Pep Guardiola's departure from Barcelona was influenced by his hostile relationship with then-Real Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho, according to Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique. 

Guardiola won 14 trophies – including three league titles and two Champions Leagues – in a four-year spell at Camp Nou, developing a legendary side featuring academy graduates including Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Pique.

However, Guardiola's final season at the helm saw the Catalan giants finish second to Los Blancos in LaLiga, as Mourinho's side broke the league's points tally record by earning 100 points in 2011-12, also scoring a yet-to-be-matched 121 league goals. The points tally was equalled by Tito Vilanova's Barcelona in the following season.

The two coaches clashed repeatedly after the Portuguese coach arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, and Pique believes the rivalry "got too much", contributing to Guardiola's decision to leave.

"We were winning everything at the time and I remember that the first time Mourinho came to Camp Nou he lost 5-0 against us [in November 2010]," Pique told Gary Neville on The Overlap. 

"It was a shock of reality that these guys are going hard, but in the press conferences every time he was… you know his style, I think that for Guardiola at some point it was too much.

"It was more important sometimes what happened off the pitch than on the pitch.

"Guardiola left. Madrid won the league that year and all of a sudden, he decided to leave for so many reasons, but I am sure part of it was because with Mourinho it got too much."

After Guardiola's Manchester City team fell to a stunning 6-5 Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid earlier this month, he is tied with Mourinho as the two bosses with the most semi-final eliminations from the competition (six each), while the duo are also the two managers with the most wins in their first 100 Premier League games (both 73).

Pique claimed Mourinho's confrontational style also affected relationships between Barcelona and Madrid players in the Spain international set-up, despite the team winning three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012.

"Since he arrived, he knew that on the pitch they were weaker than us," Pique said of Mourinho's time with Madrid. "We had a better team for sure, and even the relationships between players [were better].

"I remember going to the national team, and after those games it was tough because Mourinho goes to the mind of the player and he says, 'These guys hate you', then you believe that.

"I was in the dressing room of the national team and said to [Madrid goalkeeper] Iker Casillas, 'Hey Iker', and the guy did not talk to me. At that time, I did not know, but it was the coach, he really knows how to go into the mind."

Asked whether Guardiola enjoyed the rivalry with Mourinho, Pique added: "I don't think so. I remember the semi-final of the Champions League in the Bernabeu [in 2011], he did an amazing press conference, but it was not about football.

"He enjoys talking about what is happening on the pitch, and here there was a moment where the press was focusing on what was happening outside the pitch."

Roma will target Champions League qualification next season, Jose Mourinho has insisted.

The capital club are in a tussle with city rivals Lazio for fifth place in Serie A, and have a Europa Conference League final against Feyenoord to look forward to on May 25, with Mourinho becoming the first coach to reach the final of a major European competition with four different clubs.

Success in Europe would mark a brilliant achievement in Mourinho's first season at Roma, who are 10 points adrift of the top four in Italy's top flight.

Regardless of the final outcome of Roma's campaign, Mourinho's goal for the 2022-23 campaign is clear.

"We want to try and get into the Champions League but when you look at the level of investment at Inter, Milan and Juventus, you realise three of these spots should be closed," Mourinho told Sky Sports.

"There is a fourth spot, last season it was Atalanta, this season it's Napoli, can we get there next season? I think we can.

"In this second part of the season, after the January transfer window, we did small [changes] enough to improve the squad. I'm not as lucky as some coaches who can buy what they want.

"We can improve things. Next season after this year of work and evolution at every level I think we have a chance and that's the next target for next season."

Mourinho was also questioned over his future, but he has no plans on leaving Roma any time soon.

"In this moment, everything is very calm because I have two more years of a contract," Mourinho said.

"The club didn't approach me to try to extend so they don't put me in a situation of accept or don't accept. Everything is calm, stable and that is the way it has to be.

