After his side brushed aside AC Milan in a critical away fixture, Luciano Spalletti turned his attention towards some more meta concerns, namely his return to Roma, his relationship/utilization of Francesco Totti and his own future with the club. Full disclosure, we have been guilty of the very things Spalletti complains about, yet, in a testament to what a sticky situation this has been, it’s hard not to disagree with him. Given Totti’s place in club history, Spalletti has really been in an untenable situation since returning last January.
Here is the crux of the issue:
The team looked a little tired and I had already chosen El Shaarawy, an attack-minded player, because I knew that 2-0 was not enough to relax. I’ve seen Milan score two goals in quick succession before, Mohamed Salah was tired. I don’t know what to tell you, I’m sorry.
When I put Totti on for the last five minutes, you tell me I’m taking the Mickey and showing a lack of respect. So let’s just agree here and stop giving me counter-arguments. Last time I introduced him for five minutes and you complained!
If I am the only one to see it this way, then maybe that’s just me. I got insulted before and after the game when using him for five minutes.
I told you when I arrived at Roma, don’t make me into the guardian of Totti’s history and legend. I have to deal with a football player. I don’t know what else to do. If you’re hurt, then I apologise and will consider it for next time.
Again, despite how much I protest otherwise on social media and in my quick match recaps, I find absolutely no flaws with Spalletti’s logic here. Roma has blown many a two-nil lead in their days, so bringing on the electric El Shaarawy was the correct call and, as Spalletti alluded to, had he given Totti Burno Peres’ token five minutes, he still would have been harangued by anyone with a keyboard and internet access, though, at least by my count, it could have been justified as a fitting send off for Totti in one of the game’s great cathedrals.
But the salient point is this: Spalletti is in the ultimate damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. I can’t imagine any manager on earth would’ve voluntarily walked into this situation, one which is quite literally unprecedented in the history of the game. Totti simply means so much more to his club than any other player has in history, and having to deny him that adulation is the very definition of unenviable; there is simply no way Spalletti wins in this situation unless Totti comes on and saves the day each and every week. If he gives him too many minutes, he risks exposing his team’s defensive frailties, give him too few minutes and he gets lambasted by people like me.
And listen, I know there is no way I can spin this to not look like a hypocrite, but I suppose, if nothing else, I have always felt conflicted because I have a great affinity for Spalletti; he was the man at the helm when I first became a serious fan of this club, so I’ve always held him in high regard. But there’s Spalletti and then there’s Totti, no manager on earth is winning that battle for the hearts and minds of Roma; it’s almost as if Totti’s well being and tribute is more important than the club’s success, and to a sizeable portion of the fanbase, that isn’t irrational, it’s a small debt to pay for a man that has meant so much to them.
Spalletti continued to open up, broadening the scope just a bit.
All this really disappoints me… If I could go back, I would never have returned to Roma
We always end up talking about the same thing. This team deserves praise, but instead we are always talking about this and if I play him for just five minutes, I’m disrespecting a legend, then if I don’t introduce him, that’s wrong too.
On his future with the club, and specifically if this climate will force him out, Spalletti was non-committal:
No, this is not the issue. We’ll talk at the end. People wait for you at home, they have these ‘Spalletti v Totti’ banners at Trigoria, people ask me about this constantly and I don’t know what else to do.
It is really disappointing, because Francesco always shows his quality and works hard in training, but I have to make choices for the team.
I remember a couple years ago discussing the spectre of Totti’s final season and distinctly thinking that, whoever was in charge, had to have the temerity to make that tough decision, to sit Francesco Totti for the good of the club, but little did I suspect that same temerity would lead to the manager’s downfall as well.
Roma is a unique club in many ways, and this cold war between Spalletti, the fans and the media is further testament to that fact. The unfortunate part is that both men may ultimately be the only casualties.