The Portuguese boss shocked the world when it was announced on Tuesday that he would be replacing Paulo Fonseca as Roma manager at the end of the season.
Mourinho is no stranger to Italian football, given how he famously managed Inter Milan from 2008 to 2010, but there will be a few familiar faces to greet him once he takes the reins at the Stadio Olimpico.
Jose Mourinho will be reunited with a few familiar faces when he takes over at Roma
Chris Smalling, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Davide Santon and Pedro have all worked under Mourinho in the past, with each player having differing opinions on the Special One.
It’s well documented the rifts both Smalling and Mkhitaryan had with Mourinho at Manchester United before leaving the club after being frozen out, while Pedro and Davide Santon enjoyed stints under him at Chelsea and Inter respectively.
But what exactly has been said by the four players on their soon-to-be new boss?
Sportsmail takes a closer look at the relationships that are set to come under the microscope once again in the Italian capital.
Smalling on Mourinho just being ‘professional’
In October 2016, after United were thrashed 4-0 at Chelsea, Mourinho described Smalling as ‘phenomenal’ after he played through the pain at Stamford Bridge.
But a fortnight later, when Smalling wasn’t able to play against Swansea, Mourinho questioned his bravery. It then emerged the defender had suffered a double foot fracture.
Before discovering the true extent of the injury, Mourinho took a sly dig at Smalling by questioning his commitment.
‘I want to say (some of the players) were influenced by some culture issues, influenced by a situation that has been going on for a few years,’ Mourinho said after the Swansea game.
‘There is a difference between the brave, who want to be there at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference. Of course, it is not just the players, it is the people that surround the players.’
Mourinho will manage Chris Smalling (middle) once again after coaching him at Man United
Mourinho would take issue with Smalling again over how long he was taking to recover from injuries just a few months later, leaving many to question the pair’s fracturing relationship.
‘It’s about the philosophy and mentality around them,’ Mourinho said in 2017 after becoming frustrated with how long it was taking Smalling to recover from an injury. ‘Cautious. Cautious. Cautious. Just a cautious approach. It’s a profile, it’s the philosophy of work. Just that.’
While Mourinho has be known for ousting his players in public to get a reaction from them, Smalling kept his cool and refused to bite on the Portuguese’s remarks, claiming he had a ‘very good relationship’ with him while they were at Old Trafford together.
‘You can take positives from it in that the manager wants you out on that pitch,’ Smalling told Sky Sports in 2017. ‘He wants you to represent him and be that fighter and warrior for him.
‘Obviously with a knee injury there are certain protocols that need to happen. With the medical staff and with the coaches, we are pushing all the time.
The Portuguese boss publicly hit out at Smalling by claiming he was ‘too cautious’ with injuries
Mourinho became frustrated with how long Smalling (right) took to recover from injuries
‘As players we don’t want to be sitting on the touchline or watching the games in the directors’ box. That is no fun. We have pushed as much as we can and I am glad to be back.
‘We speak very closely with the manager and we have got a got a very good relationship. All throughout my injury we spoke about the process and when I would be back so it is good that the manager wants you because ultimately he has got that decision of whether you play or not.’
When asked if Mourinho had apologised to him over his comments on how long Smalling was taking to recovery from an injury, the England international brushed off the issue and maintained he understood his manager’s frustrations.
‘No, it’s just professional,’ Smalling said in 2017. ‘All of us are professionals and no player wants not to play. That was all just (him being) professional – get on with the rehab and then get out as quickly as you can.
‘I think that was directed at everybody. We had a lot of injuries at that time and he was frustrated that quite a lot of players weren’t available. He knew the picture in terms of liaising with the medical staff and he was just frustrated, the same as us players who wanted to be on the pitch.’
There was also Mourinho’s barb about Smalling’s ability to pass the ball out from the back following United’s win over Ajax in the 2017 Europa League final.
In an interview, Mourinho explained that United’s long ball tactics in the game were because he couldn’t risk Smalling giving the ball away.
‘I even joked with Smalling, “with your feet, we’re for sure not playing out from the back!”,’ Mourinho laughed.
Smalling insists his working relationship with Mourinho is ‘professional’ after their falling out
Smalling would stay on at United while Mourinho was sent packing in 2018 – two years after taking the Red Devils job.