"I have to finish the season as best we can and 100 per cent start next season because I am not looking for a change, my people know that. I couldn't leave the club in my second season, I couldn't do that to the club. So next season I am here."

Newcastle United were one of the sides linked to Mourinho before they appointed Eddie Howe, who has since guided them to Premier League safety.

"I learned what Newcastle is and how to like the club very much through Bobby's [Robson] eyes and heart," Mourinho said.

"I'm very happy that they found their stability. Eddie is doing good work, the club gave the tools for a change in the January market and I wish them the best."

Inter's unlikely 2009-10 Champions League success under Jose Mourinho could inspire Cameroon to a shock World Cup triumph in Qatar, according to the former Nerazzurri and Indomitable Lions striker Samuel Eto'o.

The Cameroon great was part of the Inter side that completed a stunning treble in 2009-10, winning a fifth consecutive Scudetto, the Coppa Italia and their first Champions League or European Cup title in 45 years.

Diego Milito's brace was enough to down Bayern Munich in the final of UEFA's elite club competition, with Eto'o assisting the Argentina international for his second goal to wrap up victory.

Inter overcame Chelsea and Barcelona either side of defeating of CSKA Moscow en route to the final, and Eto'o – who is now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation – optimistically believes his country can follow the Nerazzurri's example at Qatar 2022.

"I don't see why he can't win it," he told reporters in Milan, where the 41-year-old has returned to announce a charity friendly game in San Siro on May 23 that will include the likes of Francesco Totti and Lionel Messi.

"I believe that in order to win the World Cup you don't need to be monsters or aliens, you need good preparation, a strong mentality and a pinch of madness.

"I won a bit in my career and to do it I gave everything. 

"I always take Inter as an example: no one at the beginning of the 2009-10 season thought we could win [the Champions League] and instead Mourinho did something crazy, with a group of men and warriors.

"I would like something like that for Cameroon too."

Cameroon's best performance at a World Cup saw them famously reach the 1990 quarter-finals, but they did not make it out of the group in any of their other six participations, failing to even register a point at either South Africa 2010 or Brazil 2014.

Having missed out on Russia 2018, Cameroon will have to overcome the world's number-one ranked side Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland in Group G later this year.

With his contract set to expire at the end of this season, Kylian Mbappe is reportedly going to sign a two-year extension with Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe, 23, has established himself as one of the world's premier players, with 24 goals and 16 assists in his 32 Ligue 1 fixtures this season, and six goals with six assists in eight Champions League games.

In his four seasons since arriving in Paris in 2018, he has won three Ligue 1 titles with one runners-up finish, but has never won the Champions League. A disappointing exit in the first knockout stage this campaign was supposed to push the young star out the door, but that may not be the case.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE ON THE BRINK OF PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN EXTENSION

Mbappe has been strongly linked with Real Madrid – often referred to as his 'dream club' – but he may snub the Champions League finalists for a deal Le Parisien reports is worth £42.5million per year, with an £85m signing bonus.

If he does opt to stay in France, it will have a significant domino effect as it would likely take PSG out of the discussion for a number of the world's most expensive players in the coming transfer window, and vastly increase Madrid's spending power if they had budgeted for his arrival.

While it appears at this stage that a deal is likely, The Mirror is reporting Mbappe's mum saying "there is no agreement in principle with Paris Saint-Germain or any other club".

 

ROUND-UP

– The Daily Star is reporting Pep Guardiola will sign a contract extension to keep him at Manchester City until at least 2025.

– Everton are prepared to sell goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to fund a rebuild, according to Talksport. Tottenham and Newcastle United are said to be monitoring the England international's situation.

– Jose Mourinho wants to bring Manchester United full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Roma, per The Sun.

– The Sun is reporting Man City will compete with United for the signature of Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

– According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Napoli striker Victor Osimhen would prefer to join Arsenal instead of Man United or Newcastle.

An emotional Jose Mourinho spoke of his burning desire to bring silverware to Roma after reaching the Europa Conference League final, declaring: "This is our Champions League."

