Roma's much ballyhooed sale to Dan Friedkin was finally completed earlier this week and is expected to be made official by August 31st. While we don't know much about Friedkin’s motivations for purchasing Roma, nor his subsequent goals for the club and its associated businesses, after nearly ten months of negotiation, seeing the official press release was quite a relief to Roma fans.
If Friedkin were a free spending oil sheikh, we'd be free to let our mind wander towards the sight of Kylian Mbappe and Kevin De Bruyne moving to Roma for, I don't know, half a billion euros? Thus far, we've been given no indication that Roma are about to be come a latter day PSG, but Friedkin does have considerable personal wealth, but will that translate to a more glamorous squad next season and beyond or are we set up for more of the same?
Just what exactly should Roma fans expect from Dan Friedkin?
1. Don’t dissect it too much—what is your initial reaction to this takeover? Are you excited? Nervous? Neither? Both? Gassy perhaps?
Bren: I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve been on record in other places expecting this to be a lateral move, so that’s where my head is at as we enter the first weeks and months of the transition from Pallotta to Friedkin. While he may have greater personal wealth, I’m not sure that will matter much in the immediate sense, but I don’t think anything will regress in the interim. I think the key to this all is the extent to which the debt has been erased. If he can essentially start with a clean slate, he’ll have a chance to build on and improve what Pallotta achieved and establish his own legacy as the saviour of the club.
dallagente: I’ll be expecting more of the same old, same old until proven otherwise. I’m looking at this like the club buys time just to stay above water, and banking on a stadium getting greenlit.
Jimmy: I think it’s a step in the right direction for Romanisti. The past few years have been weird for Roma, if only because the aspirations that the entire Romaverse had for the club couldn’t be realized (mainly for financial reasons). A bigger piggy bank to play with makes me optimistic, and changing the man at the top seems like it might make Roma’s quest for a new stadium become reality, too.
JonAS: I’d like to take a Terminator stance here and be neither optimistic or nervous, angry or excited, just indifferent about the whole situation. It stays under American ownership and the stadium still is gonna be a mess to get it done. And I don’t expect Roma to immediately compete with PSG, Man City or Barcelona during the mercato. But perhaps a new fresh face could work wonders, a new approach and style. Friedkin sure has cojones of steel to take over this club. Quite frankly, maybe if it was a Qatar offer then I would be more anxious or moved because it would have meant a significant increase of Roma’s budget.
ssciavillo: I’m also cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping that with more money behind the club that Roma will be able to get out the financial mess that its been in. However, long term, Friedkin will have to get the stadium in order for Roma to grow into a truly competitive club on the world stage.
2. Rampant speculation time: Why do you think Friedkin, who has no other sports dealings, was so anxious to purchase Roma? And does that lack of sporting experience concern you as a fan?
Bren: Well, I know his family has dabbled in film production, or at least the financing thereof, so in that light, this makes sense; sports are entertainment, after all. My only concern is that he will have the same false assumptions Pallotta seemed to have regarding the differences between business in America vs business in Italy. Nothing is quite as linear in Italy as it is elsewhere, so I hope he’s prepared for things to move at a snail’s pace.
As far as why Roma, who really knows? Despite all the hiccups along the way, Pallotta seems set to make a pretty healthy profit, so even if Friedkin can maintain the status quo for a decade, he should come out ahead, barring any unforeseen disasters.
dallagente: I’m at least familiar with Pallotta’s world, having (so briefly and unspectacularly) worked in venture capital myself. Friedkin’s world is more alien to me. At first I felt like Friedkin is a money-is-no-object kind of guy who’s legacy-chasing, but I’ve calmed down a lot since we first all talked about this.
Jimmy: Agree with dalla here, this is about building a legacy and getting some pride points for Friedkin. Which is a good thing for Romanisti - he’ll want to win, and I imagine he’ll be fine with dropping a pretty penny to do so.
Bren: You think? I thought that with Pallotta because he had the Italian-American connection. Friedkin has the money, he could easily scoop up a Premiership team and chase headlines. I’m still confused about this, but I think he sees that Pallotta was able to make a mint without really have to do too much.