Smalling himself only joined Roma permanently last October after a successful loan spell and is contracted until 2023 but has struggled with injuries all season.
United came back to haunt him when they shipped six goals past him and the rest of his Roma team-mates to book their spot in the Europa League final, leaving the club’s season in tatters.
However, a rapprochement between the two may be needed because Roma have missed Smalling when he’s been absent this season.
Mkhitaryan: It was ‘difficult’ and ‘complicated’
Another former United player set for a reunion with Mourinho is Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The Armenian has revealed that Mourinho once blamed him for some negative press coverage around the club and has admitted the manager was ‘difficult’ to work with while questioning his approach to games.
Mkhitaryan would then go on to say how he preferred Arsenal’s attacking style of football after leaving United in 2018.
‘Arsenal have always played offensive football,’ Mkhitaryan said in 2018. ‘Under Jose, the [United] team was playing a bit differently. But I’m not blaming anyone, I’m not criticising anyone, it’s just a different philosophy.
‘I can just say I’m enjoying myself more here than I was in Manchester.’
It came after Mourinho publicly criticised the forward’s performances, claiming that he went missing in certain matches.
Another former United player set for a reunion with Mourinho is Henrikh Mkhitaryan (left)
Mourinho said in 2017 after benching the former Borussia Dortmund star: ‘I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing.
‘His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a No 10, were decreasing.
‘That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.’
However, while the pair had a rocky relationship, there was also a mutual respect for one another at points, too.
‘[My relationship] with Mourinho was the most complicated in my career; he is a winner by nature,’ Mkhitaryan told Yevgeny Savin in 2020.
‘He wants you to win and you do what he asks you, it is difficult for anyone. There were differences and conflicts, but they did not have a big impact on the hard work we did and the three trophies we won.’
Mkhitaryan admits he found his relationship with Mourinho ‘difficult’ and ‘complicated’
Mkhitaryan was also positive about his former boss as well. In an interview with The Athletic recently, he said: ‘At that time, he was one of the most successful coaches in the world.
‘I think he was the coach with the most trophies. So that was a different experience. It was very hard but I learned a lot as well. I learned how to defend, how to help the team.
‘It was not only about scoring goals and making assists. It was more about the team winning so it doesn’t matter who scored, we had to win together.
‘It didn’t matter who made the assist, we must always be happy that we won the game.’
Yet Mourinho was more than happy to let him move to Arsenal in January 2018 as part of the swap deal that brought Alexis Sanchez to Old Trafford.
‘I believe Mkhi is going to be even better than he was with us,’ Mourinho said after the Mkhitaryan and Alexis Sanchez swap deal in January 2018.
The Armenian revealed how he preferred Arsenal’s style of football compared to Mourinho’s
However, there remains a mutual respect between the two after they went their separate ways
‘With one and a half years in England, adapted, knows, Arsenal play the way they think, I think is a good move for everybody, that’s why I’m also happy for Mkhi.
‘Could he perform better with us, could I take more from his talent, maybe, could he give a little more also to adapt to us, maybe but I don’t think regrets, he’s in our history, so good feeling for everybody and a very specific transfer between rivals in a big country which I have to say must happen more times.’
Now they are set to work together again and Mkhitaryan has been in good form for much of the season. He has scored 11 goals and contributed 11 assists but the majority of those came in the first half of the campaign.
Now 32, and with his Roma contract expiring this summer, it remains to be seen if the two will coexist in the same team again. If he stays, it could be worth the hard yards to win another trophy or two down the line.
Pedro insists Mourinho ‘treats you like one of his family’
Over the years, Mourinho will often give all the time in the world to those who buy into his vision and metaphorically run through walls for him.
Should he get the desired reaction and dedication from a player, then you can expect the player-manager relationship to blossom.
In 2015, Mourinho brought Pedro in from Barcelona in a £20million deal and the Portuguese boss was full of praise for the winger.
‘We have got one of the best attacking players in the world, a player with lots of experience and with something that I really like very, very much: the desire to leave a giant club, one of the best clubs in the world, a club that normally when you are there, you don’t want to leave,’ Mourinho said after signing the Spaniard.
‘For a player like him, loved at that club and who loves the club, to want to leave because he is looking for something more for his career… that is an evident sign of ambition.