The Italians will contest the competition's first ever final later this month after beating Leicester City 1-0 at the Stadio Olimpico to secure a 2-1 aggregate success in the semis.

Afterwards, the manager reflected on the importance of a victory that sets up Roma to win a first European title since lifting the 1961 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

And he insisted that winning the Europa Conference League would feel just as significant as claiming one of European football's more glamorous prizes.

He told BT Sport: "When you work in Rome, you live in Rome, you breathe Rome and you breathe this club because this club is the real club of the city. 

"I felt from day one that it's a huge club, as you could see, but no victories and not many finals. The history is not related with the social dimension of the club.

"We managed to build an okay team that grew up step by step and we could beat a Premier League team that comes from a different dimension.

"So I'm very, very emotional. Of course I had bigger moments than this but I'm not feeling for myself, I'm feeling for the people and my players.

"This for us is our Champions League."

Meanwhile, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers was left to lament the defensive fragility his side showed around the corner that led to Tammy Abraham's 11th-minute winner.

He said: "The corner, it's been our Achilles' heel all season. We've tried every structure in the box to defend, man-marking, zonal. 

"Clearly, we lack physicality in the team to deal with certain situations consistently and it's obviously cost us tonight."

And the former Liverpool boss hinted that changes could be afoot as the Foxes look to bounce back next term.

He added: "We have to finish the season strongly now and look to progress in the summer to challenge again next season."

Jose Mourinho has been accused of lacking respect by Roma's rivals Lazio after he claimed their winning goal against Spezia should not have stood.

Roma and Lazio are locked in a battle to secure a top-six finish in Serie A, and Maurizio Sarri's team sit level on points with the Giallorossi after earning a last-gasp 4-3 win over Spezia on Saturday, while Mourinho's men dropped points in a goalless draw with Bologna a day later.

Having spent much of their match trailing, Lazio snatched a thrilling win when Francesco Acerbi flicked home in the final minute.

After Ciro Immobile became just the 10th player to reach 150 Serie A goals for one club earlier in the match, Acerbi's winner was controversial as it appeared he turned home from an offside position, leading Mourinho to take aim at the decision to let the goal stand.

Subsequently, Lazio have hit back.

"The fact that in 2022 a coach of another team repeatedly refers to presumed referee favours to competing teams demonstrates some things," the statement began.

"That Lazio is obsessively in their thoughts more than other coveted professional goals; that, as often happens, one looks into other people's homes to divert attention from missed results and sensational episodes that have occurred in one's own home, in one's favour, under the eyes of all.

"Despite the need to evolve the image of football in Italy, some players are stuck with the constant repetition of accusations against the referees and the VAR, [and] these offensive attitudes towards referees are too often overlooked.

"The Lazio Sports Society rejects the criticisms and insinuations. It continues to believe that values are demonstrated on the pitch and not in the television salons. Lazio will never lend itself to being anyone's alibi or scapegoat and will assert its reasons in the appropriate forums." 

In accusing Mourinho of lacking respect for referees and other clubs, Lazio also claimed not to have commented on several refereeing decisions which they perceived to have gone against them in recent weeks.

These incidents included a potential foul on Acerbi in the build-up to Sandro Tonali's late winner for Milan at the Stadio Olimpico, and an alleged elbow by Roger Ibanez when Lazio met Roma in March.

"The company's line continues to be that of not discussing the decisions taken on the pitch, even when it comes to obvious episodes that occurred to the detriment of the Biancoceleste team, such as [Sandro] Tonali's foul on Acerbi in Lazio-Milan on the occasion of the goal, or the elbow from [Roger] Ibanez on [Sergej] Milinkovic-Savic in the [Rome] derby," the statement continued.

"[These are] decisive episodes on which we have chosen silence, out of respect for the referees on the field and the VAR, respect that others have not shown and continue not to demonstrate."

