Summer's Over? Already?:
The summer for the boys is technically over at midnight tonight and they head to Trigoria for yet another awkward and tumultuous pre-season, thanks to our very own Romanian defender extraordinaire, He Who Shall Not Be Named (abbr. to HWSNBN). In case you missed Luciano Spalletti's interview with Sky Sports yesterday, here it is. Surprisingly, he doesn't seem as upset about the whole thing as the rest of us, but maybe he was drunk. He said he wasn't upset about HWSNBN staying at all and he will have him at his disposal. Granted, no one would be upset about having a player of HWSNBN's talent at his disposal, but this situation has nothing to do with talent. He's been selfish and put Inter before Roma - both things which Spalletti has made clear are not welcome on his team many times in the past. I don't think this is over, and it may very well cause some unrest amongst the players in the locker room. Though I don't think this is remotely close to the Antonio Cassano saga of a couple years ago. It will be interesting to see what some of the players say about the situation, especially Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Philippe Mexes. I would expect them all to be diplomatic, but it will be interesting nonetheless.
Barring any developments in the next 24 hours, let's take a look at how the roster shakes out to begin training camp. Obviously there will be a few changes here and there up until August 31st but for now, this is what it looks like:
GK: Doni has the starting job, and it looks as though right now Gianluca Curci will take the backup/Coppa duties unless he is loaned out. He could use the experience, but it's not outlandish to think he could get significant time this season. Pushing Doni might be a stretch, but he could earn a longer look than expected. Carlo Zotti might be kept around until they decide what to do with Curci.
RB: Christian Panucci and Marco Cassetti look to be the two options heading into the season. Both solid, if unspectacular, fullwingbacks. The worry here is Panucci's age and Cassetti's defensive shortcomings, but they should be able to hold of until the January window if any changes need to be made. Julien Belletti's name is still being floated around but what does he really provide other than another body? They need to get younger at RB (eventually), not pick up another guy on the wrong side of 30.
CB: Philippe Mexes and Juan will be the starters, with Matteo Ferrari rotating in and out. All three could even see time in a 3 backdefense. A fourth defender will likely come in, possibly Leandro Rinaudo. If not, Gianluca Freddi or Fabrizio Grillo will be the emergency backups, if neither are sent out on loan. Samuel Kuffour is still technically on the roster but he'll be happily sold the first time anyone offers 12 lira and a Charms Blowpop.
LB: If HWSNBN plays, he will likely be the starter, with Max Tonetto backing up here and possibly LW. At this point, it's too hard to predict, although Francesco Modesto is still a distinct possibility. Tonetto has been one of the biggest losers in this whole saga, as he had just earned a regular spot for the Azzurri and now looks to be pushed to the bench for the time being.
DM: Daniele De Rossi is here for the next, oh, 10-12 years barring major injury. David Pizarro will probably get the majority of the starting nods to begin with, but Alberto Aquilani will see beaucoup time here and as a backup to Simone Perrotta (even the most ardent Pizarro backers will admit it's possible that Aquilani will be starting alongside De Rossi by the end of the campaign, he's too damn good). Ahmed Barusso will get some time against lesser teams to begin with as well, and Matteo Brighi could also be used here if he sticks around. Easily the most talented and deepest position on the roster (Totti and Vuci usurp them talent-wise, but there isn't nearly as much depth).
LW/RW: Mancini will get the bulk of the starts on the left with Taddei and Mauro Esposito platooning on the right. Tonetto could even see some time at wing if HWSNBN sticks around and plays. Edgar Alvarez, Aleandro Rosi and Valerio Virga are still on the roster (although the latter two are linked to Palermo, among others) and Mirko Vucinic could again see some time here, albeit out of position, so it's not exactly life-or-death at the moment. But there may be another winger on the way in, in fact I would think so. However, the HWSNBN saga will need to play out before anything is really decided. At least it appears that way from the outside looking in.
CM: Simone Perrotta is the starter in all games that matter, with Aquilani and Brighi (if he stays) backing up. I'm all for Brighi staying. Some years ago Roma picked up another player who plays in a similar position at the same exact age from Chievo and he worked out spectacularly for them. His name? Simone Perrotta. Give the kid a chance.
FW: Il Capitano is here until he damn well pleases. Vucinic will get the majority of back-up duties and sub in for Totti when he needs a rest (how often Spalletti will use two strikers up top is a mystery at this point). As pointed out yesterday, Shabani Nonda is still on the roster and could stick around (brace for the press conference announcing his departure any day now). In case you missed it, Roma signed superstud Keivan Zarineh yesterday. Although he very well may be sent out on loan. There will be another signing in case Nonda leaves, as Vucinic and Totti will likely see more and more time on the pitch together this season. Vuci is too talented to sit on the pine.
Well, that about wraps it up to start the training camp. There will obviously be some changes, but it's a quality starting point - provided they sort out this HWSNBN situation (meaning either ship him out or make sure his presence does not distract or divide the locker room) this team has every right to be optimistic. I do really think people are underestimating the acquisitions of Juan and Mauro Esposito. Juan is not a major drop-off from the "man" who used to occupy the CB spot opposite Mexes and has huge international experience. Esposito can provide big speed and a dynamic presence to the flanks when partnering with Mancini. I won't predict a scudetto but I think they can get within the Champions League spots. Especially with the massive youth turnover occurring in Firenze right now, as I feel they're the biggest threat right now to the top 4.
