José Mourinho’s Roma have reached a European final for the second season running, after booking themselves a Europa League showdown with the competition’s perennial winners Sevilla at the end of this month.
Having won the Europa Conference League last season, the Giallorossi will now face off against the Spaniards in the Romanian capital Bucharest, with not just the trophy but a place in next term’s Champions League awarded to the winner.
Roma overcame Bayer Leverkusen to progress from the semi-finals this week, securing a hard-fought goalless draw in Germany having beaten the Bundesliga side 1-0 in Rome. The second meeting was far from easy on the eye, with Mourinho’s side having just one shot in the game while managing 40% possession at the BayArena.
Roma had only played two European finals in their history before Mourinho arrived in the summer of 2021, but are now set to double that tally with their second showpiece appearance in the space of 12 months. Having secured his sixth European final appearance as a manager, Mourinho was asked how he felt about being on the verge of truly writing his name in Roma club folklore.
“My concern isn’t marking my place in the Roma history books,” the Portuguese said. “It’s helping these kids to grow, to achieve important things,” he explained. “It’s also helping the Roma fans who have given me so much since day one. It’s an immense joy to get to another final.
“[The match was won] in the small details. If we don’t have Smalling on the bench, maybe we don’t win this game.
“We lost Spinazzola and then Celik, if we didn’t have him at that moment it would have been very difficult. The small details make the difference. We can also thank Bove, who played from out of position on the right-hand side.
“The boys give everything, this game is the result of our work, experience, tactical wisdom, and knowing how to stay in matches. It’s an incredible team.”
AS Roma made it into the Europa League final. This is how José Mourinho celebrates. #B04ROM pic.twitter.com/WVsHd0SxFA— Patrick Berger (@berger_pj) May 18, 2023
While his players celebrated after the final whistle, Mourinho headed straight for the travelling support to share a moment with the Roma fans. Mourinho’s impact on the club’s belief and ambition was articulated after the final whistle by captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, who has formed a strong bond with the former Porto boss.
“He’s different,” Pellegrini said. “He makes you realise the importance of the match, we came here and all of us knew what they had to do.
“We study, we organise ourselves, we watch videos. Especially in Europe, you can see what the coach brings us. Mourinho is the creator of this personality of ours.”
By Sean Gillen