JonAS: Well, Roma and more specifically the city of Rome and its surroundings still have a certain appeal and status to the rest of the world. It’s a well-known city, has a lot of ancient history, buildings, fame etc. It’s a whole different environment than say Manchester, Liverpool, München or Barcelona. There’s a fiery fanbase and room for improvement so from a commercial point of view, it’s an interesting buy. A new modern stadium with a shopping mall for example could rocket Roma back to the top alongside Juve and Inter. I’m not concerned about Friedkin’s lack of experience in Serie A, he’ll surround him with professionals to make this deal work. He’s no morron otherwise he wouldn’t have reached the top.
ssciavillo: It is interesting to see him jump into the world of calcio when he has no other significant dealings in sports. Many Americans that have purchased European football clubs have had some ties to American sports like the Glazers at Man U, Stan Kroenke at Arsenal, Pallotta at Roma, etc. But I do think Roma does have a different appeal than some other clubs for someone like Friedkin because Rome, like JonAS pointed out, has so much to offer. I don’t worry about the lack of sporting experience because it really all comes down to putting the right people in the right positions. If he does this then he’ll succeed.
3. Roma are facing a variety of sporting and financial challenges at the moment, but what is the first thing Friedkin must address to set Roma on a successful path?
Bren: The first thing he ABSOLUTELY must do is pick a leadership group (manager, DS and some sort of day-to-day business guy) and stick with them. The constant shuffling of philosophies over the past nine years undermined whatever progress the club managed to achieve. So, if we have to slip back into Roma: Year Zero-Redux, so be it. No matter who he picks, just give them time and space to get it right.
dallagente: I agree, better yet just confirm all the people already there. Maybe he wants Ryan Friedkin as his liaison, someone who he trusts. But Fienga seems a good CEO and Paulo Fonseca is worth at least a proper three-year run.
Jimmy: Get rid of the Hyundai sponsorship. On a more serious note, he needs to make sure that he can keep the band together. No more rapid firings, just let the project develop over time. It took a while for Jurgen Klopp to turn Liverpool into a titan of the game; I think Fonseca could do something similar at Roma, but he needs time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will Friedkin’s Roma.
JonAS: Bring back Totti and De Rossi as counsellors, Sabatini as DS, Spalletti as T1 and Zeman as T2. Take a picture of all of them next to Friedkin, open Facebook/Instagram, write the subtitle ‘We’re back, bitchezzz” and hit ‘post online’. Then just enjoy the ride.
ssciavillo: I agree that the leadership group has to be first and foremost. I hope he keeps guys like Fonseca around and lets him try and build something over the next few seasons. Like the others pointed out, there has to be some continuity to build a winner. The rumors of a Petrachi return are interesting. I’d be curious to see what he could build with Fonseca after a fairly successful pair of mercatos this past season.
4. Going along with that, what is one thing (or one area) in which Friedkin must succeed where James Pallotta failed/struggled?
Bren: As important as his personnel selection will be, it has to be the stadium, right? I still don’t think a new building will be a panacea, but it is a critical part of the plan and the one component that plagued Pallotta throughout his near decade-long reign in Rome. I would assume Friedkin is aware of the situation and wouldn’t proceed without some confidence in respect to the Stadio della Roma, but I’m eager to hear his plan for getting it built.
dallagente: Wages and transfer fees grew way beyond what Pallotta gambled, during his time in Rome. So please let it be true that Friedkin is wiping out the 30-million-a-year loan repayments. Bring down the expenses, and move the club away from being dependent on player sales to settle the wage bill each summer. I think with the sporting continuity we get from taking financial pressure off the club, we can put together another Champions League run.
Jimmy: It’s the stadium, plain and simple. Until that gets solved, Roma’s cash flow won’t reach its maximum potential, and odds are the Giallorossi will continue to be left in the dust by Juve and any other club that can make a modern stadium a reality.
JonAS: I’m more eager to follow dallagente than Bren or Jimmy on this one. The stadium is one of the priorities yes, but the huge wage bill/these transfer fees have been damaging Roma for years now. Pastore, Jesus, Bianda, Kalinic, Defrel, Coric etc. Too many people are getting paid too much money, it’s ridiculous. It’s time for smarter deals, reduced wages. Hell, throw in some more Primavera products to decrease the costs. I’d gladly accept a top 6 finish for a season or two but with a stable, healthy club with its own identity than selling all your best assets after each season and switching between CL and places 8-10 in Serie A.
ssciavillo: My initial knee-jerk reaction was to go with the stadium, too. And I do think a stadium is of the utmost importance. However, dallagente makes a great point. Being a selling club sucks. We talked about continuity in the previous question, but if you are always selling you can’t really have continuity. I mean look at Lazio this season. Their ability to retain players like Milinkovic-Savic, Luis Alberto, Ciro Immobile, and Francesco Acerbi, as well as, manager Simone Inzaghi made them a Scudetto contender. Imagine if Roma was able to keep players like Alisson and Salah around for a 4-5 year period with a consistent manager. Perhaps, the Lupi could’ve been a more consistent threat to Juve. So, with that in mind, controlling the wage bill and not having to sell off top talent each year is of the utmost importance. I’ll call that 1a and the stadium 1b.
