By J Hutcherson (May 4, 2021) US Soccer Players – One of the obvious issues with any concept of a super league is who gets left out. The quick demise of The Super League means we never learned the names of the remaining clubs. We don’t know who might have been enticed by a new version of European soccer. Bayern Munich and PSG were quick to distance themselves. So was AS Roma, releasing a statement that read, “AS Roma is strongly opposed to this ‘closed’ system, as it fundamentally flies in the face of the spirit of the game that we all love. Some things are more important than money, and we remain firmly committed to Italian football on a domestic level, and to fair, open European competitions for all.”
Rome is one of the more interesting soccer cities in Europe. It’s a capital city with two Serie A clubs, both of whom lack the silverware associated with the league’s long-term powers. That’s added pressure to both when they do compete for titles and trophies. Between them, AS Roma has come closest to the biggest prize but it’s Lazio that last won a European title. They lifted the 1999-2000 Cup Winners Cup, a tournament that UEFA merged into the Europa League. Roma lost to Liverpool in the 1983-94 European Cup final, the predecessor to the Champions League.
Now, it’s Roma making the biggest statement of intent, announcing that Jose Mourinho would take over as coach next season. Currently in 7th-place, they trail city rivals Lazio by nine points. Last week’s 6-2 loss to Manchester United in the Europa League semifinals would take a lot to turn around. It’s a fair assumption that Roma won’t be able to play itself into a European spot over its remaining four games, meaning next season will put the focus on Serie A.
Roma finished in 2nd-place three out of five seasons from 2013-14 through 2017-18, finishing third in the other two. After winning the league in 2000-01, they had another streak of 2nd-place finishes in five out of the following seven seasons. This club has already shown it can compete in a league dominated by Juventus and more associated with the two Milan clubs than Rome’s.
If Roma is once again pushing for a return to prominence, starting with an elite coach is an obvious way to go. Mourinho’s run with Spurs ended with the club trying to hold onto the Europa League spot. It’s not how the club sees itself, something amplified by its inclusion among The Super League dozen.
Roma’s situation begins locally. Step one is pushing past the team they share the Stadio Olimpico with. Then it’s moving past the established powers in Italian soccer and staying there. Add to that the pressure to get a Champions League spot, and it’s the kind of situation Europe’s open system creates. Owned by the Houston-based Friedkin Group, Roma is showing a willingness to invest.
“Thank you to the Friedkin family for choosing me to lead this great club and to be part of their vision,” Mourinho said in the press release announcing his hiring. After meetings with the ownership and Tiago Pinto, I immediately understood the full extent of their ambitions for AS Roma. It is the same ambition and drive that has always motivated me and together we want to build a winning project over the upcoming years. The incredible passion of the Roma fans convinced me to accept the job and I cannot wait to start next season.”
Under Mourinho, Inter Milan won back-to-back Serie A titles, adding the Coppa Italia and Champions League in 2009-10. His reputation in Italy is as someone who took over the best team in the country and pushed them from a Champions League disappointment to champions of Europe. Inter Milan won the Serie A title three times in a row before adding two more under Mourinho, underlining the difference in scenarios from what he will take over with Roma.
Potential is part of the story with European club soccer, even at the elite level. Roma hasn’t won a trophy since the Coppa Italia in 2007-08, but the run of 2nd-place finishes and advancing to the semifinals of the 2017-18 Champions League suggests more. They’re one of a handful of clubs with the financial backing and recent success to believe that they can take a spot among Europe’s elite.
If they’re right, it’s another reset of what we think we know about European club soccer. Not that long ago, Chelsea and Manchester City would have been unlikely inclusions in a breakaway super league. Both of the Milan clubs have struggled over recent seasons. There’s an ebb and flow to the sport in leagues like Serie A even with a dominant club like Juventus. Things can change. That’s the biggest picture takeaway from the response to The Super League. Even in a tournament setting, European soccer is about the ability to change a situation. It may not be be the Corinthian spirit, but it still reflects taking the risks for the chance to improve.
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More from J Hutcherson:
- Will The Super League collapse change European soccer?
- Finally, it’s a Super League
- MLS and the money league
- Squad rotation, fixture congestion, and competitive imbalance
Logo courtesy of AS Roma