The capital clubs are separated by virtue of their head-to-head record with three games left, with Roma boasting the advantage after winning 3-0 in March.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho is one of the greatest managers of his generation and has nothing to prove, according to Leicester City counterpart Brendan Rodgers.

Mourinho and Rodgers will come face-to-face on Thursday when Leicester host Roma for the first leg of their Europa Conference League semi-final.

The pair worked closely together when Rodgers was head of youth development at Chelsea during Mourinho's first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho's stock has fallen somewhat in recent years, with this his first trip to England since being sacked by Tottenham in April last year.

The Portuguese has since had a mixed time of things in charge of Roma, with the Europa Conference League his last realistic shot at success this season.

Despite going five years since last winning a trophy – the Europa League with United in 2016-17 – Rodgers remains a big supporter of Mourinho.

"He has nothing to prove to anyone. He will always be a winner," Rodgers said at his pre-match news conference on Wednesday. 

"I cannot speak any higher of him. He is one of the greats of our generation. I have got nothing but admiration for him. 

"I became a manager in my own right but I'll never forget what I gained from him as a young coach. I studied him and watched him and at that time it was a really special period."

Mourinho has won 25 trophies in four different countries across a 22-year career in senior management, including the Champions League with Porto and Inter.

"He had the X factor," Rodgers said when asked why he rates Mourinho as one of the best. "There isn't one single thing. He was brilliant in so many aspects of the game.

"Detail-orientated, man-management of the players, his understanding of the tactical adaptation of the game, he had that special quality I was able to see."

 

Leicester have struggled for consistency domestically this season and are only competing in the Europa Conference League after dropping out of the Europa League.

The Foxes have defeated Randers, Rennes and PSV to make it through to the semi-finals of UEFA's third-tier competition, where they will face Roma for the first time.

City have failed to win their previous two games against Italian opposition, losing and drawing with Napoli this season, while Roma have won just one of their 21 away games in England.

Rodgers, who confirmed striker Jamie Vardy could make a second start of 2022, is eager to set up a final against either Feyenoord or Marseille.

"It's a prestigious competition, all four teams will want to win it," he said.

"It's a fantastic occasion against a top-class team. To get to the final we will do everything we can. It's another symbol of our growth as a club."

Leicester have lost just one of their last 16 home games in all European competitions and none in the 2021-22 campaign.

Jose Mourinho has said he wants his former club Inter to win the Serie A title after his Roma were beaten 3-1 by the Nerazzurri on Saturday.

Goals from Denzel Dumfries, Marcelo Brozovic and Lautaro Martinez sent Inter top of the table at San Siro, though Henrikh Mkhitaryan pulled back a late consolation for the Giallorossi.

Having played the same number of games, Inter are now a point ahead of Milan and five beyond Napoli in the race for the Scudetto.

Milan face Lazio in Rome while Napoli travel to Empoli, both on Sunday.

When asked if losing to his former club made defeat any easier, Mourinho insisted not, though did concede that he is backing Simone Inzaghi's men to defend their title.

“No absolutely not," he said. "I want to win all the games. 

"I love Inter, Inter love me. Obviously now I can say that we don't play against Inter, Milan, Juve and Napoli, now I can say that I would like Inter to win the Scudetto. But before the game I was only focused on winning. 

"I love Inter but I love Rome and I love my job. We are paid to win."

Roma remain in fifth place, five points behind Juventus in the final Champions League spot having played a game more, and only two points ahead of Fiorentina and Lazio in sixth and seventh, having played two and one games more than both respectively.

Mourinho conceded that his opponents had too much on the day, describing Inter's players as "animals".

"They are too much Inter, the strongest team in the league," he said. "They have strong players on all aspects. 

"I say this with respect, there are many 'animals' in their team. To win against them you have to find them at a time when they are in trouble, as they were a few weeks ago, or to win against them you have to be perfect and we weren't. We have been good, but not perfect. 

