As good as it is to see Ranieri back, already I miss Di Francesco’s brevity. DiFra had a knack of saying more with less. Though a long press talk like yesterday’s is be expected of any new coach. After all, Ranieri was asked on specifics for where the team was losing confidence, and what he intends to do about it.
“How are you feeling today compared to ten years ago?”
Ranieri: “Always good. Let’s just say I keep doing this job because I still feel something. Starting over at a club always gives you some kind of excitement, pushing you to pay attention to everything going on. And then returning to Roma is something special, for us Romans most of all. For us Roman fans. My feelings are at the peak right now. The emotion, the ambition, the knowledge that we’re in a difficult moment. But I’m ready, I’m ready to fight.”
“You’ve only had the chance to hold two training sessions but I what haveyou seen? Has anything made an impression on you? Do you understand where you need to step in already?”
Ranieri: “If we’re talking about proper training sessions, I’ve only done one. Only one. We were twelve players, while the others were recovering from the Porto trip. Today will be the first session with just a handful more players. I’m intrigued, I’m then talk with a few of them to see if they’ve recovered. But the most important thing is motivation right now.
I understand that you, who’ve all been here inside of all this, see it as a negative moment. Me, who’s just come from outside, am saying the Champions League is just ahead of us. It’s very close and our next two games will be incredibly important. And the supporters will be incredibly important, they must understand that these lads could be stuck in a difficult moment, and they want to feel wanted here. I can’t do it alone, honestly.
I can’t carry this team to the Champions League by myself. With the help of the supporters I already feel more confident, because I know if you have the Roma fans pushing you from behind then anything is possible. So that’s what I’m asking for. I ask the fans for help for one of their own, seeing as I’m a Roma fan too.”
“What has impressed you most about this team’s technical strengths? Do you believe that the first problem to get your hands on is the defence, given the 55 goals conceeded in 32 senior games?”
Ranieri: “I believe we’ve scored 49 goals, no? So this team is technically good enough that whether you want to score goals or not, you’ll certainly manage to score one. It’s logical that everyone in the team has to be ready to get back fast in the defensive phase, if not teams will score goals on you too. I’d watched Roma play whenever I could.
It’s not like I could follow Roma all the time, because Roma was often playing at the same time I was. Whenever I could, I followed them. A lot of the goals conceded came in our build-up, when we had the ball. A lost ball, counter attack, then goal.
We have to pay attention to this as a point of reference because, if you lose the ball and they score, then the player who this happens to feels like they’re to blame. That doesn’t work, because then you lose confidence in yourself, and we’ve lost a piece in defence for the rest of the game. Or we’ve even lost an important player’s performance in that moment. That’s why it’s important not to lose the ball.
I’ll talk with the lads and we’ll go through the most suitable solution to not lose so many balls in our build-up play.”
“You were here to oversee the last Scudetto just missed out on in that game against Sampdoria. But the next season, when you no longer believed you could do it, you resigned. Something that very few coaches in the world do. Here’s where I ask you: What will you hang onto in order to believe in this team?”
Ranieri: “I’m hanging onto the fans, and the players’ desire and motivation. They have to know how to react in games. To do that, they have to feel loved by those very same fans. Because it’s ugly to play at home and be afraid of the game. So I ask the fans just to let it slide, stay close to the team. We need that from you.”
“Would you give us one of your famous catchphrases that you’ll use with the team to sum up this moment?”
Ranieri: “Nothing comes to me. If you ask me like that, it really doesn’t come to me. I go on instinct, it’s not like I prepare a talk beforehand. Whatever I feel, I say. Maybe I’m open to a lot of criticism for that. But whatever I feel inside, I make it known without fear.
I’ll say that our fans want to see the team eat up the pitch. I want to see players dripping with anger and determination. That’s what us fans want, then we can accept any mistake. But first you have to show me you’re willing to die on the pitch.”
“I want to ask you about three situations: If Florenzi is a full back or an attacker? If Zaniolo can play wide or has to play in the middle? And if Schick and Dzeko can play together?”
Ranieri: “Ok, first of all, Florenzi is a universal player. He can play at the back or up front, always with the same traits. It depends on the game, the opponent and the tactical situation. The important thing is that Alessandro picks himself back up because, being Roman myself, I understand what’s happening. Every mistake he’s made probably weighs on him more than it would a teammate.