As far as the HWSNBN saga, Spalletti was optimistic that a) negotiations could be re-opened with Inter and b) an extension was not unrealistic. Well, now we know Spalletti was drunk. The Inter offer is twice what Roma was offering before bonuses, and it's become quite clear HWSNBN's blood runs green, not Roma red and yellow. Obviously unless he has a sudden change of heart (highly unlikely) or Roma decides to match Inter's offer (nigh impossible), he will likely be headed to Inter either this summer or next. (And yes, I did see that interview, but that has PR damage-control written all over it. He signs the contracts and he makes the decisions. Period.)
There were some rumblings in the last 24 hours that Inter were preparing to offer up a swap of Luis Jimenez. This is sketchy at best, because he is only on loan to Inter, and unless they buy out his contract from Ternana, it's not going to happen. However, the valuation of Jimenez is something Roma would have to consider. The €11m it would take to buy out Jimenez is probably the best offer Roma will get from Inter, or anyone else willing to pay those absurd contract demands. When there is only one team left and they can sign him for free next summer, Inter doesn't exactly have to offer up all the tea in China. Unless, of course, they really want him this year, which I and many others doubt.
I don't think the Inter negotiations are broken beyond repair, so hopefully something comes up. I really can't see how anyone wants this type of distraction at Trigoria or in the Olimpico locker room, even if that type of athletic ability is always welcome. The Romanisti will not tolerate what he's done. Curva Sud is going to absolutely murder him the first time Roma takes stand at the Olimpico. The only people liable to cheer for him in Rome this season, sadly, will be Laziale. Until then, who knows.
* - Inter are also on the verge of signing Radoslav Kováč for Spartak Moscow, who is seemingly a very similar player to HWSNBN. Even though it's said he can also play DM, Inter seem to be fairly set in that position, so he's likely being bought for the back line. And Kováč is not going to be cheap (€7-10m). Methinks that's a sign. Could be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint.
Weekend News & Notes:
I) As reported above, Roma has signed Iranian-Italian 22 year-old striker Keivan Zarineh on a free for under 6 figures per year (I think this is him, there a are a few of the same person under his name even though he looks about as Iranian as my old blonde surfer roommate from Southern California). Supposedly a tall (195cm or 6'4) and powerful striker, he has an awesome goal rate of 9 GOALS IN TWO YEARS IN SERIE C2 (4th division). Even better? Here's an interview where he compares himself to LUCA FUCKING TONI. I'm not sure whether to love his ego or hate him for being an imbecile. I'm going with the latter, for now. To have me love your ego you actually need to have a reason to have one, a la Zlatan.
I'll give him the benefit of the doubt here because Roma wouldn't sign him if he was absolutely worthless or could not possibly serve some purpose (we hope), as well as the fact that he's ex-Juventus property and Fiorentina was reportedly after him (bullshit!). Hopefully he is one of those physical specimens who is just slowly growing into his body and is loaned out ASAP. However, I'm not expecting much, if anything, out of him. Ever. (My girlfriend thinks they might have signed him because Rosella "thinks he's cute." Although though she hasn't seen his picture. Considering his goal rate, I wouldn't rule that out.)
II) Ludovic Giuly looks impossible. Awesome.
III) Remember how I said it looks like Matteo Brighi has as much of a chance as seeing time in a Giallorossi kit as I do? Yeah, scratch that. He very well might be staying. And I very well might be an idiot.
IV) Lazio has jumped into the fray for Leandro Rinaudo along with Milan and Roma. Assholes. Here's how this is going to work out: If Milan really wants him, they'll get him. If not, I would think Roma would be the favorite. Because Lazio sucks.
* - Speaking of Milan, would anybody else be completely on board with the idea of Rosella calling up Uncle Fester and saying "we'll give you our Romanian nuck-futter for €10m if you just give him his contract demands"? Not that they'd want him, but they'd have to like the idea of fucking over Inter at half price. Give it a shot. Couldn't hurt and at this point Roma getting €10m is a dream.
V) This has nothing to do with Roma but I noticed at the top of il Romanista that Genesis got back together? And no one sent me a fucking memo? I can't dance, I can't talk, only thing about me is the way I walk....
VI) So, ummm, what happened to those Kappa rumors? Hopefully they just burst onto the fields with them on tomorrow as sort of a pseudo-surprise. With HWSNBN forced to wear an Inter kit. And a dress. A cocktail dress with pumps. A nerazzurri cocktail dress with pumps and lipstick. That should work.
VII) This is what Mancini says about Liverpool rumors.
That Cicinho door just got cracked open again. Provided Real Madrid obtains a Dani Alves or similar type, that Cici to Roma deal could become feasible. Everybody start sending fruitbaskets to Alves signed "Your biggest fan, Bernd Schuster X€X€X€."
* - GHD R2 returns Monday.