5. Beyond the coach and DS, there are rumors Friedkin will staff Roma’s front office with players, coaches and executives from the recent past. Is that a sound idea or merely hopeful nostalgia?
dallagente: I think this story came about from Umberto Gandini’s cryptic tweet, “a team cannot be considered great if the board behind them isn’t great too.” No one knew whether he was talking about his time as director of Milan, or his short-lived stint at Roma. At Milan, they went with Boban and Maldini (along with Leonardo briefly) to win trust back with the fans, so the clamour is for Roma to do something similar. Boniek, Nela and other Roma players from the glory years of the 80s have come forward to say they’d answer Friedkin’s call.
Bren: Well, I don’t pretend to be an expert on the pool of football executive talent in Italy, but I’m not sold that bringing back Totti or Capello or anyone from the Sensi days will amount to anything other than a PR play, which, as you hinted, might be necessary. I would just have to wonder where Totti’s head is at now that he’s got a scouting agency, but reaching way back to folks from Rosella’s days doesn’t seem like the best move.
Jimmy: I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bring in a couple of familiar faces - one of the biggest regular criticisms of Pallotta was that he didn’t understand Romanisti. Having DDR or Totti or Capello in the management circle (doing real work) might help him avoid the ire of Romanisti. I don’t think it’ll actually do much for the club if it were to pass beyond image concerns, but so much of football is image concerns.
JonAS: It could be a smart move to win over the most skeptical fans from the start. But that means nothing if the results won’t follow quickly. So yeah, I would be thrilled to welcome back familiar faces or icons from the past, but only if Friedkin sincerely means it and they get some serious power and responsibility, not just as PR propaganda.
ssciavillo: I agree that I don’t know how much it would move the needle on the pitch, but it would be a great PR win to bring back guys like Totti and De Rossi, who were in a way, exiled by Pallotta. I think the way those situations, especially De Rossi’s, were handled was one of Pallotta’s biggest failures with the club. So, bringing them back would certainly score Friedkin plenty of brownie points with the supporters.
6. The last two Roma administrations put on a brave face, but a recent report pointed out the club is carrying over €260M in debt. How in the world can Friedkin overcome that and/or avoid repeating that?
dallagente: As far as I know, the biggest part of that debt is owed to Goldman Sachs. I may easily be wrong, but Goldman could leave the scene once Friedkin arrives. The problem is Roma spends more money than it makes. Even if they wipe out the debt, they need a plan not to go right back into the red.
Bren: Well, I suppose we’ll have to wait and see, but fiscal solvency should be near the top of his to-do list, but if any shred of that remains, we’re in deep doo-doo. I’d be more concerned that the conditions that created that debt in the first place haven’t been ameliorated; those seem almost systemic.
Jimmy: Cash Rules Everything Around Me, C.R.E.A.M. get the money, dollar dollar bills y’all. The Friedkin Group has the money to make all those debt concerns go away quickly; it’ll be a positive sign if they wipe that debt away with the purchase of the club, as dalla mentioned.
JonAS: Just sell some more Toyota’s and we’ll be fine. But don’t look at me because damn, those are hideous cars.
ssciavillo: My understanding is that the debt being paid off is part of the sale terms. If that happens then it just comes down to the club being run with more fiscal responsibility. Hopefully that happens, and Roma spends within its mean. If he can then get a stadium and Roma have consistent Champions League football then spending can increase.
7. Short-term question: Three years from now, where is Roma and what are we saying about Friedkin?
dallagente: In three years, I’m writing an indignant piece on the de-Dzekoficazzione of Roma. How he was forced out of the club and refused any offer of a director’s role on his own terms. Dzeko delivers a press conference in Sarajevo throwing the board under the bus; it doesn’t make any headlines because Friedkin re-signs Alisson back to Rome, after the Brazilian keeper suffered a torn rotator cuff during his time at Liverpool and is unable to do the old javelin throws on the counter.
