To say that folks around Roma were excited when the Giallorossi landed the biggest name on the market last summer would be a massive understatement. No, we’re not talking about Neymar or Messi or Mbappe, but rather the guy charged with finding the next global superstar, the sporting director. And in terms of available executive talent last summer, Monchi leaving Sevilla was akin to LeBron James hitting the open market; few executives had his record of finding obscure talent and then flipping that talent for absurd profits, so the fact that Roma were able to convince him to leave Sevilla after nearly three decades with the club was no small feat.
This being Roma, of course, that elation didn’t last long. Within his first few weeks in the director’s chair, Monchi parted ways with Mohamed Salah (which was only exacerbated when Neymar’s sale to PSG completely reset the market, not to mention Salah becoming one of the best players in the world), Antonio Rudiger and Leandro Paredes.
Sales are always controversial, but given the success Salah had at Roma and the promise shown by Rudiger and Paredes, Monchi received a fair amount of heat during his first summer on the job. This summer was no different, as the departures of Radja Nainggolan (one year after extending his contract), Alisson and, most recently, Kevin Strootman drew further pitchforks from the Roma faithful.
Accusations of hypocrisy, not to mention outright demands for his job, soon followed. Making matters worse, the replacements Monchi found for these pillars of Spalletti’s record breaking team have (thus far) not lived up to the hype.
While all clubs buy and sell like used car dealers, given the hoopla with which he entered Roma, many fans expected a quicker turnaround: Where was our Ivan Rakitic? Why didn’t he bring the new Dani Alves with him? Did he have another Sergio Ramos up his sleeve?
Has Monchi lost his touch or is he being forced to detour from his normal path by Roma’s finances?
Well, fortunately for those of us in the English speaking world, Monchi opened up about a host of topics on a recent podcast with American soccer writer emeritus, Grant Wahl.
On the spate of sales over the past two summers, Monchi offered some fiscal context:
We are working above all to find a sustainable economic model, which would allow us to decide who to sell and when. We are on the right track, but that doesn’t mean we won’t sell in future, because selling players is not a bad thing. It’s normal and then you reinvest that money in structures, Coaches and players who can help the club grow.
In football, everyone sells players. Barcelona sold Neymar to PSG, Real Madrid sold Cristiano Ronaldo, while Juventus sold Paul Pogba and Gonzalo Higuain. Clubs must be smart when reinvesting the money.
It’s always dangerous playing the “all clubs do it card”, and while that’s certainly true, it’s that last bit that has proven a point of contention among his detractors. Alisson and Salah are clearly world class players, while Nainggolan, Strootman and even Rudiger are all unquestioned solid to above average starters for both club and country, yet Monchi has, by and large, gone the prospect/potential route in filling their shoes, which has left many fans understandably frustrated.
Monchi seemingly had a good thing going at Sevilla, so why did he expose himself to an atmosphere as chaotic as Roma to begin with?
I really thought it was time for me to change after 29 years divided between life as a footballer and a sports director. I felt I needed to try new things and test myself to see if I could do my work outside my home. Many think that I did it for money, but the truth is I needed a new experience.
I thought that Roma was the club that, among the many who looked for me, offered me the possibility of being myself, of being Monchi. It was important to maintain independence and responsibility, the possibility of continuing my work. Roma gave me the opportunity not to change my professional identity and after 16 months, I can say that it was the right choice.
My boss is Pallotta, but fortunately I can work independently, obviously keeping him updated on all news.
If you read between the lines and make a logical inference, it seems as though Roma may have offered him a greater degree of control than his other suitors, allowing him to shape and mold the entire sporting side of AS Roma as he deems fit, buying, selling, firing and hiring to create an economic model that will enable Roma to compete on the grandest stages for years to come.
If that is indeed the case, then Monchi has put his neck firmly on the line. Roma fans offer little to no quarter, so if these calculated moves are really an economic paradigm shift, then he better hope it bears fruit sooner rather than later. Sound planning and rational thinking are all well and good, but for a team starved for titles and short on patience, Monchi’s reasoning may soon fall on deaf ears.