Here are the full comments from both Javier Pastore and Monchi, during the Argentinian playmaker’s unveiling yesterday. It is pretty lengthy, after a huge period of club silence, so Monchi had a lot to answer before pre-season begins in the first week of July at Trigoria.
Will there be another incoming signing at right wing or is Roma’s incoming mercato done? What was the story behind Pastore’s lack of playing time in Paris last season? And why choose Roma? Will Alisson be sold too? Will Bianda be sent out on loan? And what of Florenzi’s renewal?
All answers below in full.
What pushed you to chose Roma? What were your motivations to come here?
Pastore: “Well my reasons were simple: it’s a big team, a big team that’s growing so much. My agent and Monchi were talking for a few months so the choice became easier. It’s a very beautiful club, very beautiful city and the truth is I had a lot of desire to return to Italy.”
For the director, what are your thoughts on having brought a player like Pastore to Roma?
Monchi: “He’s got a lot of quality. And his experience at a competitive level says everything, no? When you sign a player, you think always about whether he will improve the team. I think his experience raises the quality levels for the team.”
Yesterday there were so many fans there to greet you at Ciampino. What were your feelings during the first hours of being a giallorosso?
Pastore: “Very beautiful feelings. I knew the support here is very warm but I wasn’t expecting there to be as many people yesterday as there were at the airport. It pleases me very much and gives me the desire to do well here, and to restart the year in a big way. Any football player wants the support of the fans and that’s it. I’ve come to a city and a club where the support really makes itself known.”
For the director, I wanted to ask if there were complicated contract talks?
Monchi: “Yes but when we have the desire of the player to come here, everything else is easier. It’s true that he’s got an important value on the market and it’s also true other teams wanted him but, in the end, if the director has the will of the player to come then it’s easier.”
When you left Italy you were very young and everyone said a player had left that was going to have an exceptional career and become a great champion. Then you went on to do good things, but not exceptional things. Above all during the first few years at PSG then you stopped moving forward a bit. I want to know your own verdict on yourself. Is it right to expect more of you? Is Pastore happy with the career of Pastore?
Pastore: “Yes, I’m very happy with the career I’ve made so far because I came to a PSG that wasn’t winning for a long time and, in the last seven years, we’ve won nineteen trophies. I was there in all the matches and all the competitions and I’m truly very happy that the club has grown so much. Very strong players had arrived and you always have to think about the role you choose to play in any club. I made my choice and, if there’s any reason why I’m leaving now and I left Paris it’s that one. I want to have a different experience and return to feeling like I play an important role within a team and I hope to find that here.”
For Monchi I wanted to ask: it seems to me like there an unbelievable understanding between the sporting direction of the club and the technical staff, between yourself and Di Francesco. The team was missing creativity in the middle of the pitch, and you signed Pastore. The team was missing a wide player who had killer instinct in front of goal and Kluivert arrived off of ten goals in the Eredivisie. The team was missing vertical play among the midfielders and you signed Cristante. A great understanding between you and Di Francesco. I wanted to ask you if there is the same understanding on the role of Florenzi? Does everyone want him to be a part of Roma’s future or are there any doubts from either side?
Monchi: “Before answering, I want to say it’s normal, no? That a work of a sporting director should sit side by side to what the coach thinks. I think you all know that between me and Di Francesco there is a beautiful rapport, like I’ve said many times. Me and him are the same person when we’re talking about the mercato.
On Florenzi we are trying to reach a renewal. It’s not easy because he’s a strong player. A very strong player who, until now, we haven’t found an agreement with but the idea is for him to stay here. It’s an idea that the coach shares.”
What position do you see yourself playing for Roma next season?
Pastore: “The role will be decided by the coach. I hope for nothing other than to be present for training, train well and be available for the coach. With the coach we spoke a few times and I think he has more of a desire to play me as a mezzala in this team but he also told me that any position can change many times during a game. He didn’t specifically tell me anything about a position, but I’m open to playing wherever he wants with no problems.”
To the director, among the many messages that there were for Nainggolan today there was one from Perotti: “You were crazy but great.” Was the “craziness” of Naiggolan’s character decisive in letting him go or was it purely a technical decision?
Monchi: “We made a choice. The work of the sporting director is to, every day, make a choice. I made a choice that I get some will understand and others won’t. An offer arrived from a team for a Roma player. We decided to listen to the offer, negotiate and find an agreement. That’s a choice that, from time to time, a sporting director has to make. That’s my work, that’s my job and I do it always with a view to moving forward.”