So he has to look to dig deep for the right kind of Romanità. Keep sticking his chest out. If you’ve made a mistake there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I messed up’, but then there’s always the next ball to play, always the next game to play. So I expect a lot from him.
I know your thing right now is where should Zaniolo play? Where should Schick play? Dzeko and all of that.
Zaniolo, we know very well, and even I know from way back, that playing in the middle is his role. He has get the ball often, and he’s willing to. But it depends if, in the middle, I’ve got two or three Zaniolos. I have to see which of those three Zaniolo can play wider. Maybe I take 20% away from that player’s game... I’m talking about that kind of player in general. Not specifically Zaniolo.
Maybe I only get 80% out of a player putting him wide left or right, while he’d give me 100% in the middle. But this doubt I have, I’ll only make my choice by talking with them, and understanding who can give me more on the wing as opposed to the other. Because if I don’t, I can field a player who’s giving me 100% in the middle and the other 50% on the wing.
If I can have instead, one player giving me 100% in the middle and the other 80%, I’ll play the guy who can me 80% on the wing. Yes, he’d be playing outside of his natural role but still just as unplayable and creating problems for the opponent.”
“And Schick and Dzeko? Can they play together?”
Ranieri: “In my opinion, they have to play together. They have to play together. I saw Schick coming onto the pitch in Porto with a real anger and desire. That’s one player with incredible quality. He’s very strong, very fast, he’s technical. I’m convinced that if he makes the turning point, and he’s close to making it, the fans will fall in love with that kid.”
“Pastore was meant to be a headline player this season for Roma. What have you made of him, his problems, and how can he make a comeback?”
Ranieri: “I haven’t made any thoughts about him because I haven’t seen him play. The games he played this season, I hadn’t seen them. I know Pastore from when he played in Italy before, and at Paris Saint-Germain. A truly sublime player. But right now I need people who show me they want to make the difference.
All of them. I don’t look at the names, the wages, the age, I don’t have to look at any of that. I have to see who’s willing to run, fight and help themselves. We have to be a team, meaning that everyone looks to help their teammate. Whoever does that has more chance of playing.
Whoever gets stuck in from the very beginning, has more chance of playing in the end. I’m not talking about Pastore here, but in general for all of them. They have to give more. Because if we’re in this situation it’s because they haven’t given all they have to give. The reasons why don’t interest me, I don’t want to know. Right now we have a fresh start. The coach pays the price. It was Eusebio who paid. And now it falls to them to reply on the pitch.
I’ll help them and they have to help me. Speaking as a fan, they have to show me what they know they can do. And how they want to do it.”
“You signed a contract for 12 games. I don’t know if you’ve ever signed that kind of contract before...”
“So I wanted to ask you where you see yourself from July 1st onwards? Do you still see yourself in Rome?”
Ranieri: “I see myself here with you all right now, and tomorrow evening on the bench. I’m not going beyond that. I’m used to taking it step by step. I wouldn’t have agreed to this deal with another club.”
“That’s what I wanted to ask you. Is it because it’s Roma?”
Ranieri: “Because it’s Roma. I would never have taken this deal with another club. But when Roma calls you, I have to say yes.”
“A lot has changed at Trigoria since the Porto game. Have all these changes had an impact on the team’s mood?”
Ranieri: “It’s hard to say, since I don’t know the before and after. I don’t know and these things don’t interest me. They’re not 4-year old kids, they’re men and they have to give their best. Whether it’s to me or another... to everyone. There needn’t be any more excuses.
They step on the pitch, they know the ball well, they know football well because they’ve been signed to play for Roma and paid well. What they’re paid is because they deserve it. So now they have to show that. Anything else doesn’t interest me.
I want a team that’s happy, smiling, that fights and never gives up. Whoever has problems in their life, leave those at home. Everyone has problems. I keep mine at home, I don’t bring them here.”
“I can only imagine your first bit of banter when you first saw Totti’s name pop up on your phone? Have you spoken with Di Francesco? And is it true that you didn’t want to sign on for the salary Roma offered so you took a short team deal for now?”
Ranieri: “I don’t remember what Francesco said to me. He must have said something like ‘what are you up to, Mister? Where are you?’ I’m at home in London! What do you mean where am I? (laughs) And from that point we kept talking.
