UEFA Europa Conference League


Shortly after landing in the Albanian capital on Tuesday afternoon, Jose Mourinho faced the assembled media in Tirana to preview his side's final game of the season.

After a 14-match adventure in the competition that has taken Roma from Turkey to Norway and Bulgaria to England, the Giallorossi will battle it out with Dutch side Feyenoord to be crowned the inaugural winners of the new UEFA competition.

Here is everything Mourinho had to say:

It’s been a long journey to this point. What’s the feeling heading into this game?

“In the end, we’ve finished off a journey this season with two finals in the space of four days. The first of those [against Torino] was capable of giving us what we deserved and what we targeted from the first day, which is to play in the Europa League next season and to improve our finish in Serie A. We were able to win that game.

“For me, it was a final where we weren’t going to make any history – but we could finish the hard work of a season and reach our target. Nevertheless for Roma, qualifying for the Europa League is something pretty normal.

“This final, however, is all about history. It’s history that we’ve already written, by getting to this point, into a final after so many years. But, obviously, whenever you reach a final you have to give everything you can to write true history. And that means to win.”

Have you been able to keep the excitement of the squad in check? How are they doing mentally, and how is Henrikh Mkhitaryan looking?

“We did that before the game against Torino. That was a tough match and it was important to focus on it fully. It was important that we were aware that playing a final is already a tense occasion even without double cause for nerves – which would have been the case if we were coming here for the trophy and for our European place next season.

“But we did that, we qualified and we reached our target – and that’s the best way to now focus on this final.

“Myself and my staff have been together at Trigoria since Friday evening. We never left, we haven’t been home. We stayed there. Obviously I could not ask that of my players too. But I think they are all doing well. They seem focused, with the right amount of tension and excitement … because you should be excited to play in a game like this. We’re in good shape.

“Mkhitaryan trained today with the rest of the squad for the first time. It was a light session, without any real significance in terms of our work for the final, because it was open to the media. I won’t say that it was ‘fake’, but it was a basic session. But for him, it was nevertheless important for him to get the sensation of whether it is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

“I have a lot of trust in his experience, which he has so much of – and he knows his body well and knows what to make of the different feelings. At the end of training he told me that he felt good and available to play.”

You will have noticed the attention around this game, both for Roma and for the fans. Your experience, charisma and leadership, could you be the one to make the difference?

“I don’t think so. First of all, I think people get the analysis wrong. I think the only reason this pro-Roma feeling exists is because we have an Albanian player [Marash Kumbulla]. To me, that makes sense.

“If Roma wins, an Albanian will lift the trophy. And that means something. I played a European Super Cup in Macedonia North [Manchester United against Real Madrid] and it was amazing; a country and a city partying, with a unique chance to see such a game. And it’s the same here in Tirana. We’ve arrived here and it’s immediately very easy to understand how important the occasion is for them. It’s a moment they deserve as a country.

“The stadium is really nice, even if it is a shame that its capacity isn’t enough to host every fan and their joy. But I’m still happy to be playing here.

“I don’t think my charisma will make the difference. Finals are usually the last games of the season. European finals are almost always the last game of a season. And when you get to the last game of the season, all the work is already done. Especially considering we played last Friday as well, there’s nothing we can really do in the last two or three days. Leadership isn’t something you can put on the table to have an effect for two or three days. It’s all part of the overall process.

“Tomorrow is a day for the players; us coaches are on the sidelines. We will try to help them, to read the contest and help the team. But the work has already been done. Tomorrow is the last game, which fortunately is a final. I say fortunately because whenever you reach a final you have to be happy to be there and play it with the right attitude.”

Your serious demeanour right is because it’s a final tomorrow?

“It is a final tomorrow. Until then, there is nothing else in my mind. It’s just about the final. That’s the only way I know how to be. Experience doesn’t help me with that. I thought it might do, but it hasn’t been like that. I still experience it all the same way as my first final; 20 years has not changed anything. If you think I am a bit more serious, maybe it’s just focus – maybe it’s just my way of preparing for the game. That’s all I’m thinking about".

(Photo LaPresse)