What was the first thing that came to mind when you thought of choosing Roma? Roma is a team that has reached a level beyond PSG and maybe this is a great opportunity to return to the Pastore that everyone thought would make that impact at PSG?
Pastore: “My idea was to feel more important than where I was. Those were my first thoughts whether it be coming to Roma or any other team. Now that I’m here, I’ll aim with all my teammates to do better than what they did last season which wasn’t easy. They did good things and I’m arriving here with the desire to help them to do better. That’s the most important thing.”
Director, before you answered on Nainggolan. What do you feel about the fans who are asking you not to let go of Alisson?
Monchi: “First of all, good luck to Alisson for the match tomorrow. So far - this is the truth - so far up to now there hasn’t been any offer for Alisson. For this reason alone, my first thought can be nothing other than waiting till Alisson finishes the World Cup. Let’s hope for Brazil’s sake that that wait is as long as possible, as late as possible. Do the holidays he has to do, arrive here and train with his teammates. But I insist: there hasn’t been any offer. If there isn’t any offer there is no solid interest for Alisson. Today those are my thoughts, maybe tomorrow things change. I’ve read so many things on Alisson. But today, there hasn’t been any offer over the phone. This is the reality and a sporting director can only work with reality.”
Was there anything about Nainggolan’s behaviour that let you down in this last season? And can you put Roma’s mercato into perspective, on the eight and maybe even nine signings you’ll make in this mercato?
Monchi: “No, with Radja I only want to keep all the good things we experienced together. Last season was a beautiful year. For me all I can wish is good luck. This is what stays in my heart and it’s truly from the heart. On the mercato, I like this question because until now there have only been questions on the departures. Roma has signed eight, maybe nine players - we’re close on the ninth one. Talks have to go on. I think but I’m not sure, I don’t think any other Italian or maybe even European team has signed so many players until now. Up till now, Roma has sold Nainggolan, Skorupski and Tumminello while we signed eight players. For that I’m very happy for the work we’ve done because I’ve always tried to do it this way: trying to have the team ready as soon as possible for the coach. Like this he can work with all the fundamental players. I think we’ve done that. Our plans are still not closed but I think the important part of the work is done. That being said, I think for me that’s a point of pride.
The second point is we’re at the 26th of June. We’re here, relaxed. We don’t have to look over our shoulders at any Financial Fair Play. Giorgio Francio, the financial director of the club, is smiling when he looks at the accounts. That’s important because not every team can be smiling like this. Sometimes we forget there are sporting rules as well as financial rules. Last year’s Roma that, at this time, in such difficulty is today moving with freedom. We’ve made eight, nine signings. We have the chance to have Javier here with us. These are moments we have to make the most of.”
Sabatini knows you well and said you struggled with top competition from other champions. Is it true that Pastore has to feel he’s important to perform well or did Sabatini exaggerate a little that you struggled because of this?
Pastore: “No, he knows me well and each time I’ve heard him speak of me he’s always said things that are right. It was him who brought me here to Europe. But I don’t suffer from competition. On the contrary, competition makes you improve so much. At PSG, there was many players but only those who had to play did play. It’s like this. So-”
(interrupts him) Can you explain more? Players who “had” to play in what sense?
Pastore: “No, it’s that at PSG players who have to play will play. Those are always the players who just arrived. It was seven years that I was there. When I arrived I played all the games, then the second year, then the third, then the fourth and yes, after it’s normal that after buying so many players in the same position it’s more difficult to have a solid place in the team. And there the coach was changing every two years. Every coach has a different way of wanting to play. Last season, I couldn’t play up against Neymar. The coach was wanting me to play up front on the left and there, there is no competition. Because Neymar has to play, he’s a phenomenon.”
Manolas and Pellegrini are players with a clause. I wanted to know if you’re very confident of them staying?
Monchi: “I’ve spoken three of four times with Manolas, because he has a future as a sporting director since he loves to do my job as well as he can, even though it’s not easy. He’s happy with the team. Everything I’ve heard from him is that he wants to stay here. I can give the same response as I gave for Alisson. I’ve read that Chelsea could pay Manolas’ clause but Chelsea have only just gotten a coach and I don’t even see how it’s possible they made an offer. It seems to me like we’re relaxed. As far as Pellegrini, last week I had a meeting with Giampiero - his agent - and we never talked about the possibility of him leaving. For that we’re relaxed. For us, Lorenzo and Kostas are 100 percent Roma players and important for our future.”
Can this Roma squad compete for Juventus’ titles?
