First things first. The Future Captain has given his big thumbs up to the management for keeping their promise and improving the squad immensely since last season. Which is nice; but he also maintains that he is ready to end his career in the shirt, for more than just superficial and footballing reasons. Mind you, the man will get paid, no doubts about that, but this is a great step for a team that has dealt with the Chivu debacle over the last few months. To remind us that Roma is more than just another club, it's a way of life, an ideology and the players reflect that whether on the pitch or off. After watching a player who had become such a beloved icon to many a Roma fan only to leave for a paycheck and - supposedly - a better shot at trophies; we now see player after player after player saying, "This is where I want to be, and it's not about the money or about the trophies. It's about the shirt."
This is probably one of the many hundreds of times I'll reference this quote over the course of the season, but it never loses its luster:
“I won things with that shirt and I know what it means. In no other city does a victory mean as much as in Rome.” Damiano Tomassi
* - Feel free to send that link to Barcelona, Madrid, Manchester, Milan....actually, just fax it to the G14 front office and have them post it in the break room.
Theme of the international week: highly respected football minds heaping as much praise as possible on the Giallorossi. First Ernesto Bronzettiballs (who gets my pick for Roma Executive of the Year), and now Arsene Wenger. Who, despite his glaring weakness of being French, is in my top 3 football minds in the world, and is one of the best talent evaluators in the world - if he isn't the best. Here's what the two had to say.
"Roma started growing as a club after Capello left. They started thinking more as a group, starting from Rosella [Sensi], then also with [Daniele] Pradé who came on later, and of course Bruno Conti, a symbol of Roma. It was they who chose [coach Luciano] Spalletti and the group philosophy. This Roma team reminds me of Milan, who always choose former Rossoneri players for their management. Pradé is a hardcore Romanista, and I think he's even better than [Milan's Ariedo] Braida."
"Real started putting pressure to sell the player to Liverpool, but Pradé would have nothing of it and started yelling, saying 'I'm either going back to Rome with the player or I'm not leaving'. Then I called Rosella, she was angry too, but then Cicinho arrived, I gave him the phone and he told her: 'Don't worry, I gave my word to Ernesto and [Roma goalkeeper] Doni, I'm going to Roma and no other team."
"This club has the right men at the right place. However, there are differences. I believe that from an organisational point of view Milan are the number one club in the world, but Roma are going in the right direction."
Well, I've earned a whole new level of respect for Prade. That's playing hardball right there. Anyway, that's quite a bit of praise from a highly respected source to a management group that was being led to the guillotine by nearly every single Roma fan across the world over the last however many months.
Arsene was a bit more brief but said the club has made "impressive upgrades" over the summer. Which, while somewhat vague, is still a nice endorsement from a coach with an eye for talent like Wenger.
The overall feel, though, has nothing to do with the actual upgrades, but how well the management has done this summer in completely turning around the perception of the club. Nearly all of us will admit that this Roma team could beat any team in Europe on their day last season. This year the depth brought in and specific upgrades made allows Roma to field a more rested and stronger team in a unique system with a wizard of a coach. This team has gone from inconsistent to, what should be, a power to be reckoned with in nearly every game played - at least it appears that way. Even though the scoreline against Siena was a touch misleading, there is enough depth right now - or there will be once the Bubonic plague is expelled from the locker room and everyone is moderately healthy - that Roma can afford to play "back-ups" and expect to pick up points against mid-to-lower table squads.
As alluded to by Bronzettiballs, this was reportedly a team effort, and a victory everyone in the management played a part in. While the squad on paper does not dictate what transpires on the field, the outlook is certainly brighter than in recent times and much of that credit is due to Rosella, Prade and Conti. Three people who have taken a lot of heat (at least the first two) for being relatively incompetent and sinking the ship. It was always going to be a journey rather than a destination, and as Bronzetti said, "Roma are going in the right direction."
I think both of these quotes, from highly-respected minds, illustrate how far Rosella & Co. have come since Don Fabio's departure and Papa Sensi handed over the reigns. Hats off.
* - We know about Chivu's extension, Cassano, blah, blah, blah. It's a journey.
Daniele De Rossi - Played the full 90 against France, and was somewhat invisible throughout the game in a very very clogged midfield.
Simone Perrotta - Came on for Mauro Camoranesi and helped complete the four man central midfield for the Azzurri designed to give some attacking width. Nothing really to speak of, same goes for the entire game.
Philippe Mexes - Come on. Get real. Do you really think he was going to get off the bench even though he's the best defender France has to offer? Pfft.
Alberto Aquilani - King Alberto was awarded for his rip-roaring start in Serie A and obvious dynamic impact on any game with a nice, cushy seat in the stands. Even though Donadoni obviously needed as many central mids on his bench as humanly possible.
Christian Panucci - Christian and his highly-versatile overlaps made the pine, but he isn't a central midfielder so he failed to get any pitch time.
