By Peter Hall
(Reuters) - Jose Mourinho and AS Roma seem like a good fit, after the Portuguese was surprisingly named as the club's new coach on Tuesday, but it will be no easy return to management for a manager with a point to prove.
"No break, I am always in football" was the short, sharp response Mourinho gave reporters after his sacking by underperforming Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur 15 days ago but few expected him to be back quite so soon.
His swift return to management caught everyone by surprise. Several Italian newspapers on Tuesday carried stories on Maurizio Sarri being lined up to replace the under pressure Paulo Fonseca, with no mention of Mourinho.
Yet, hours after Roma confirmed Fonseca will depart at the end of the season, Mourinho's return to Italy was announced, with the 58-year-old to succeed his fellow countryman from the start of the 2021-22 campaign.
A return to Italy, on the face of it, seems to suit Mourinho.
While his last three jobs in England saw him leave Chelsea when they were languishing in 16th place in December 2015, fail to revitalise Manchester United's fortunes and not live up to the billing at Spurs, Mourinho has only known success in Italy.
He steered Inter Milan to an unprecedented treble in 2010 before departing for Real Madrid and is still held in high regard in Italy after having been so successful in the few seasons he coached in the country.
But there will be no time for Mourinho to get reacquainted with Italian football. Roma fans expect results and quickly.
"Roma is a difficult club (to coach)," former Roma manager Fabio Capello told La Presse on Tuesday. "It's not enough to sign a great coach to win. You also need the players.
"But he (Mourinho) exceeds in difficult places. I hope for Roma fans that he does as well as he did at Inter."
Without a league title since 2001 under Capello, Roma enjoyed a successful spell between 2014 and 2018, finishing no lower than third in Serie A in five seasons.
But less than a year after steering Roma to the Champions League semi-finals and a third-placed Serie A finish in 2017-18, coach Eusebio Di Francesco was sacked with the club outside the top four - such is the expectation at the Stadio Olimpico.
There is an intense media glare on the team too, with a daily newspaper dedicated to Roma and dozens of radio stations whose sole purpose is to analyse every aspect of the club.
Fonseca did appear to be making progress at Roma, with his side occupying a top-four spot for much of the current campaign as a return to Champions League football appeared to be on the cards for the first time in three seasons.
But one win in their last eight games has seen Roma slip down the standings - form which ultimately cost Fonseca his job.
Further poor finishes will not be tolerated. Mourinho arrives with his reputation to repair after recent failings, and Italy has brought the best out of the Portuguese in the past, but Roma represents as tough a challenge as it gets.
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris)