More often than not, it’s nice to take a break from transfer speculation and appreciate what you’ve got in-house. Today, Roma took the opportunity of a new July week to do just that and officially welcome full-back Leonardo Spinazzola to the Trigoria press room.
A 13:30 minute opening segment with Spinazzola was followed by a 18-minute segment with sporting director Gianluca Petrachi, which goes to show you can never truly keep the voices of the calciomercato away for too long.
Petrachi on pursuing Spinazzola:
“I think Spinazzola represents a little of that change of atmosphere that I based my first press conference on. He’s the prototype player on which the whole Roma team has to base itself on in the immediate future. A kid with important moral values, who’s come with an infectious enthusiasm and technical qualities that command respect.
I’m happy because I’ve followed this kid for several years. I have to be honest and tip my hat to my colleague [Juventus director Fabio] Paratici because, when he sent him to go play on loan at Perugia, he always told me Spinazzola could become the future of the Italian national team in that position. To be honest, I didn’t know [Spinazzola] very well at that time but, it being Fabio who I think highly of, I started following him.
Then throughout his growth, he’s shown Fabio saw something real. The kid has made some important strides that, today, have led him to come to Roma as a starting player. So I have big expectations of him and I know he’s a kid who can give us a big hand. From this point on, this biggest part depends on him.”
CdT Verdict: Well, as if we needed any further confirmation, Spinny is Roma’s starting left-back this year and pushes Kolarov to the bench. Spinazzola’s ear-to-ear smile rarely leaving his side says enough in itself. He really does raise the mood, and he’s willing to do this in his first week of training...
Spinazzola on Fonseca’s expectations of him:
“It’s been a beautiful week, and a good first week’s work. The coach has immediately made it clear what he is asking of us, how we will play, what he wants, what he would want. In every position he has given his instructions. To be honest, I like it very much because it’s a beautiful style to watch, a daring style, and a beautiful style to be a part of – for every single player in every role. We’re starting a second week and there’ll be two friendlies to test out what we’re trying in training.”
Spinazzola on Roma from the outside looking in:
“For me, Roma’s always been a big club and big place where there’s been great players and big teams trying to reach important goals. And playing at the Stadio Olimpico is always amazing, because of the stadium it is and the fans, and the warmth of the people that’s always been beautiful to face.”
Spinazzola on the chances of playing Right-back:
“I’ve always said that I feel more comfortable on the left, I’ve played there a lot more. But I haven’t talked yet with the coach about it, and this week he’s only ever played me on the left. But if there’s a need to play on the right I’m perfectly fine to play there, it is just a question of habits and working at it.”
(Here the journalist tries to ask a follow-up question on the mercato but Petrachi tells him he’s willing to ask all mercato questions only after Spinazzola has had his chance to introduce himself in full.)
Spinazzola on his March interview claiming he wants to play 10 years at Juve:
“No, I [don’t feel the need to prove a point to Juventus]. That’s the job: clubs and players make choices.
Roma were following me for a while and when I was asked if I would rather stay for another year and be a back-up or go and become a key player at Roma, I chose to come here to a big place. I believe I can improve a lot here.”
Spinazzola on differences between Roma and Juve culture:
“I think it’s too soon to jump to conclusions. A week ago I came here to a big organisation, training centre, setup... for now I haven’t noticed any differences. Let’s say I find both clubs on the same level.”
CdT Verdict: Ha, that’s a nice upbeat spin on it from Spinny. But there a few more trophies in the cabinet up North and - more importantly - a Juventus work ethic that often eludes Roma’s best intentions at Trigoria.
(Petrachi humorously chimes in here to say Spinazzola was welcomed to Roma by having his car broken into and his bag stolen, which is the famous Rome ‘welcome’ if you just leave your stuff in plain sight.)
Spinazzola on Higuain:
“(Smiles) I can’t speak on players. There’s the sporting director right alongside me. I hope Higuain’s well, I hope he’s well. That’s all.”
