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The Cases For and Against Champions League Qualification

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Roma closed in on the Top 4 this weekend, but would it be better for the club to miss next season’s UCL?

UC Sampdoria v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Paolo Rattini/Getty Images

In terms of the way the results around Serie A played out this weekend, it was near perfect for Roma in its quest to finish Top 4. The Giallorossi squeaked out a much needed 1-0 victory at the Marassi against Sampdoria. Meanwhile, Milan fell to Juve, Inter and Atalanta shared the spoils, Lazio drew against Sassuolo, and Torino drew against Parma. With those results, Roma either gained ground on teams above them in places 3-5 (Inter, Milan, and Atalanta) or built a lead on teams who were level on points in 6th (Torino and Lazio); all while building a six point gap over Samp in ninth.

With seven matches to play, the race for next season’s Champions League has never been so wide open. Inter has a bit of a cushion in third on 57 points, but they are no sure thing to finish there, as they still host Roma, while traveling to Juve and Napoli. Milan and Atalanta are joint fourth on 52 points. Lurking behind them are Roma, the wounded wolf, on 51 points. The last contenders are Lazio (with a game in hand) and Torino on 49 points. Realistically, any of those teams can still finish in one of the two coveted UCL spots up for grabs.

Roma have shown next to nothing for us to believe they have what it takes to grab one of those places. They’ve already let countless opportunities fall by the wayside in recent weeks when Milan and Inter were both scuffling along. Many may also say the Giallorossi don’t deserve to finish Top 4 with all of their poor results against bottom half sides this season. But if we’re talking about merit, none of the other teams really deserve it either based on results. So if two teams besides Juve and Napoli need to play in next year’s Champions League, why not Roma?

Let’s take a look at the cases for and against Roma finishing Top 4 and qualifying for next season’s premier club competition.

The Case for Qualifying

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Money Means Players

Of course, the benefits of qualifying for the Champions League are many, but the biggest motivator is money. The Champions League can bring in massive revenue boosts for a team like Roma that has struggled through Financial Fair Play. Those millions can help whoever the new DS is bring in some prized assets to build a truly competitive side. Until Roma has its own stadium, it will never generate enough revenue to buy quality players without UCL money or selling off its most prized assets. Those new players, coupled with some of the young talent we already have, can make Roma competitive in it’s Champions League group and good enough to finish Top 4 in Serie A next season.

At the same time, Roma needs to keep its most prized assets from jumping ship. There aren’t many players who I’d say truly deserve to stick around after this season. However, one would think UCL qualification would go a long way in getting players like Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Manolas, and Ünder to want to stay. Champions League money would allow the new DS not to be forced to the sell most of them, unless a player asked to go.

A Manager

In addition to new players, Champions League qualification would make Roma a much more desirable destination for potential managers. A guy like Antonio Conte would never want to come to a team playing Europa League football. The same can likely be said about others being linked with Roma like Maurizio Sarri and Jose Mourinho. Without UCL qualification, you can probably count out most of the big name candidates.

Building the Brand and Reputation

One thing James Pallotta and Co. have done since arriving in the capital is build Roma’s brand. Roma is much more of a household in many places that it wasn’t outside of the Italian peninsula prior to American ownership.

Additionally, after last season’s UCL semifinal run, Roma began to establish itself as a truly competitive side on the European stage. This season’s Round of 16 crash was of disappointing, but Roma were again in the knock out stages. We finally are no longer a team getting whooped on 7-1 in the UCL (that was only the Coppa Italia this season, but I digress). If Roma don’t qualify for the UCL, it’ll certainly put a dent in the European and worldwide reputation that was being built.

Falling Behind the Milanese Sides

It’s been awhile since both Milan sides have been relevant in Italy at the same time and for years Roma was able to capitalize on their demise. However, one has to believe those sides are sleeping giants, the serpent and devil are waiting for the wounded wolf to falter enough to overtake it. If those sides qualify for the UCL then their revenue will increase while Roma’s falls. Their sides would likely strengthen while Roma’s weakens. With Juve and Napoli unlikely to fall off significantly, a Top 4 finish might be even more difficult next season. It could be years (if a stadium arrives) before we see Roma close the gap with those four sides again. That’s a scary proposition and may be what scares me most about missing out.

De Rossi’s Swan Song

It’s very likely that next season will be Daniele De Rossi’s last in a Roma shirt. Just like Father Time didn’t slow down for Francesco Totti, it isn’t for De Rossi either. I’d love to see Capitano Futuro get to play on Europe’s biggest stage one last time. Hell; he deserves it.

Europa League Purgatory

I don’t know about you, but Thursday evening matches in remote Eastern European stadiums doesn’t sound all that attractive to me. If anything it’s probably more of a detriment to Roma being competitive in Serie A than it is helpful. If Roma are going to miss the Champions League, let’s skip Europe all together. I personally don’t want to see Roma finish fifth or sixth, so they can play half-ass football in the Europa League.

The Case for Not Qualifying

AS Roma v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Tear It Down and Start Over

The case for not qualifying for the Champions League revolves mostly around a complete and total rebuild. There is plenty of fat that needs to be trimmed from the current squad. Monchi undoubtedly left a mess of a roster behind. There are plenty of overpaid and underperforming players that need to be moved out; Pastore, Olsen, N’Zonzi, and Juan Jesus are just a few of many. If Roma qualify for the UCL then it would likely be more difficult to completely clean house and build from scratch. If Roma truly want to build a new team from the ground up then it can’t finish Top 4 this season. Other than this I can’t see any benefit to missing the UCL.

Final Thoughts

With the way this season has gone and with the mess this team has become, I’ve at times, wondered if it would be best if Roma just missed the Champions League and went through a hard rebuild from scratch. Despite this, I still watch every match rooting for the Giallorossi to win. I could never bring myself to hope that Roma lose and with the way the table looks, I still am holding out hope that i Lupi finish Top 4.

They say love is blind and maybe my love of Roma is blinding me to the fact that this team is seriously flawed and needs to be torn down and built again from the ground up. I’d hate to see Roma miss the opportunity to qualify for the Champions League when it’s right there for the taking. I fear that missing out could be more harmful in the long run than helpful.

Poll

What would be best for Roma’s long term future?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Qualifying
    (531 votes)
  • 8%
    Not Qualifying
    (56 votes)
  • 7%
    Not sure, I’m Torn
    (46 votes)
633 votes total Vote Now