May 2, 2018: Roma beats Liverpool 4-2 and would have reached the Champions League final if not for some horrendous refereeing. It was the club’s best ever result in the CL and nearly fetched them up to €100 million. The comeback against Barcelona was a milestone for many fans, while Roma finished a respectable third place in the league, leaving Lazio and Inter behind them. Rome was filled with cries of Grazie Eusebio!
October 7, 2019: Last placed Sampdoria fires its coach, the very same Eusebio Di Francesco, after six losses in seven Serie A games and having the worst defence of the league.
Well, as Ron Burgundy would say: “That escalated quickly!”.
When Roma hired Eusebio back in 2017, they brought in one of the most talented and hyped Italian coaches of the moment. EDF took Sassuolo from Serie B to promotion and even guided them into the Europa League group stage with limited funds.
As a former AS Roma player and part of the 2001 Scudetto team, Eusebio was also a fan favorite in Rome, so this had all the makings of a fairy tale. Would this man be the next Capello, someone would could finally lead Roma to its elusive fourth Scudetto? Someone who understands the Roman environment and who could stay here for 5, 6 or, why not, 10 years?
EDF had a tough job because he had to fill the void left by a certain Luciano Spalletti. But like I said earlier, with a CL semifinal and some memorable games on his resume, his first season at Roma was a bull’s eye, both financially and on the pitch. It seems everything was in place to challenge Juventus for the title in the upcoming season. It was Eusebio’s destiny.
But the honeymoon period would soon be over as in his second season EDF struggled to repeat the performances of 2017-2018. Inconsistent results in both CL and Serie A (Plzen, Cagliari, SPAL, Bologna) meant EDF’s job was continuously at risk. It didn’t help that Eusebio was obsessed with his 4-3-3 either.
Probably the horror moment of the year was the 7-1 Coppa defeat against Fiorentina. It was a miracle EDF survived that match, but the writing was on the wall. In March ‘19 Roma suffered a big derby defeat and were eliminated by Porto in the CL knockout phase in the space of four days. Too much to handle for Di Francesco as he was sacked after a long, painful battle against his critics, even though Roma was still in fifth place in Serie A. Di Francesco burned his fingers in Roma, like so many men before him (Luis Enrique, Del Neri, Garcia) and it may have severely damaged his career.
Claudio Ranieri would try steady the sinking ship and he ultimately lead Roma to sixth place. No one cared or talked about EDF anymore, the fans were more concerned about missing the CL, losing our star players and who would take over. However, there was one team that gave Eusebio another shot at redemption: Sampdoria with its crazy president Massimo Ferrero. Yet that was a huge mistake.
Sampdoria conceded 7 goals in the first 2 matches and could only win one game, 1-0 at home vs Torino. OK, they have already played tough opponents like Lazio, Inter and Napoli, but the 2-0 loss against newcomer Hellas Verona was the Waterloo of trainer Di Francesco.
Samp sold important pieces like Praet and Andersen, didn’t hold on to Defrel while transfers like Jankto, Murillo or Rigoni didn’t work out as expected. Something had to be done by the management and EDF was an obvious and easy target. For Eusebio, who turned 50 in September, it’s the second painful dismissal in seven months.
So, imagine you were Eusebio, where do you go from here? Lecce? A Serie B side? A foreign adventure? And will it be Europe or Qatar? Perhaps China? Maybe return home to Sassuolo as an assistant coach? Or just take a sabbatical and hopefully return stronger? The future is quite unclear and that’s a shame for a man who was once hailed as Sassuolo’s hero, Roma’s savior and the man who broke Lionel Messi’s Barcelona.
Ironically, Ranieri now steps in for EDF for the second consecutive time in seven months and must once again take over a sinking ship and guide it to a safe harbor.
And EDF? He’d better find his own safe harbor soon. Good luck, Eusebio.