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Paulo Fonseca Contract Renewal in the Works?

What was almost unthinkable six weeks ago now seems all but a certainty.

Paulo Fonseca head coach of As Roma look on before the... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

Circle back to the summer of 2017. Roma had just completed their sixth season under James Pallotta's stewardship as club owner and President. Led by Luciano Spalletti, Roma just put the finishing touches on a record breaking campaign, one in which the Giallorossi set new marks for points and goals scored in a season. With an attack fueled by Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy and a midfield buttressed by Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan, the future looked incredibly bright. Or so it seemed.

Thanks in part to his, shall we say contentious, relationship with Francesco Totti, Spalletti soon found life in Rome untenable and left the club of mutual accord in May of 2017, a mere two days after the season finished. Spalletti's departure would soon be followed by Totti's “retirement” and the sales of Salah, Antonio Rüdiger and Emerson Palmieri.

Into this void stepped Eusebio Di Francesco, a former Roma player and one of most highly regarded young managers in Italy thanks to his performances with Sassuolo. EDF's first season at the helm was a dizzying concoction of domestic disappointment (see practically all of December 2017 and January 2018) and European elation.

However, with key players like Alisson Becker and Radja Nainggolan stripped from his roster and underachievers like Patrik Schick and Steven Nzonzi brought into the fold, EDF's second season in charge ended prematurely in March of 2019.

Roma then handed the unenviable task of qualifying for the Champions League to Claudio Ranieri. With only 12 matches to play and a three point deficit to erase—as well as staying ahead of four clubs who were three points within Roma—Ranieri's task was exceedingly difficult. But with a 6-4-2 (W-D-L) record, Ranieri did as well as anyone could have under the circumstances but was ultimately not brought back for the ‘19-’20 season.

Okay, so why are we mentioning all of that in an article ostensibly dedicated to Paulo Fonseca's contract extension?

Simple. After leaning back into the past for three consecutive hires (Spalletti, EDF, Ranieri), Roma decided to chart a completely different path in their search for the ninth manager of the Pallotta era.

Eschewing nostalgia, Roma went for the moon, courting Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte for their managerial gig. Both candidates came with enormous financial requirements, but both candidates were proven, championship-winning managers and would have been a tremendous signal of intent from Roma's increasingly beleaguered owner. When you hire a Mourinho or Conte, there's no messing about, your aspirations are clear: title or bust.

We'll never know the extent to which either of those pursuits were legitimate, but kudos to Roma for aiming high. But once Conte signed with Inter in May of 2019—and Mourinho playing coy and sitting out until November of that year before signing with Spurs—Roma decided to go for an outside hire, tabbing Paulo Fonseca as their new manager on June 11, 2019.

With no ties to the league, the club or the city whatsoever, Fonseca truly was a breath of fresh air; the club's first real outside hire since Rudi Garcia in 2013. Despite that approach, Paulo Fonseca struggled during his first season in charge, never truly convincing observers that his brand of football could succeed in Italy.

While Fonseca's tenure got off to a decent enough start (full points in eight of his first fifteen matches), the Man From Mozambique soon felt the ire of the Roma fans and media during the early days of 2020 when the Giallorossi hit the skids, dropping points in six of seven matches to start the new year.

But once the league shutdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Fonseca had the luxury of time: time to re-evaluate what was and was not working. Shifting to a new formation, Fonseca seemingly unlocked the key to Roma's success in the restart, rattling off a stretch in which the club won eight of twelve matches to end the extended 2019-2020 season.

Despite that renewed sense of optimism, with a change in ownership Fonseca's grip on the position seemed to weaken, especially with Scudetto winning candidates like Maurizio Sarri and Max Allegri lurking in the background.

But here we are, seven weeks into the new season, and not only has Fonseca remained on the bench, he's proving to be one of the success stories of the new season. If we remove the Verona points deduction from the equation (the appeal of which will be decided this week), Fonseca is currently riding a stretch in which he's taken positive points from 18 of 19 matches in all competitions, with Roma's 2-0 loss to Sevilla in the Europa League Round of 16 standing as the only defeat since Round 31 of last season.

All of which brings us to this extremely buried lede: Roma are considering extending Paulo Fonseca's contract, which is set to expire in June 2021. While Fonseca signed a two-year deal in the summer of 2019, the club included an option for a third year into the deal, one which Il Tempo speculates they are planning on exercising, if not outright extending a new deal to their 47-year-old manager, which may happen once the Europa League group stage is complete.

It would be quite the turnaround for a guy who seemed destined to be replaced as recently as a month ago, but you can't argue with results; Fonseca has proven to be adaptable, efficient and effective.

And what more could Roma's new ownership group ask for? Give this guy an actual Director of Sport to work with and a few additional pieces and see what he can really do.

Fonseca wasn't their first choice, but he's proving to be the correct choice.