Spinazzola on whether he’s here to ttay:
“God works in mysterious ways but Roma is a big club and big team that I’ve always admired. That being said, every year there’s a job to do. There’s the bottom line, there’s everything. You never know what’s going to happen each year. But this year I’ve already got a dream and I hope that dream turns out to be true, that we reach the top with this team. And then there’s the Euros, so for us Italians it’s a very important window of opportunity and an important season ahead.”
Spinazzola on the new ‘Made In Italy’ Roma:
“Yeah I said that.
I said that the director, before I signed and before July, explained his and the club’s project. He told me there were important fundamentals to it, including more young players, Italian players. That’s an important thing in my opinion. And then there’s a lot to do with the new coach.
After that, winning is hard everywhere because there are well-prepared teams like Roma and others. So it’s a hard thing to do, but we’re all starting from zero and the pitch will tell us where we end up.”
Spinazzola on Buffon, Totti and De Rossi:
“I know Daniele well from our playing days with Italy together. I’ve never had to chance to know Totti. I knew him for just ten minutes this summer. They’re two big characters before being big Italian footballing legends. Beyond that, I can’t give my opinion as an outsider because you have to live it inside the dressing room to understand the dynamics.
I’m happy Buffon has gone back to Juventus because he’s always a credit to whichever place he goes. He’s an exceptional person for the group, on every level and I’m very happy.”
Spinazzola on differences between Fonseca and Allegri:
“Fonseca works very similarly to Gasperini. I’ve rediscovered a lot of tactical ideas like Gasperini’s, and they’re beautiful ideas. While Mister Allegri is a great coach, a great man-manager and I got along very well with him.”
Spinazzola on who’s made the biggest impression in training:
“The guy I play against on the same side of the pitch: Ünder. It’s one thing knowing him from before, but he’s impressed me in training and he’s a big player.
On Fonseca becoming a top coach? I’ll say again he has great ideas, and how he shapes teams is something I like a lot already. Time will tell.”
Petrachi on Mancini, Alderweireld and Veretout negotiations:
“First of all, I won’t single out names and I’ll just speak on areas of the team. With Manolas and Marcano leaving, naturally Roma needs central defenders. So our priority is to bring two central defenders to the coach.
We’re working on several fronts, we’ve got clear ideas on what we want to do and right now I hope to seal something official in the shortest amount of time. But singling out names wouldn’t be fair because it could be thought we’re after one player when we’re really after another so, for the sake of correctness, I don’t think it’d be right.”
CdT Verdict: Petrachi keeping his cards close to his chest here and, since this press conference, it’s emerged Veretout is nearly over the line as Roma’s fourth summer signing.
Petrachi on whether Pastore and Nzonzi will be sent packing:
“In reality, the coach has been very clear with us when we first agreed for him to come here. He asked for the chance to look at everyone close up, and then draw a line under it after a few days to understand who can really be a part of the technical project.
At the end of the day, you only really manage to judge players well once you’ve trained them yourself. And so, not being a part of our Italian league and being abroad, he’s certainly knows about them but didn’t have a full opinion on them.
So for those two players as well as others, I think we’ll take stock on which players can be a part of our team and which players will finish up on the transfer list towards the end of these fifteen days at Trigoria.”
CdT Verdict: Well, this is an important phase of judging Petrachi’s first summer at Roma coming up. I’ve tried to remain balanced about Petrachi so far but I can’t deny I liked everything I’ve seen and heard from him since he took the job - the circumstances under which he left Torino (and then hypocritically criticised Dzeko for the very same thing) being the only valid criticism made of him in Rome so far.
The honeymoon period is all well and good, yet it won’t change the fact Petrachi has only made around 22 million in combined plusvalenze and wage cuts until now, which will get wiped out by the Veretout signing if that goes ahead. Does that make us professional accountants? No. But it goes back to that old argument: Can you trim down the Roma squad to make sure you’re in a position to keep the team together for more than 12 months at a time? Even just keeping a first eleven for 2 straight years isn’t asking for something beyond Roma’s means.
So there’s plenty of work, and plenty of painful outgoing signings to be made, before we really get the full picture of the Petrachi era and what his priorities truly are.
Petrachi on Dzeko and Higuain negotiations:
“I’d reiterate that I won’t single out individual names today. In my first press conference, [I did it] as a way for [me and the press] to get to know one another and, above all, to explain my way of working.