Mourinho brought Pedro (right) to Chelsea in a £20million deal back in 2015
‘He wants to play every game. He’s won everything playing with Messi, Iniesta, all these stars. But he wants more, and I’m really happy with that kind of attitude. He comes to play and try and win, and try to enjoy, and not to have a holiday.’
Pedro praise Mourinho for giving him confidence after arriving at Stamford Bridge and insisted he was made to feel important by his new manager.
‘My transfer to Chelsea was done within a couple of days. It all started with a call from Cesc (Fabregas),’ Pedro said after joining Chelsea.
‘Mourinho then gave me a call and that helped me make a decision. Mourinho made me feel important and gave me confidence.
‘The past is there and there are people who will not forgive what happened (between Mourinho and Barcelona), but athletes have a different way of valuing things.
‘The truth is that one has an image of him that when you know him, changes a lot. It’s not what it seems.
Pedro claimed Mourinho ‘treats you like one of his family’ and ‘values and respects his players’
‘I like the way Mourinho works. I feel comfortable. He has a positive and winning mentality. I am delighted because I like nothing better than winning.’
Pedro made an immediate impact at the Blues, scoring one and setting up another in Chelsea’s 3-2 win over West Brom, just three days after signing with the club.
The winger rightfully earned the plaudits from his manager and their relationship grew before Mourinho abruptly left the club four months later after a poor start to the season.
However, despite only spending a short amount of time together, Pedro insists Mourinho isn’t the same person as he is portrayed in the media.
‘He is very different face-to-face,’ Pedro told Marca in 2015. ‘He treats you like one of his family. He values and respects his players and demands much from them.’
‘Jose treated me like a son’ – Santon
Like Pedro, Davide Santon enjoyed a good relationship with Mourinho and thrived under him at Inter Milan.
Mourinho was at the peak of his managerial powers during his trophy-laden two-year stint at the San Siro which saw the Special One help bring Santon into his first-team plans after the Italian starred in the club’s academy sides.
After making his Inter debut in the Coppa Italia quarter-final win over Roma in 2009, Santon was given the nod by Mourinho to make his Serie A debut against Sampdoria – with Santon again ending up on the winning side.
His appearance against Roma earned him huge praise from Mourinho, who claimed he was destined to become the ‘new Maldini or Zanetti’.
Davide Santon enjoyed a good relationship with Mourinho and thrived under him at Inter Milan
Mourinho gave Santon (middle) his big break in Italian football and helped the club win titles
‘Santon is a phenomenon, and after seeing him against Roma in the reverse, I knew he was able to play against any team, even against the champions of Europe,’ Mourinho said in 2009.
‘He just needed a coach who could trust him. I think that he can become the new [Paulo] Maldini, [Javier] Zanetti or [Giacinto] Facchetti for Inter over the next 10-15 years.’
Later on that season, Santon would go on to feature in the Champions League at the age of 18 and would be given the almighty task of marking Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
The trust instilled in him from an early age was pivotal for the Italian, who insists he owes Mourinho a lot for pointing him in the right direction from an young age.
‘Jose Mourinho had a big influence on my career at Inter Milan,’ Santon said in 2012. ‘It was Mourinho who switched me from being an attacker to a defender. I was only 18 and had never played in that position before.
‘I am now OK playing either side of the back four. When Mourinho first switched me, I played at left-back but then when I went to play for the Italian national side I played at right-back. But I’m happy either side.
‘Mourinho had faith in me to put me in that position and in the Inter first-team squad. I owe him a lot for pointing me in the right direction.
Santon would become a part of Mourinho’s famous treble-winning squad at Inter in 2010
‘It was a great experience working with Jose Mourinho and I will always thank him for what he did. I had some great times at Inter playing in the Champions League and winning the Milan derby against AC when David Beckham was my opponent as well as graduating to the full Italian national side.’
Santon also echoed Pedro’s sentiments on how Mourinho can be the family man to many players and make them feel a huge part of the team – but for the left back, one playful nickname appears to have stuck around longer than it should have.
‘I was so young that Jose Mourinho treated me like a son,’ Santon said in 2017. ‘At a press conference, he called me “the baby” and from there everything went off and everyone called me that.’