"We did well but then we had a concentration break in the last 10-15 minutes of the first half. Then in the second half we conceded a goal from a set piece and my players knew it perfectly well because we had talked about it so much."

Roma had previously gone 12 games in Serie A without defeat, having not lost since the dramatic 4-3 reverse against Juventus at the Stadio Olimpico on January 9.

However, Mourinho did take solace in the fact it took a team like Inter to end that run.

"To lose after three months in Serie A, I prefer to lose against a team that is stronger than us."

Inter went back to the top of the Serie A table with a routine 3-1 win against Roma at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Saturday.

Goals from Denzel Dumfries, Marcelo Brozovic and Lautaro Martinez took the Nerazzurri to victory, continuing their excellent record against the team from the Italian capital, despite a late strike from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

It was not the result or performance that former Inter coach Jose Mourinho will have been looking for, with the defeat coming as a big blow to the Giallorossi's hopes of European qualification.

Simone Inzaghi will have been very pleased with what he saw from his team, who move a point ahead of Milan in the race for the Scudetto having played the same number of games, with their city rivals facing Lazio in Rome on Sunday.

Inter took the lead just before the half-hour mark as some neat play from the home side saw Hakan Calhanoglu play a through ball to Dumfries, who ran onto it like a striker to slide the opener past Rui Patricio.

It was 2-0 just 10 minutes later as Brozovic found himself on the left side of the penalty area, before cutting inside Gianluca Mancini and firing into the far top corner of the net.

The third arrived early in the second half as a neat ball from Nicolo Barella found Martinez, whose shot was parried behind for a corner, but the Argentine headed home the resulting outswinging delivery from Calhanoglu.

There was nearly a calamitous fourth as a cross from the right was helped back to Patricio by Rick Karsdorp, and realising he could not pick the ball up, the Portugal international urgently kicked the ball away before Joaquin Correa could take advantage.

Mkhitaryan fired in a consolation past Samir Handanovic from just inside the box with five minutes remaining but it was too little too late for the visitors.

What does it mean? Nerazzurri look good for title run-in

This was a surprisingly comfortable win for Inter, coming up against a Roma side that had not been beaten in 12 Serie A matches, the longest unbeaten streak for the Giallorossi in a single league campaign since May 2016 (17 under Luciano Spalletti).

However, the ease with which they took a two-goal lead allowed them to manage the game from there, and in truth the visitors gave them very few problems.

Inter remain unbeaten in their last 10 Serie A matches against Roma (W4 D6). The last side to reach 10 straight matches without defeat against them in the competition was Milan between 1988 and 1996 (17).

Title credentials on show again

When Inter were beaten 2-0 at home by Liverpool in the Champions League and then again by Sassuolo in the league in late February, things looked bleak for Inzaghi's side.

However, they have gone unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions since then, and have won their last five, sealing a place in the Coppa Italia final and top spot in Serie A, for now.

Inter a special problem for Mourinho

Returning to one of his former clubs where he enjoyed so much success was meant to be a pleasure for the self-proclaimed "special one", but it was yet another day of misery for him.

Mourinho took charge of Inter for 76 Serie A games between 2008 and 2010, averaging 2.2 points per game. After this defeat, the Nerazzurri are the only team against which the Portuguese has lost 100 per cent of his matches against (among sides he has faced more than once in the competition).

What’s next?

Inter travel to Bologna on Wednesday for more Serie A action, while Roma head to England to face Leicester City in their Europa Conference League semi-final first leg on Thursday.

New investment at Milan could see the Italian powerhouse target the best players across Europe's top clubs.

Milan have entered into exclusive talks with Bahrain-based asset manager Investcorp over a takeover.

The Rossoneri have been linked with Real Madrid's Marco Asensio and Isco and Liverpool's Divock Origi already.

TOP STORY – STERLING ON MILAN WISH LIST

Milan are monitoring Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

The England international is among a list of players that Milan would like to sign amid a reported lucrative takeover by a Bahrain-based organisation.

Sterling's current contract with City expires in 2023, but the Daily Mail claims he would turn down the Italian move.

 

ROUND-UP

 Christian Eriksen is gaining interest from former employers Tottenham after a good run of form, although his agent is set to meet with Brentford at the end of this season to formalise his future, claims Fabrizio Romano.

– Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga will hold talks at the end of this season to discuss his future having struggled for opportunities, reports Football.London.

– Jose Mourinho's Roma will open talks with Nemanja Matic's representatives as the Serbian midfielder prepares to leave Manchester United, reports Nicolo Schira.

– Manchester Evening News claims Manchester United have revived their interest in Villarreal defender Pau Torres.

Jose Mourinho said he was "ashamed" by the officiating of Roma's 1-1 Serie A draw at Napoli, believing the hosts should have conceded a penalty and had a man sent off.

Mourinho also appeared to suggest teams fighting for the Serie A title were being favoured by officials in a post-match outburst, after Stephan El Shaarawy's last-minute goal sealed a valuable point for the Giallorossi.

Roma trailed for 80 minutes in Naples after Lorenzo Insigne netted his eighth penalty of the season, the highest tally among players in Europe's top five leagues this season.

But El Shaarawy's 91st-minute strike kept Roma within five points of fourth-placed Juventus, and represented the winger's third last-minute goal of the Serie A season, more than any other player.

Mourinho, however, vented his frustration at the officials.

"There are teams that play to win the Scudetto, we don't," Mourinho told DAZN. "But we still have the right to play to win games, regardless of the opponent we face, whether it's a team fighting for the Scudetto or one already relegated. 

"Today it seemed that we did not have the right to play to win. [VAR] Mr Di Paolo, not to mention [referee] Mr Di Bello made me feel ashamed at least twice, the red to [Napoli defender Alessandro] Zanoli which was not given, and for the penalty not given to [Roma attacker Nicolo] Zaniolo. 

"Luckily they [the officials] found nothing in our goal to nullify it. But enough, I ask for a little respect. 

"Unfortunately, we weren't good at the beginning [of the season] and now we cannot fight to win the Scudetto, but I want to have the right to play to win games."

Mourinho celebrated wildly when El Shaarawy equalised, and expressed his pride at Roma extending their unbeaten run to 12 Serie A matches.

"I rejoiced at El Shaarawy's goal because during the match it seemed impossible to get out of here with a positive result," Mourinho said.

"We played very well, and we grew during the game. My team was fantastic, these guys fill me with pride. After Thursday's game [against Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League] the field today looked like Everest to us. But great quality, character, incredible physical and mental condition. We wanted more, but we did what we could."

For Napoli, the last-gasp leveller represented a severe blow to their hopes of a first Scudetto since the Diego Maradona era, and head coach Luciano Spalletti conceded that a return of one point from their last two matches was not up to scratch.

Spalletti, though, drew attention to Mourinho's behaviour on the touchline. 

"From the first minute I tell my bench to behave well," Spelletti said. "Even today, we have all been seated on the bench. 

"Other teams seem to play at home, they jump on everyone, I'm not just talking about Roma, I'm talking in general. We sit down and let the referees do the work they have to do."

Napoli and Roma have drawn both their matches in a single Serie A campaign for the first time since the 1994-95 season, having played out a goalless draw last October.

Carlo Ancelotti says he feels "lucky" to coach Real Madrid, and claimed that former Los Blancos boss Jose Mourinho can make history at Roma.

Ancelotti's Madrid side clinched a dramatic 3-2 win over Sevilla on Sunday to move 15 points clear at the top of LaLiga, and seem all but certain to be crowned champions with second-placed Barcelona having just eight games to play.

Madrid have also advanced from thrilling Champions League ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the second half of the campaign, and will face Manchester City for a place in European football's showpiece event.

Ancelotti left Everton to join Madrid for a second spell in charge, and is thrilled with how his return has unfolded so far.

"The magic of this club, of the team and of these players is coming out," Ancelotti said. "I can say I'm a lucky coach. 

"I'm coaching a team that I feel a lot and that gives me great satisfaction, [at] a very well organised club. It is I who have to thank Real Madrid for giving me the opportunity to return to coaching this team.

"Real Madrid have the possibilities for history, tradition and quality to compete until the end. Now we have a very tough challenge against City. It was very tough also against PSG and Chelsea.

"The new rule that the away goal no longer counts as double makes these challenges more balanced and exciting."

Ancelotti was also asked about the club's potential acquisition of Kylian Mbappe, with the striker widely tipped to swap Paris for Madrid at the end of his contract.

I will say that the future of this club, thanks to president [Florentino] Perez, is of the highest level," he added.

And it will also be in the next few years, regardless of the players who may come. Real Madrid made football history and will continue to do so for many more years."

Turning to Serie A, Ancelotti believes Mourinho is on the right track to succeed with Roma after difficult spells at Tottenham and Manchester United.

Ancelotti said: "I think Mourinho has given back enthusiasm to a team that needed it.

"[They have done] extraordinary work thanks to his qualities. I think Mourinho can be an important piece in the history of Roma."

Roma are in the hunt for Champions League qualification in Serie A, while they will face Leicester City for a place in the final of the Europa Conference League.

 

Jose Mourinho criticised Roma for needing four attempts to defeat Bodo/Glimt after the Serie A side progressed to the Europa Conference League semi-finals on Thursday.

Roma failed to defeat Bodo/Glimt in two meetings in the group stage, including a 6-1 thrashing in Norway, before falling to a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their last-eight meeting.

The latter clash was marred by an altercation between Bodo/Glimt coach Kjetil Knutsen and Roma goalkeeping coach Nuno Santos, with the former accusing the latter of an alleged assault in the tunnel.

The pair were suspended for the return leg in Italy, where a hat-trick from Nicolo Zaniolo and a strike from Tammy Abraham saw Roma cruise to a 4-0 win and 5-2 aggregate triumph.

Roma will next face Leicester City for a place in the final, but coach Mourinho was far from pleased with his side for taking four matches to claim their maiden victory against the Norwegian team.

"Even after the 2-1 first leg I was confident," he told Sky Sport Italia. "The plan was to focus only on the pitch. 

"It is unacceptable we only managed to beat this side at the fourth attempt, but it was the most important. It was 2-1 for them, it ended 5-2 for us.

"There was no doubt today. I told my team at half-time that it wasn't about humiliating the opposition, winning 6-1 the way they did in Norway, it's just about reaching the semi-final.

"Some fatigue set in later on but the team deserved it, we are now 12 games into the Conference League and it's tough playing on Thursdays and the weekend, but we are here waving the Italian flag in Europe."

Mourinho also claimed Roma "play a lot better than what people say" before he hit out at the Italian media for their coverage of Zaniolo, who returned with a treble after being dropped against Salernitana.

"Zaniolo sells, so people talk about him when he plays, doesn't play, is injured, on the bench," he added. "It would be better for him and for all of Italian football to just leave him alone.

"We managed to hide the fact he would start today, people thought he'd be on the bench, but I knew he could attack the space.

"We are very happy, he will no doubt be on the front page for only positive reasons tomorrow."

Roma will be hoping Zaniolo can deliver again when they visit Napoli on Monday in Serie A as they hunt for a place in Italy's top four, sitting five points behind fourth-placed Juventus with six games left to play.

Julio Cesar has backed his former manager Jose Mourinho to become the first coach to lift the Europa Conference League trophy, adding to his substantial European legacy.

Mourinho leads his Roma side into their quarter-final second leg against Bodo/Glimt on Thursday, looking to recover from a 2-1 first-leg loss in Norway.

Cesar played under Mourinho while at Inter, winning a historic treble in the 2009-10 season consisting of the Serie A title, Coppa Italia, and the Champions League.

