A couple of weeks ago, we pondered about Totti's future: What if he didn't stay at Roma? What if he said yes to Real Madrid's offer? In our second hypothetical piece about Francesco Totti and his surroundings, we look back at some people who were very close with Totti during his career, namely the Sensi's: Franco and later Rosella Sensi. What if they hadn't sold the club to the Americans?
The Sensi family were Roma’s owners from 1993 to 2011, the majority of Totti's time in Rome—Franco Sensi until his death in 2008, then Rosella took over until 2011, after that the US and A started to run the show. Under the guidance of the Sensi's, Totti won all of his national trophies: Coppa Italia, Supercoppa and last but not least, a Scudetto in 2001. Capello and Spalletti were two pillars of that success, and they made heroes out of the Sensi family.
AS Roma finished second in Serie A six times between 2001 and 2011, and also reached the Coppa final five times during those years. Francesco arguably had his best periods with the Sensi's in charge (2004-2007). To top it off, the Giallorosso reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League twice, in 2007 and again in 2008. Roma, Totti and Sensi, it was a match made in heaven. With just a bit more luck, Totti could have had two more Scudetti and Coppa under his belt.
After Franco's death in 2008, things went downhill, though. No more prizes, some strange transfers (Loria, Pit, Arthur, Guberti, Zamblera, Adriano, Barusso etc); Spalletti's magic had worn out. Yes, there was the magical 2009-2010 season, where we started badly but Ranieri came to the rescue—Roma were unbeaten for 24 consecutive matches and nearly won the title, separated from Inter by two points.
Ironically, in the summer following that amazing comeback, the Sensi family agreed to sell the club. That news didn't have a good effect on the squad, as Roma ended sixth in Serie A and Ranieri resigned in February 2011. Fan favorite Montella was brought in as caretaker for three months. After all the fuss about the Sensi's, Unicredit, and their so-called debts, American investors, led by Thomas DiBenedetto, took over in 2011-2012 with James Pallotta later succeeding DiBenedetto.
As we all know the American ownership had/has its ups and downs since 2011. There was Rudi Garcia, the flops of Zeman and Enrique, the dramatic and lost Coppa Italia final in 2013, and ultimately the great comeback of Luciano Spalletti. But with only two second place finishes between 2011 and now (this season not including, don't count your chickens before they're hatched, you know) and a lot of failures on the European stage, the fans can't help but feel disappointed and nostalgic for the Sensi era. Would Totti, Roma’s biggest fan after all, feel the same?
It hasn't been the same since then. The Americans are business men, time is money and making profit is a religion. The Sensi's were a bit more romantic, since they were born and bred Romans themselves. The Americans promised a bigger, badder, stronger Roma, a force not only in Italy but also Europe. Shouldn't Roma, as a club, be better developed? Better infrastructure, a new stadium, and huge signings that lure thousands of fans to the airport, to name a few points?
To make it worse, every season we seem to lose key players instead of building a strong core that can realistically aim for the title. Benatia, Pjanic, Marquinhos, Digne, Romagnoli, Lamela all left. Manolas or Radja could follow in their footsteps this summer.
What if there was never talk about a takeover? What if DiBenedetto and Pallotta never made it into Rome? What if Rosella Sensi and Baldini were still here? Would Totti's trophy cabinet look any different?
In that alternative universe, some guys would obviously never step foot into Rome, like Garcia or Enrique, or players like Stekelenburg, Bojan, Ponce and Gervinho. Sabatini? Meh, little chance. Michael Bradley? LOL, nope. Perhaps a return of Zemanlandia seems the most likely out of everything that has happened since 2011, but would he have gained more trust from Rosella and co than Pallotta? Zeman got fired in February, when Roma was eighth in the league.
I know it's a lot of 'ifs' and 'woulds', so I guess it's just mere speculation and dreams. We will never know. Perhaps we won a Coppa or two, yeah, and didn't have to wait so long to return to the Champions League. Perhaps we would be Europa League regulars. But if a Roma led by the Sensi's had so much trouble with the Inter of Mancini and Mourinho, failing to win the title, then I don't them overthrowing Conte's Juve or the current Juve team of Allegri.
In fact, would they, like the Americans, go for Radja or Manolas? Two of our very best men. Or buy Alisson, Iturbe, Gerson or Doumbia for ridiculous sums? Maybe they opted for a bit more Italian look. I see them buying types like De Sanctis, Balzaretti, Destro or Astori as well. And Borriello may have stayed a little longer and been more important for the team. But maybe that wasn't enough and they would never win another Scudetto under the Sensi's. Or maybe they saw the light and bought a new Batistuta who would drag Roma through the mud and ultimately knock Juve down from 1st place. Like I said, speculation.
Last but not least: the Roman kids. Romagnoli, Bertolacci, Pellegrini, Florenzi and co. We saw a lot of promising guns from the Primavera, yet only Florenzi made a real impact and is still with us. The rest was sold or didn't make the cut. It's a sure thing that under the Sensi's, we would have seen a lot more Roman influence in the team.
I think Bertolacci and Pellegrini would still be with us. Florenzi would break through no matter who the trainer or president was. Romagnoli had a great spell at Sampdoria and a crazy offer from Milan followed. Could Rosella, like Pallotta, be tempted to sell a gem for a lot of profit? After all, she did also sell Aquilani to Liverpool or Mancini to Inter. And if all those Roman kids remained at Roma, surely there would be no place for a Radja or Rüdiger in the transfer strategy?
To end on a positive note, Totti and Dani would still be in Rome. In fact, Totti would still be vital for the team, more than now I imagine. A cameo of five minutes every now and then, no, the Sensi's wouldn't let that happen. As they, just like us, know that a 40-year-old Totti still is better than 90% of the others. Class is eternal.
Love it or hate it, the Americans are in town, reality check! But the Sensi's really left a legacy in Rome and were quite a phenomenon in the world of football, alongside all the rich businessmen or Asian/Arab investors. A shame Roma had to evolve in that same direction.
2016-2017 is now the sixth campaign under new ownership. While we've yet to see some silverware, there are some silver linings for the fans. Talks of a new stadium for instance. And I really believe Pallotta wants the best for this city and club, it just takes a long time to establish something worthwhile.
Rome wasn't build in a day and the Sensi's didn't win a single prize in their first seven seasons as well. Luckily they made up for it after 2000, with some of the best football Roma has ever produced.