Mourinho: ‘I've seen it all in Europe, Dybala found joy at Roma’


AS Roma player Paulo Dybala and coach Josè Mourinho during the UEFA Europa League quarterfinal second leg match between AS Roma and Feyenoord at Stadio Olimpico on April 20, 2023 in Rome, Italy.

Jose Mourinho hails Roma for knocking Feyenoord out in extra time to face Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League semi-final, explains why he has ‘white hair and have seen it all’ and how Paulo Dybala rediscovered his joy.

The Giallorossi had a battle on their hands at the Olimpico to overturn the 1-0 first leg deficit and were on the verge of elimination when Igor Paixao’s free header cancelled out the Leonardo Spinazzola opener.

However, Dybala came off the bench and his fantastic control and turn forced extra time.

Stephan El Shaarawy and Lorenzo Pellegrini – with a long VAR wait for the Tammy Abraham offside check – finished the job for a 4-1 win on the night.

“Maybe someone thinks differently, but in my view the team played very well in a difficult match to deal with. The situation around Dybala playing, not playing, that didn’t help us prepare. The injury to Wijnaldum didn’t help us, as we had to use up a substitution,” Mourinho told Sky Sport Italia.

“It was very, very difficult, but with concentration, courage and intelligence, to attack when it was time to attack, defend when we needed to against a very good Feyenoord side, I believe we were superior.”

Dybala and Tammy Abraham were only introduced at the 70th minute, precisely because Mourinho planned his strategy and had an inkling this tie would be decided in extra time. Do we now know why he gets such a high salary?

“No, now you know why my hair is so white! The other coach is bald, I’ve got white hair. It’s because I’ve had 150-odd European matches, I’ve seen everything. I told the players yesterday, this would be different to RB Salzburg or Bodo/Glimt. It wasn’t one we would kill off straight away. I told them if it is 1-0 at the 90th minute, that’s perfect, the important thing is to keep focused.

“Losing Wijnaldum really made me have big problems. When I introduced Dybala, I had to do the other two simultaneously, as otherwise we wouldn’t have an insurance slot left in case Dybala couldn’t continue. We managed to wait until extra time, which gave us another slot for the substitution.

“I am the coach, but the players are the ones who work on the pitch and sacrifice themselves. They deserve the credit.”

It is the 12th European semi-final of Mourinho’s career, the second in a row at Roma after winning the Conference League last season.

There are five Italian teams in the UEFA semi-finals, as Milan and Inter face off in the Champions League, Roma take on Bayer Leverkusen and Juventus play Sevilla in the Europa League, while Fiorentina are up against FC Basel in the Conference League.

The Special One was in a mood for joking and asked “Cassano isn’t there, is he?” to the Sky Sport Italia studio after their repeated arguments at a distance.

“I have enough experience to understand the work I am doing, but I am also balanced. As I said a while ago, I am in a phase of my career where the players are more important, the fans are more important, I am not the most important. I just try to give the fans joy and help these lads to improve. I am proud of that.

“Aside from winning or not, I was absolutely certain the fans would go home proud of the team. We have our limitations, but we always fight. Paulo was a doubt to the end, Smalling got injured, everyone sacrifices themselves and gives their all.

“I am never angry when we don’t do well, because I know these players gave everything. Now we must rest as much as we can, prepare for Serie A and forget the Europa League for now.”

Dybala had seemed so short on confidence during the final year at Juventus, so how did Mourinho revitalise La Joya at the Stadio Olimpico?

“My sensation is that he was seeking the joy he had lost more than confidence. He found it here, with a squad that understands him, a crowd that loves him, a position on the field with players like Pellegrini, Cristante and Mancini he has strong characters around him in leadership roles.

“Dybala is a nice boy. He has the quality to play for the biggest clubs in the world, but he has found joy here. I gave him absolute freedom to come on tonight and he could come off even two minutes later if he didn’t feel up to it, but he played 30 minutes of extra time and 25 minutes regular, and he finished on a high.”

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