Pastore: “I watched all of Serie A even when I left. It’s true that Juventus have a very strong squad that has won for years but, in these last two seasons, they have struggled because there have been other teams that have pushed them well, like Napoli, like Roma. There were teams who did well. It’s normal that a footballer, when he plays football, he wants to win. I’m not coming here to say ‘OK, let’s stay in third or fourth place’. We will play to do well, to aim to finish as close as possible to the Juventus that is here today. The best thing would be to still be in there in the last 3 matchdays with the possibility to win the title. That would be fantastic but today, I’m here to help to team to start well and the season will be long. We hope to do the best possible.”
To Monchi, you’ve conquered nearly nine signings but there will always be critics who say doing a revolution in the team every season won’t ever bring a title. How do you respond to those critiques?
Monchi: “With my history. I’ve always done this kind of work. Look at my track record - there have always been players coming and leaving, and we won something in the meantime. But I don’t do revolutions. I do what I think is best for the club, what I think is best for the team, what I think is best for the coach, what I think is best for the players. That’s my work. Last year we played a beautiful season I think, no? We finished in third place and the semi final of the Champions League, we did something important. But I don’t want to stop and get satisfied there, I’m a very ambitious person. For that, I make decision to build the strongest team possible. After that, the league table will tell us. Everything I’ve done until today is to build the strongest team possible. Let’s hope for the future.”
When was the first phone call with Monchi?
Pastore: “Yes, I spoke with him and that’s it. He’s a person who everyone told me was a good person when it comes to work. For that it was even easier. We speak the same language. He’s a fair person who’s worked very well, wherever he’s worked he’s done big things. In Spain, he’s very respected. I have many friends that play there and as soon as they saw the headlines that I could come here, they all told me ‘go because Monchi, Monchi, Monchi...’ they spoke only of him. So that’s it. There’s a great relationship between all the people we know and we hope to do big things together.”
At what point are the talks with Bianda? Can you say what kind of player is he? Will he stay in Rome or will you send him out on loan before he plays?
Monchi: “Before anything, after everything Javier said I have to say he could be the first player where I renew his contract before he’s even make his debut. William Bianda, we have yet closed the deal but we’re very close to an agreement. He’s a young player with important potential. But he’s still only played 5 games in the Lens senior team. But who has also been watched many times and popped up on the radar many times for our scouts. This is the kind of profile of player that I like. He will arrive here and immediately train with the first team. I think training side by side with our coaching staff and our players, he can have an important jump in his career. We’ll see and we hope to close the deal with him as soon as possible.”
Are there any players who you hope to play with as soon as possible, even just from a technical point of view, to find a great understanding on the pitch?
Pastore: “Yes, there are some players I hope to play alongside here but I have to recognise that Roma, last season, did they good work they did by working as a team. I think that the main strength, then after there is the captain who played so many big games and always played them well. Having an attacker like Dzeko is always very important. One who scores all the time, one who’s always ready to make the most of the balls he receives from the middle of the pitch. There’s Perotti, there’s El Shaarawy, all these players that play well with the ball and understand football. I like to see players close up in training, understanding their strengths to try to put them in the best position on the pitch.”
Do you consider Alisson an unsellable player? How much does the player’s desire count in this move for an eventual exist?
Monchi: “It doesn’t exist, anywhere in the world, the ‘unsellable player’. Neymar left Barcelona, Coutinho left Liverpool. The perfect reply to every question would be that he’s unsellable, but that would be a lie because it doesn’t exist. No team in the world can, on any player, say this.”
Were your family decisive in your choice to move here? As much as you were aware that the fans in Roma love a technically gifted player, but also love a player who puts a lot of grinta and fights until the very end...
Pastore: “Yes, choosing Roma was helped by my family because my wife is Italian, from Palermo. She was very happy when it came out that we had the possibility to return to Italy. I’m ready to do well and show that I’ve got the will to fight because it’s been a few years that they haven’t seen me at the top. For me it’ll be a revenge to come here and make everyone see ‘El Flaco’ that they truly knew when I was at Palermo.”
For the director, when we play the game of ‘double up’ looking at each position we see that maybe there’s a lack of backup for Under. Is it a position you’re looking at or do you think one of Perotti and El Shaarawy can play there?
Monchi: “I think we have many players who can play there. Perotti did it last season. El Shaarawy did it last season. Justin can do it. Under. Defrel. We have many, no? I think as soon as we can say we have closed on William Bianda we have to stop there for a bit. Start training and understand if there is something missing. There are many days left to go to the United States and the start of the season. Some positions, we have to leave them be to understand where we have to strengthen. Because sometimes when you put plans into action that’s when something can change. For that we’re ready but we’re also set.”