The Portuguese coach has won four European trophies during his career, two Champions Leagues (Porto 2003-04, Inter 2009-10) and two UEFA Cup/Europa Leagues (Porto 2002-03, Manchester United 2016-17).

Speaking with Stats Perform courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Cesar praised Mourinho and his ability to lift major European trophies.

"Mourinho is for me a special manager," he said. "I was at Inter when he joined us, and we lived moments of joy. I really think highly of him. I support him always.

"I think AS Roma appointed the right manager. He is really passionate. He's got determination. He has already won the Europa League with Porto and Manchester United. He knows this competition well, and the Champions League. He knows how to play in Europe, in this kind of competition. He is used to lifting trophies."

The former Brazil goalkeeper also spoke highly of Roma, admitting that he would have liked to have played for the Giallorossi to experience the support of their fans, whom he compared to those of one of his former clubs, Brazilian outfit Flamengo.

"AS Roma are a team for the people," he said. "As a former player, I would like to play just one time for AS Roma, listening to their supporters. They are supporters similar to Flamengo."

Cesar also said the motivation to be the winner of the inaugural edition of the Conference League will drive Mourinho to succeed this season.

"It's the first edition of the Conference League. It can be a new trophy for him." Cesar added. "He's someone who loves to win the first edition of a competition. It would be a nice thing for him.

"He would be the first to win the European treble; Conference League, Europa League and Champions League. He's someone like that. It is what is pushing him, trying to win the three cups in Europe."

The 42-year-old also believes the Conference League has improved fans' experience of European football, allowing people to watch teams they would not normally see, and giving smaller clubs experience of high-profile European games.

"Today we can see many clubs playing in Europe that we didn't know before," Cesar added. "Only people crazy about football follow every league. It doesn't work like that for everybody. We can get to know new squads and managers thanks to Conference League. I think it's been a positive thing for football.

"Every player dreams to play in European competitions. UEFA did something nice to organise this new competition. It's important for football. For supporters who did not expect to see their team playing in Europe, I think this idea arrived in the right time.

"It's a nice thing for supporters [of small clubs] following their team away to play against Roma or Tottenham... [The players] play in clubs that are able to play in nice stadiums and atmospheres [thanks to the Conference League]."

Thursday also sees the Europa League quarter-finals draw to a close, and Cesar said the last eight of that competition is a level playing field, with surprises "always possible".

"We know when a team is better than another in today's football," he said. "However, all teams are level in the quarter-finals. It's still possible to see some surprises. It's always possible, this is football. Football is passion."

On which team he thinks are favourites to win the Europa League, Cesar added: "I think Barcelona is a team to respect, considering their history and tradition."

Bodo/Glimt head coach Kjetil Knutsen and Roma goalkeeping coach Nuno Santos have been provisionally suspended by UEFA following assault allegations.

Santos was accused of assaulting Knutsen in the tunnel after Jose Mourinho's men fell to a 2-1 first-leg defeat in their Europa League Conference quarter-final in Norway last Thursday. 

Both clubs released statements in the aftermath of the incident, with Roma announcing that they were cooperating with UEFA and local authorities to investigate the claims.

The Norwegian champions accused their opponents of "bombarding the media with untruths" relating to the altercation, and European football's governing body has since announced its decision on the matter.

Both coaches will be provisionally suspended from European fixtures until a further ruling is made on the case by UEFA's Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body.

Knutsen alleged that Santos grabbed him by the neck and pushed him against a wall during a heated alteration outside the dressing rooms after the match.

The encounter marked the second time the Norwegian side have beaten Roma in this season's competition, with a first-half Lorenzo Pellegrini goal cancelled out by second-half strikes from Ulrik Saltnes and Hugo Vetlesen. 

Roma will attempt to overturn the first-leg deficit when they welcome Bodo/Glimt to the Stadio Olimpico for the crucial return leg on Thursday.

Page 1 of 16
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.