day when Roma appointed Jose Mourinho

May 4th instantly became an unforgettable day in the Roma history books when, on that date in 2021, the club announced the appointment of Jose Mourinho as their next manager.

Quite frankly, none of us had seen it coming. It was clear that Paulo Fonseca’s days were numbered ahead of the end of his contract, as the club would confirm that day. Roma needed a spark to freshen things up, but the lightning bolt they were about to deliver was completely unpredictable.

The race to become Fonseca’s successor had seemingly been in Maurizio Sarri’s favour up to that point. In a twist of fate, though, he would end up becoming Roma’s rival later that summer; instead, the Giallorossi secured someone of higher pedigree – the legendary Jose Mourinho.

He had only been out of work a few weeks after his untimely – if not unexpected – sacking by Tottenham Hotspur, shortly before a Carabao Cup final. Little did we all know that Roma had initiated contact with the so-called Special One almost instantly after.

While all the rumours about Sarri, or others, were bubbling away, under the surface Roma were at work to bring one of football’s most iconic managers to the capital. Somehow, they pulled it off.

I was working in my football writing job for TEAMtalk.com on the day, in the last hour of my shift and searching for a final piece of news to write about. Then, all of a sudden, I saw a screenshot sent to one of the Roma WhatsApp groups I am in. It was the tweet, confirming Jose Mourinho would manage the club from the following season.

Frankly, I thought it was a mock-up at first. I didn’t believe it. Then, I checked the official Twitter account itself. Lo and behold, there it was. This was real.

A few hours earlier in that chat, one member had seen a link that Mourinho had emerged as a bookmakers’ favourite to replace Fonseca. At the time, no-one batted an eyelid. It didn’t seem plausible. When the announcement came, though, everything sparked into life.

I messaged my work’s group chat to confirm I had found my last piece of writing for the day. “Mourinho’s got a new job!” I typed, still not quite believing it.

“Wow,” was one of the words – followed by multiple exclamation marks – in response from my editor, who instinctively gave me the go-ahead to write up the “huge news”. I did so while shaking.

Funnily enough, earlier that shift, I had covered some quotes from Tottenham forward Son Heung-min about Mourinho’s exit from that club. Maybe it was a sign of what was to come all along.

Amid all this, I ran half-way up the stairs at home to shout my mum. As we met in the middle, I exclaimed – with that exciting mix of disbelief and anticipation – “We’ve got Mourinho!” I could barely believe the words I was saying.

Nor could my mum, who stared at me and said, in a similar tone: “No?!”

I repeated it, as if to convince us both. “We’ve got Mourinho!”

I was genuinely fighting back tears at the time. I’m not quite sure what kind – they weren’t sad; I would have wanted Mourinho all along if I ever thought it was possible – but it was mainly a sense of excitement and shock.

After completing that final story at work – and then writing it up again for this site – my phone was buzzing with messages, many from Roma fans, a couple from other friends. This was indeed huge news.

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Perhaps some of the outsiders did not realise at the time how big this was for Roma. We were yet to even secure European football at that stage of the season – Fonseca had four league games left – and had been down on our luck for a few years. Maybe Mourinho had too, but this was one of the all-time greats. We could not have dreamed of this.

One year on, as I write this article sat in the same place I was when that notification came through, that day feels like it could be just now. A lot has happened since, but the start of the Mourinho era will always be unforgettable.

The upturn in results in Fonseca’s final few games was noticeable. Likewise, the calibre of player that began to be linked with Roma in the transfer market almost immediately increased. Some would always be unrealistic – but so was Mourinho not so long ago. It didn’t cost to dream.

As his first season now nears its end, it is still a case of dreaming about the future. There have been obstacles for Mourinho to overcome, and this job was never going to be easy – especially with the increased focus on him and the club. But there have been signs of progress and the anticipation is building.

Can Roma reach the Europa Conference League final – and even win it? Who will Mourinho attract in the summer transfer window? Where will we be by the time his initial three-year contract has reached its end?

After all the ups and downs so far, us Romanisti are still looking ahead. And it was that day, 4th May 2021, when the appointment of Mourinho made many of us believe again.

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