And no, I haven’t spoken with Eusebio. Because I understand the bitterness any coach feels when you’re fired. But I have been a huge fan of his. Both in the first season, and this season. And I’m very sorry. Because he’s a top professional and a top worker. Did he make a few mistakes? All of us make them. All of us make them. There’s isn’t a coach alive who doesn’t.
And the other thing you told me? No. I’ve lost more money when I left here last time, than what I’m making now. It’s not important. It’s not money that made me come here. It was the shirt, full stop.”
“You’re an expert at fixing broken teams, one of the things that’s made your career. Does it seem more complicated for you to fix this side or the one you found ten years ago?”
Ranieri: “The one of years ago was a big team, maybe facing it’s last sunset because there were many players of a particular age. And they’d all given a lot. I manage to motivate them in the first season, and less so in the second one. That’s why I left. Because if I can’t manage to motivate my own Romanisti players, as a Romanista fan myself, then I have to go.
I can’t answer your question yet. Let me get on the pitch, let me feel the emotions, let me feel out the team and then I’ll know how to reply. Is it more difficult or easier with this team? I don’t know. I just know I need the supporters’ help, and I need the players’ help above all. I’ll ask the maximum of the players, I’ll ask a lot. Because I’m someone who pushes myself, and I want the maximum from them too.”
“There’s the feeling that many coaches, like yourself, are happy to get the Roma job with no questions asked. But a lot of them leave the club worse for wear. Unfortunately this is a complicated place for football. How do you explain this contradiction? Why do people accept coming to Roma at any costs if it’s such a risky place to work, in your opinion? And do you have to work more on the team’s mental or technical strengths? Considering that this team has shown big weaknesses on a mental level...”
Ranieri: “Ok, so remind me your first question because it was too fast. Ah, well I chose it for a reason that you all know. Why others choose this job, I don’t know. I can only imagine, I can only imagine that Rome gives you feelings that aren’t as special in other places.
In Rome, football is lived 25 hours a day. You all talk about it 25 hours a day where you have to. Radio, television, newspapers... it’s logical that this is a team that makes headlines. It’s a team that is fighting for the Champions League in the last few years, and so it’s one of the best teams in Italy.
There’s a new owner who’s looking to do his best. A ton of money is being invested. It’s logical that, at the end of the season, you have to make ends meet on the bottom line. At least in part, because otherwise you can’t rewrite it. And that’s it.
The mental aspect is the first thing to work on. What I’ve said right now has only referred to the mental side of the team. I haven’t talked much about technical questions, I only talked a little about where to play Zaniolo, Florenzi, Pastore. But the mental side is the most important thing right now.
It’s about wanting something, wanting to reach a target badly enough. I want ambitious people. I know qualifying for the Champions League isn’t an easy thing, but I’ll never give up. I know I’ll encounter problems, but if I’m of a negative mindset then I’ll give up at the first sign of problems. I’ll say ‘look, I can’t do it’ or ‘we can’t do it.’
If instead I’m someone who never gives up, then I give even more when I find the first problem. I look to understand why it’s happening, I move around the problem if I can’t go through it. I move over it. I want players who never give up.”
“How do explain Dzeko scoring less this year? And will it be Olsen or Mirante in goal tomorrow?”
Ranieri: “It’s normal. It’s normal that bombers have a ‘no’ year. Whenever coaches make up their teams, they look immediately at the players who score goals and what’s their scoring average over their entire career. But it’s logical than even Batistuta, even Pruzzo, even the greatest attackers in the game have had their ‘no’ moment. It could just be that this is a ‘no’ moment. There are still 12 games left. Let’s see at the end of the season, what Dzeko can do.
On the other question, Mirante and what’s-his-name, let me see them in training. Show me a few things. And you’ll know the starting lineup by tomorrow evening.”
Roma v. Empoli: March 11th. 20:30 CET/3:30 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
“You’ve made a call to the fans for support several times. Would opening the gates to a few public training session at Trigoria be helpful? And if you’ve brought the famous flowers from England with you to help the players? Or if you have some other approaches in mind?”
Ranieri: “So everyone wants flowers, evidently. No, I don’t know. Please don’t ask me things to which I don’t know the answers in this moment. In this moment, we have to find serenity, anger and determination.”