I like Roma. I really do. I think they’re a respectable club who try to do things the right way and play entertaining football. I can’t really ask for much else. However, I’m sure long term Roma fans would expect a bit more than acceptable principles and good football considering what they’re put through.
Roma (and Napoli as a matter of fact) are in a really tough position. They’re competing with what should be considered an all-time great Juventus team. Forty-nine games unbeaten, all-time great Serie A defense, five titles in a row with a sixth on the way? Ability to poach rival’s best players? All check.
Roma and Napoli have next to no room for slacking. As shown by last season with Napoli, despite Juventus amassing 12 points from the first ten games of the season, a 25 game win streak meant the Bianconeri were lifting yet another Scudetti before Sarri could even say ‘Merda’.
A lot of things would have to go right for Roma or Napoli to win a Scudetto whilst this Juve core is still together. Juventus injuries, underperformance and perhaps bit of Roma/Napoli overperformance, Roma/Napoli maintaining key players whilst Juve lose some. The list goes on. What Roma can do to keep pace with Juventus, is limit the mistakes they make on and off the pitch. Some things you will struggle/you can’t control at all. Serious injuries, over/underperformance, etc.
One thing Roma can control, is transfers.
Walter Sabatini has been a casualty of Juventus’ historic period and a lot of his work since 2011 has probably been devalued. Post-2011, he has worked to get the club back on track and executed some excellent deals. Flipping Marquinhos for €27m profit in one year, flipping Benatia for double what they paid in just a year, Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah, Kostas Manolas. The list goes on
However, he’s not without his mistakes that have limited Roma’s everlasting chase for Scudetto glory. A quick shoot of some mistakes; €3m/year for a crocked Thomas Vermaelen, which could have been used to bolster Manolas’ contract and keep him in Rome. The shortsighted-ness of the Romagnoli transfer, Juan Iturbe’s transfer should probably just never be spoken of again.
It seems incredibly harsh to say Monchi is an upgrade on Sabatini, considering what he’s done for the club. He’s done far, far more good than bad, which is the criteria for keeping your job most of the time. However, this is football. If there’s someone obtainable than can one up you, then it’s a cut throat business and you’ll be gone.
In football I always think it’s important to keep perspective of the human elements involved in the game. Sabatini’s work has been fantastic and he’s now given Monchi a platform in which the Spaniard can finally prove he can build a title winning side.
A chance for revolution
“No one takes a ‘what great economic results’ banner to the stadium,” Roma’s new Director of Football told Sid Lowe last May.
It’s true no one does. I debated how there’s more to football than trophies the other week (That is one shameless plug), and there definitely is. However, I’m not going to argue against the fact that this is a results based industry and people are hired and fired based on results.
The first part of this article I wrote about how Sabatini has done some excellent work at Roma, it’s the fine margins where he’s failed and hampered Roma’s Scudetto pursuit. This will be based more on the man himself, Monchi.
When Monchi tookover as director of football in 2000, Sevilla had just been relegated from La Liga. He was given two priorities by Sevilla’s board, a) develop the club’s youth system and b) implement a vast scouting policy inside and outside of Spain.
It’s safe to say Monchi succeeded in both objectives. With Sevilla’s academy crafting players such as Sergio Ramos, Jesús Navas, Alberto Moreno, Luis Alberto and José Antonio Reyes. All were auctioned off for €100m. The second part is arguably even more of a success. He’s sold Julia Baptista for a profit of €24m, Ivan Rakitic for €17.5m, Dani Alves was brought for €200,000 and sold for €36m after six years and five titles. The list of his transfer successes probably stretch from Rome to Seville.
There are plenty of articles on the internet parading Monchi’s transfer success. But his job at Roma should (and I imagine will) entail a different kind of job. An elevated emphasis on winning.
Monchi has worked on a pretty tight budget at Sevilla during his work as Director of Football. Their most expensive transfers has been Franco Vazquez last summer and Alvaro Negredo back in 2009, both priced at €15m. For some perspective, Roma have spent more €15m on a player fifteen times.
With stadium plans lurking in the back of Pallotta’s mind, and Roma generally not having as much economic power as Juventus, player sales will still play a role. That’s where Monchi and his scouting networks thrive. But Monchi’s aim needs to be on creating a winning culture.
I’m an objective guy, I love analytics, but there’s no way you can deny that culture is a thing in sports, albeit it can’t be quantified.
Sevilla has grown a culture of bring in a diamond in the rough, polish them up and sell them on for immense profit. It’s a great model considering Sevilla were in the second divison when Monchi assumed his role. They even won two Copa del Reys and five Europa Leagues.
Roma aren’t interested in any domestic cups or lower level European competitions, the Scudetto is the holy grail at this point. The Giallorossi have had their hands turned to sell a few of their stars in recent years, including Miralem Pjanic, Mehdi Benatia, Erik Lamela, Alessio Romagnoli. If Roma have title aspirations, there needs to be a culture change.
Gabriele Marcotti talks about the culture change Fabio Capello made when he came to Rome in 2000. ‘He soon realised just how big the task before him was going to be. Rome was a big city with a small-town mentality, a metropolis with all the insecurities of a provincial city.’
‘But now, with Capello, the underachievement would end and Roma would go from being a big club to being a Big Club. Capello fitted the imagine of the man who could tell Roma what they needed to hear, rather than what they wanted to hear. He talked about how the ‘culture of winning’ was lacking in the nations’ capital. I think it may be lacking once again.
Sadly Roma have regressed back to what resembles a club riddled with spotlight anxiety. Monchi created a culture of sell and survive at Sevilla, at Roma, it needs to be the opposite. Keeping your best players is of course easier said then done, once your star player has no interest in staying, he should be moved. But you should do everything you can to sell him on the project you have right now. Monchi has the chance to create a totally new culture.
Monchi’s no stranger to selling the idea of a club to a player “I sell the city, the club: a serious club that pays as promised, which sounds trivial but isn’t.” he told Sid Lowe of the Guardian. But here, Monchi has a chance to say “OK, club X is interested in you, but Rome is a better city, we’ll look after you better and best of all, we can win a title and you can be immortal.”
In a sport where money speaks, things such as city culture and trophy prospects become increasingly important things for those who players not interested in by the big money clubs. That’s where Roma have to strike.
It’s killed me to write about ‘culture’ when I’m so used to writing about hard data, but for me, it’s most definitely a thing. There’s no doubt in my mind Roma need a culture change if they’re to finally break through the Scudetto barrier.
Roma have a title winning coach, a title winning squad, there’s just something there missing, and it may be Monchi.