But like you’re all understanding and seeing, I’m very quiet in what I do by default. I don’t like to talk or give the others the jump on me. I work in a very isolated way, I believe. I don’t communicate much, except with those who then have choices to make and who I have to answer to, which in this case is Guido Fienga. But for the rest, I won’t talk and I don’t want to talk on it.
Then if you talk to me about areas of the team, I’ll tell you that before someone asked me if we have to sign a midfielder and I think we definitely have to sign a midfielder. But talking about who we should sign and shouldn’t sign, that’s a game that’s only right for you all to play in the name feeding sales for the papers, and the system behind that (laughs). Which I respect a lot, but I’m of no help to you in this area.”
Petrachi on whether Zaniolo is for sale:
“Look, I have friends in the Corriere dello Sport including your director Ivan Zazzaroni (note: this is after the journalist says he chased Petrachi up on this question and got no answer until now) who’s a person I know. He presented me with an award in Milan this year, so there’s a top relationship between us.
As is usual, I say what I think. Meaning that in that moment where I challenged him like anyone would a son, I challenged Zaniolo with all the affection in the world. To come back to earth, after a certain point where maybe he went off track in terms of behaviour and professionalism. To come back and take responsibility a little and keep his feet on the ground as we say. At that point, it was said immediately that Petrachi has put Zaniolo up for sale. And that’s absolutely not true.
I have to work and look to bring Zaniolo to the best of his potential. So my work doesn’t stop at just doing the mercato, I’m a man who spends a lot of time on the pitch. I have a direct line to my players. I say “my players” because, after you see them every day it’s like they’re your brothers. I don’t say “mine” as if I’m that advanced in my years. I almost feel like I’ve still got my boots laced on.
But if we have to write an article on every word and sentence said... from Zazzaroni we went to Pedulla. Pedulla, the day after, published an article saying ‘Petrachi said this because Zaniolo’s on the way out.’ It’s not like that.
I understand you guys have to sell papers, but I’ve never put Zaniolo up for sale let alone said he’s on the market. When I was playing in my day, it was thought that Juventus could never sell Zidane and then they sold him. Or that a player could never leave a certain place, and then he did. Anything can happen on the transfer market. But if you ask me today if Zaniolo is on the market, he’s not on the market. Then, in life and especially in this sport, you’ve got to know how to value everything.”
(Petrachi goes on here to talk about Baldini and how he’ll never talk about this subject again, that Baldini is a big help to the club and is helping to save Roma money on paying a full release clause on a player.)
CdT Verdict: For a guy who claims he doesn’t like to talk much, Petrachi sure talks. So far he’s proving a guy that likes to cut promos and explain himself at length. I got tired of hearing him talk here, and he should get used to the fact Roma press are going to spin stories on every word he says before long, so just ignore it.
This whole response can be summed up with ‘everyone has a price’. Simple as.
Petrachi on whether Florenzi is for sale:
“Florenzi? Like I told you before, I already spoke about him in my first press conference. I said Florenzi is Roma’s captain and I’ve never put Florenzi on the market. Most of the players I transfer listed have already left, some of them are still here today but I’ve never called any club to say Florenzi is on the way out.
The market is open for every player. Sometimes when you get offers, you look at them. Generally speaking, I’d say we know who the pillars of this team are though. It’s not worth making the mistake of throwing caution to the wind, because there are certainties of every club that have to remain that way. So it’s no point fueling speculation that goes nowhere.”
CdT Verdict: I’ve no idea. Sounds like a long-winded way of saying Florenzi isn’t for sale. But then also is. Clearly he’s not above sinking into politician-talk here.
Petrachi on whether he’ll sign more than one midfielder:
“In reality, it’s easy to buy players. A good sporting director has to look to sell players too and balance the accounts with the players who don’t enter substantially into the project.
The moment we have to choose the players, like I told you earlier, who no longer play a part in our project at the end of these 15 days at Trigoria, I’ll definitely look to help them leave the club in every possible way and bring in some money.
