Straight from the dark heart of Italy
The transfer window closed with no great shakes around the Serie A clubs – the big moves had been done and dusted earlier in the summer.There was no surprise that Fabio Grosso joined his Italy international team-mates at Juventus, and Marcello Lippi will be glad to have three of his back-four, as well as goalkeeper Gigi Buffon, in one team.It was a bit of a shock to see Zdravko Kuzmanovic move to Stuttgart, but then Fiorentina need the money and €8 million is not bad business for a player the Tuscans picked up for a song a few year’s back.Apart from that, the usual journeymen were packing their bags once again, although Sampdoria have landed an excellent back-up to Giampaolo Pazzini in Nicola Pozzi, who may have already been fitting snugly into the former’s boots, so to speak, if it had not been for two serious knee injuries.While the players can rest easily for another few months, the same cannot be said for the coaches who must wish they had a transfer window of their very own.The season is hardly up and running and already we have the first managerial casualty, even though it was a car wreck waiting to happen.Of course, it’s in the city of fading glory where Luciano Spalletti has overseen another disastrous start to the campaign by AS Roma.We have been down this road to Rome before, and the Giallorossi are currently propping up the rest of the league following defeats to Genoa and Juventus.The opening fixtures may have been unkind to Spalletti, but it is Roma after all, and they are expected to beat any team on their day.However, the writing was on the wall for the Tuscan who admitted as much that he had lost the dressing room after Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Juve, claiming that the team had “failed to follow orders” and “lacked fighting spirit.”Spalletti had long seemed to have given up the ghost as well, once again staring at the ground for most of Sunday’s threadbare performance.He was like a down-in-the-mouth tourist who has been pick-pocketed at the Trevi Fountain and can’t wait to get out of town.He could have gone to Chelsea last season, was heavily linked with Juventus and a move to Zenit St. Petersburg in the summer, but his bald plate was still shining in the Roman sun come the start of the campaign – and what an easy target it was for the club’s detractors.Of course, the coach has to take the rap, when all is said and done, for the on-field results but there are quite a few other candidates who should be wary of the fans’ ever-growing hostility.The Sensi family – with the demure but totally ineffectual Rosella in charge – have clung on to control, racking up a massive debt while refusing to step aside when a potential buyer presents itself.No longer a buying club, unless you count Nicolas Burdiss and Bogdan Lobont - the latter only there on a loan deal - they cashed in on Alberto Aquilani.
But the real business would have come with the sale of even bigger money-spinners in Daniele de Rossi and Philippe Mexes. It looks as if everyone connected with Roma are deluding themselves that the club can actually be a force again under the current ownership.Just look at the man to arrest the slide into oblivion: Claudio Ranieri. At least, Jose Mourinho will have someone to bully again. Roberto Mancini would have been a better option, but there is no point even going there with the persona non grata of Italian football.Ranieri may be a Roman through-and-through and adored much in the way an eccentric, old uncle would be, but when it comes to taking Roma back to anywhere near the heights they enjoyed in recent years then he’s not your man.He is cheap – earning less than a €1 million-a-year compared to Spalletti’s €1.9m-a-year salary – but when it comes to managing star names, as witnessed at Juventus, he has little sway.Francesco Totti will not be too pleased with a new 4-4-2 formation, because in his eyes there can only be one striker and goalscorer in the team.Sorry to say, but the great man’s powers in that role are waning match by match as ever-physical Serie A defenders muscle him off the ball.
While opponents have long worked out that cutting off the supply to the captain nullifies the team’s sharp movement in the attacking third of the pitch.Ranieri has further problems to iron out when it comes to defending – six goals leaked in two league games – but how much more covering can De Rossi do? It looks as if we have seen the last of Roma’s free-wheeling approach and probably the end of Jeremy Menez, unless he can adjust to tracking back.Spalletti is well out of the mess and you know what, giving up another two years on his contract will be no hardship.
All he has to do is sit back and wait for Zenit to come calling.It would be interesting to see who else would jump at the chance to follow their former boss to Russia and leave Roma to head along the rocky road to ruin.
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I may have missed this, but why is Roberto Mancici a persona non grata in Italy (and elsewhere, I guess). Did he not lead Inter to several scudetti, even if it was because one was given to them, one they won without Juve being there and Milan being docked points, and one on the last day of the season?
Roma were always punching above their weight these last few years, and it is a testament to Spalletti's abilities as a coach that Roma were mixing things up at the sharp end of the table whilst he was in charge.
Now I fear Roma may slip into a slow decline and they may also lose their free-flowing style.
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