European competition is the lifeblood of any major football club. The additional revenue it provides, the additional viewership it can provide, and the prestige of playing against some of the world’s biggest clubs is enough to make an owner’s eyes water. For a smaller club, getting to participate in Europe can be a moment of arrival, or at the very least a nice cash windfall; for a larger club, European competition is almost more important than league play. How many times have you heard a Juventus fan be disappointed in their season because they didn’t win the Champions League and Serie A?
Despite the allure of European cups on the whole, the allure is not evenly divided between the Champions League and the Europa League. This certainly makes a lot of sense; the Europa League is the junior cup; it provides less exposure, less prize money, and less prestige than the Champions League; it can send a club halfway across Europe only to play a tiny club from a lesser-known Eastern European nation. Yet the way Roma and Romanisti have treated the Europa League in years past leaves much to be desired. Interviews from players and fans on Twitter look down on the Europa League, seeing it either as a waste of time or beneath a club like Roma. That’s a huge mistake.
Make no mistake, Roma is a big club; it’s no Barcelona, but it’s still a tier above even the likes of Fiorentina. But take a look at the winners of the Europa League in recent years and you can see that the list is littered with clubs bigger than Roma. Chelsea, Manchester United, Atletico Madrid; all of these clubs have decided that it’s worth giving a damn about the Europa League, despite having followings that match or dwarf Roma’s.
In addition, if Roma has designs on returns to the Champions League, the Europa League offers a guaranteed spot in the group stages for the winner of the cup. Considering the growing strength of Juventus, Napoli, and both Milan clubs, Roma would be prudent to actively pursue each and every possibility it can to retain a spot in the Champions League. Add in the recent buyout of Fiorentina by American billionaire Rocco Commisso, and it’s clear that it will only get harder for Roma to waltz into a Champions League spot just through Serie A results. For a club that often struggles to maintain a winning mentality, baby steps have to be made to make sure that every match is treated with the respect it deserves.
Finally, it’s important to remember that playing in any European competition is a big incentive for players looking to move upwards in the world of football. Just as Roma wants to become a bigger name in European football, any young player with dreams of becoming a superstar will want a chance to shine in a European cup competition. Just ask Nicolo Zaniolo what happens when you find success on the European stage. Even if you want to look at Roma from a purely financial perspective, with most transfers simply an attempt to get the highest plusvalenza possible, the valuation of any player will likely increase if they are given the chance to play in a European cup competition, even the Europa League. If Roma wants to move past the biannual fretting over Financial Fair Play, caring about all European competitions would be an excellent first step.
With the recent development that Milan’s Financial Fair Play violations have pushed the Giallorossi out of the play-in stages and into a guaranteed berth in the Europa League group stage, Roma’s European journey for the 2019-2020 season just got a little easier. Roma’s management, players, and tifosi would be wrong to see the Europa League as a competition barely worth participating in; if Roma gives 100% in each match, it will create financial and mental dividends for the club in the short and long term.