It’s based on player sales, and if I have to have to keep a player who can’t find another team because that happens sometimes, I’m forced to make those choices... the moment a place gets freed up, if there’s a chance to bring in a strong young talent, to put them in the squad and grow their talent because they can have a big future with Roma, I’ll definitely do it willingly. That’s a little of my philosophy in how to approach football. But it always depends on the fact that right now I have a squad of 40 players.”
CdT Verdict: So the interest in players like Almendra is real and qualified, but the fat needs to get trimmed first.
Petrachi on which area of the team Roma’s next signing will be:
“Well, above all, I hope it’ll be in defence. Because I reiterate right now we have Juan Jesus and Fazio, and the other two of last season have left. We play with a four-man defence and we need four if not five central defenders. Right now we have Capradossi, who’s a player we’ll make sure plays somewhere. Right now we’re trying and the coach is trying to play Kolarov in the middle, but that’s not his natural position (smiles). So we’re a little light in that area.
So I think we’ll make sure, as soon as possible, to bring in at least one central defender for the coach in the immediate future. For the second defender, we’ll look at the opportunities on the market that come our way.
How many changes will we make to the squad? I’ll repeat it depends on what the coach tells us at the end of these training sessions on who he wants to keep. So I could give you a number today that won’t be exact by the end of it. Let’s say the idea of a big change exists, yes. I would like to be able to make some more changes, probably just to be able to keep creating that desire, that enthusiasm and that healthy competition that a new signing brings you. That freshness, that livelihood of Spinazzola is useful for the group. Because then the ambition, the desire to play for Roma, that enthusiasm that he brings to a place like ours - it definitely fuels so much.
There’s a few players who’ve spent time here who maybe prefer just to have a change, or they’ve have a few confrontations with teammates, that player who’s not happy then I’d prefer to help them leave. But sometimes you have to account for their transfer value, the wages of that player. It’s not simple. If it were up to me, let’s say I would change more. But the game isn’t simple even if we’ve got some room to work still.
I’d say we’re working in a certain direction, we’re doing well and there’s the desire and the awareness that we can change something. There’s that feeling that it’s ok to start over again that’s a feeling you can all relate to. And I hope, not with my words but with facts, that we’ll see the results.”
CdT Verdict: After this comes the second (maybe third) time Roma’s press officer tries to cut it short with the cue ‘let’s take the last question’. Petrachi keeps looking for ways to explain himself, and his eagerness will be the stake upon which the press hangs him on if it goes wrong.
I guess the most you can say here is Petrachi would like to do a complete squad turnover but will freely spend money before he ever looks to make it back, and we all know how that goes from the Sabatini days. Not always smoothly.
Petrachi on whether Fonseca asked not to sell some players at any cost:
“When I spoke with Fonseca, naturally we talked about it with the entire management. With Pallotta and Fienga. It’s normal there are players that we’re looking to build the team around. I won’t single out certain things here, but the coach definitely gave us guidelines. There are many players who he wanted to see train in person first.
As for whether I’ll be making a big signing to stir up the fans? I won’t say anything because it’s not worth saying anything. In my opinion, you need to work in silence and then take stock of what you’ve done at the end of the transfer market. The pitch will tell us everything.
Sometimes there’s a player who comes with big expectations and then they’ll disappoint you. Sometimes there’s a player who comes without any expectations, but you see them in a team that plays in a certain way, with such enthusiasm that it just smacks away any pessimism. At the end of the day, I think that’s what we have to work on achieving.
There have been so many promises made in the past, and I’m not here to make any promises. I’ve always said from the first day, and I’ll stay in line with what I said, that I hope the fans can see a different kind of Roma from the very first day of the season.”
CdT Verdict: So, no Schick or Nzonzi megabucks signings in August then.
Petrachi once described his first Torino team he put together as guys who were labelled “pee-ons” by the media, and went onto surprise everybody. I’d be perfectly fine with that myself. Give us 12 honest months of Fonseca football and that’s more than good enough for now.
(Petrachi ends the press conference by saying he sent a personal message already but understands it couldn’t be answered among the many the recepient of that message received this week; Petrachi wants to publicly wish former Roma player and former Torino manager Sinisa Mihajlovic a healthy recovery.)