This was certainly an interesting weekend, wasn't it? And we're not even talking about Roma's 5-0 thrashing of lowly Palermo, a match in which we finally saw what Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah could bring to this club. Nope, unless you've had your head buried in the sand, you no doubt have been witness to the previously unfathomable melodrama playing out in the Eternal City right now.
Francesco Totti, club icon, the league's second all-time leading scorer and by most measures, the best Italian to ever play the game, the man as synonymous with the city as the wolf-child for whom it was named, was dropped from the squad ahead of Saturday's match. Not due to injury or suspension, but because of a rather controversial (and perhaps overblown) falling out with Luciano Spalletti over Totti's decreased playing time and uncertain future.
While Totti has all but been assured a role of some sort with the club following his playing days, that last point is really the source of everyone's frustration. Totti has proclaimed many times over the years that he will play as long as his heart is willing, and recent empirical data suggests that Totti can be quite an efficient and effective weapon off the bench. The problem, as Spalletti claims, is simply that he chooses his squad based on fitness, both in the literal and tactical sense. At this age, so the argument goes, Totti can no longer contribute in all phases of the game, leaving Roma exposed to opponents.
It is really an untenable situation for all involved: Totti's heart is more willing than his legs, while Spalletti can't deny his continued effectiveness, yet relying too heavily or too often on him weakens the squad as whole.
Rather than choosing sides, simply because there's blame to be shared, let's take a quick look at what the stakeholders have to say.
After refuting claims that Spalletti overtly disrespected Totti, Pallotta chimed in with his own thoughts on Roma's pending Civil War
There wasn't just one reaction - let's say I had two. I was surprised by Francesco's words on the one hand, but at the same time I understood that it was an outburst borne of frustration. I didn't expect something like that, even though, in a sense, part of me understands it. He's a great player, he's made history at Roma, he adores to compete and he's a superstar
We'll sit down around the table and I'll speak with Totti and the others too. The last time we met, in December, he told me he wanted to keep playing. We'll see now. When you're the owner of a team you have to have respect for all your players and in this case there is a huge amount of respect towards Totti. Totti can stay at Roma either as a player or in a management role
On Spalletti's future, Pallotta reassured Luciano lovers
Were Spalletti's actions supported by the club? Absolutely, yes. Luciano is our coach and since he's arrived lots of things have changed for the better, and I'm not just talking about the on-field management of the team. Spalletti is a fantastic coach, one of the top five coaches in the world
Spalletti has said that he is not sure he will be at the club next season if he doesn't achieve the objective of qualifying for the Champions League? For me, no matter what happens Luciano is and will remain the coach of Roma. If it's true that he's said something like that then it's a statement that couldn't be further from reality - I want him with me. If we've got one decision right so far then it's definitely been to bring in Spalletti
It's pretty clear that Pallotta is painting both sides of the fence, and for good reason. Totti, despite his uncertain future, remains a cash cow for the club, pacing Roma in jerseys sales and luring in fans worldwide. Spalletti, on the other hand, is perhaps the most beloved coach in the history of the club and has, in a matter of weeks, restored hope not only in this season, but for Pallotta's once ambitious project. Pallotta is really in a damned if you do, damned if you don't position--Side with Totti and you risk losing a manager you profess to love, piss off and taint Totti's legacy and, well, you caught a glimpse of that this weekend; it ain't pretty.
While Totti has returned to training, this remains an ugly situation all over, with fans and pundits all over the club throwing their two cents and their support behind both men. And while there are cogent arguments on either side, the question we should be asking is, how do we heal this rift?
So, what do we think? Is it too late to push out the hate and let in the love?