Gianluca Curci - Spent time chillaxin' with King Alberto in the stands, but he can get used to that for the next, oh, 6-8 years while Gigi is making every other goalkeeper in the world look like Swiss cheese.
Doni - Conceded two goals to the US. Is Curci ready yet?
Ahmed Barusso - It may have been The Ghanaian Gladiator who surprisingly had the best international weekend of the Roman lot. He came on as a substitute, but scored the second goal against Morocco in a 2-0 friendly win for the Black Stars. Just what Roma needs, another goal scoring defensive mid. This central midfield is scintillating, and within a few months we may be having the debate: first off the bench, Little David or Ahmed? (Pipe down, people)
* - Unfortunately no video evidence of this game exists on the internet that I can find, but the completely freaking awesome and totally not bastard-ish Ghanaian FA can fill you in.
News, Notes & Nuggets
I) Roma is the fourth-highest spending team - when it comes to contracts - in all of Lega Calcio, at €59m. Makes sense, but somewhat misleading, because they spent less than half of what Milan did last year and €50m less than Inter (I'll give you one guess as to who is #3, just one guess). At €41m less than the third ranked team, it's fair to say Roma has done some wise spending - although this is last year's totals, and a few of the new arrivals will bring in some decent bank (Juan, Cicinho, Lulu Gulu...). Also, since it's last year's totals, I think it's fair to say we will see Inter easily top on next year's list with Chivu's new salary rivaling the GDP of Uzbekistan.
What I'm more impressed with, though, is that Empoli could make the UEFA Cup without a single player making more than €450,000. Seriously, they should give an award just for that. Standing O for Empoli. That's MLS money. Imagine where Moratti would be with fund availability like that? Inter would be in Serie C2. Hell, he'd be battling for UEFA places with a purse like Rosella's. I meant bank account, I think he already has the purse.
II) And if you missed it in that link, that Totti guy is doing fairly well for himself, to the tune of €5.4m per. Which, somehow, is still less than Kaka. And that's before advertisements starring Ivan the Terrible and himself. Imagine what those must bring in.
III) We have a rebuttal for that whole firing Donadoni thing. And no, he is not a Milan & NY Red Bulls/MetroStars fan at all. So he's totally unbiased.
IV) Despite being very flattered when asked by his teammates, Rodrigo Taddei would turn down the chance to play for the Azzurri if asked, because his dream is still a Selecao call up (which probably won't be happening as long as Dunga is still suffering from footballus paedophilia). Although he would be a big boost to the squad, as well as being a winger, which Donadoni has seemingly forgot still exists, I think Italia should be more than alright picking players a) born in the country, or b) those by blood who now consider Italia their one and only home (like Giuseppe Rossi). I would also suspect Donadoni or the FIGC would receive the same answer should they pose the question to Amauri, whose absence from the Brazilian NT is even more puzzling than Taddei's. I haven't seen this much holding out since Joey from Dawson's Creek refused to give up her "flower" (my girlfriend in college loved the show, seriously).
V) Cesare Maldini agrees: can Donadoni.
VI) The game against Juventus on the 23rd has been moved to the afternoon so that Sky Italia can show the Genoa derby instead. I think this calls for one of my favorite all-time quotes:
"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."
Bright guy, that Einstein.
VI) Speaking of the Azzurri, Stefano Okaka Chuka scored a beaut last week against Piacenza. Is it me, or is he looking really muscular in that goal video?
Despite the relative lack of options up top for the senior side right now, the future of the Azzurri's forward line does look quite promising, with: Pazzini, Pelle, Rossi, Okaka Chuka (should he continue with the Italian setup), Palladino, Foti, Lupoli, Acquafresca, etc etc etc. Plus the hopeful rejuvenations of Cassano & Gilardino.
Not to mention the future of Roma's strike force looking damn good...
* - I'm sure I missed a bunch of news, but we'll be back with Roma full-time on Friday after the international break has ended and we can get back to the games. I feel like having two weeks of games and then an international break is like getting a video game system for Christmas as a kid, but no games. Or that stupid demo one that comes with the system that has like midget car racing or "How cool can you spray paint?". So you have to wait until the stores open the next day to actually use your awesome new toy and those 24 hours are just absolutely brutal while you stare at the system and wait for the 26th to come. That's what this break has been like for me. No, I'm not bitter about Christmas 1995. Not at all.
Don't forget the Ukraine game tomorrow, or maybe you should, I'm not sure yet. I'll be tossing out a minor preview for the game at some point a little later, and if I get the chance some sort of diary/live blog tomorrow.
However, I'll also be covering for Bob over on the offside home page tomorrow with God knows what, so if you have some ridiculously awesome football stories that need to be spread to the world then leave 'em in the comment threads. (Yes, this is me being really lazy) But check it out tomorrow, I'm going to try to bring my completely unbiased viewpoint to the equation.