Bren: Haha, I know you’re being facetious, but that’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Three years from now I hope Roma have weaned themselves off of spending €30M+ on Juve rejects and have a solid crew of five to six players around whom to build. Maybe that foundation is Pellegrini, Diawara, Zaniolo, Riccardi and Cristian Totti and Roma finish the 2022-2023 season in fourth and look set to make a run towards the mid 2020s. As far as Texas Toyota Man is concerned, I hope we’ll say he’s a quiet but supportive owner.
Jimmy: I’ll have what bren’s having. But beyond that, I want the stadium to be in the construction phase, and I want Roma to develop more of a backbone when it comes to keeping star talent. If Zaniolo or another superstar talent is sold for peanuts under the Friedkin Group, I’ll be exasperated, to say the least.
JonAS:I think at least one Coppa Italia should be the minimum. Semifinal that is. Everything else is a bonus.
ssciavillo: I agree with bren and Jimmy. I really hope Roma keeps its foundation of young talent centered around Zaniolo, Diawara, Pellegrini, and Mancini. Building around that group with the right players can lead to success. Will Roma win a title in the next three years? Probably not, but I think it will have them closer. As for Friedkin, I hope he’s present at the stadium a bit more than Pallotta, but doesn’t meddle much in the sporting aspects. Put the right men in charge and support them.
8. Long-term question: Ten years from now, where is Roma and what are we saying about Friedkin?
dallagente: Twelve coaches fired in ten years. A Roma in-house documentary filmed and distributed by Dan Friedkin covers the one high-profile coach - Carlo Ancelotti’s son Davide - that brought Roma a Coppa Italia trophy, among the wreckage.
Bren: Wow, you’re going dark on these. I love it. Let’s see, ten years from now we’ll be in the tail end of the 2029-2030 season (Jesus), Roma will finally have opened up the Stadio della Roma, which will never actually be the name because the rights will be sold to Toyota or maybe Tesla by that point.
After Paulo Fonseca was sacked following the 2019-2020 season, Luciano Spalletti returns for one final go-around, can’t finish higher than second and is replaced by Daniele De Rossi in, let’s say, 2023. DDR takes to coaching like a duck to water and delivers the club a title in the spring of 2025. Led by an aging but effective Kylian Mbappe, Gianluca Mancini, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Lil’ Totti, Roma are a mainstay in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
We’re not PSG a decade from now, but we’re at least on par with the mid-00s Inter Milan. Friedkin never learns a lick of Italian but he’s cheered whenever he shows up at Stadio della Toyota.
Jimmy: As Serie A becomes more available in America, I want Roma to develop a major following worldwide off the back of beautiful kits, unique history, and good results on the pitch. I think that’s attainable, and I can imagine that’s one of Friedkin’s main goals in purchasing the club. Roma right now is on the verge of being a super-club (not in terms of cash, but in terms of renown). I think that with the right purchases and some luck, Roma can become one of those super-clubs. That starts by Roma entrenching itself as the not-Juve of Serie A. Mid-2000s Inter is a great comparison, and one that I hope can be achievable while maintaining a Roman/Italian core. As for Mbappe, I’d definitely love a player of his quality to play at the club (and I think Zaniolo has the potential to get there), but I’m personally hoping that the next great Italian striker is how we replace Dzeko. I have no idea who that might be, but hey, I’m not Roma's D.S. Maybe he’s in our youth academy already.
JonAS: Oh c’mon, in ten years I’ll be married, divorced, have a house and three kids so I won’t be able to follow AS Roma anymore, which extends my life expectancy with 10 years.
ssciavillo: Ten years is a long time, but as we all know, it’ll likely fly by. As long as Friedkin gets the Stadio della Toyota, I think Roma will grow into a much more competitive club. With consistent better results in the Champions League and better exposure worldwide (credit Pallotta for getting this aspect moving), Roma will be a more consistent threat to Juve and the fanbase will grow worldwide. People around the world will know Zaniolo, the same way they knew Totti. With the right vision and without the debt, Roma will retain (Zaniolo) and buy the right players (next great striker) allowing them to be a top level team year-after-year. Hopefully, there will be consistent top 4 finishes, a couple more deep Champions League runs, and a Coppa title or two. But, most of all, I hope they win a damn Scudetto in that time. I’ve been a fan for 15 years and haven’t seen one yet. Another 10 years without one would be tough.
9. Lastly, you have to give Friedkin one piece of Roma-related advice: What is it and why?
dallagente: Don’t panic-fire people. Let the sporting guys take care of the sport at the club.
Jimmy: There’s a really cool speakeasy in Rome called The Jerry Thomas Project. Worth a visit.
Bren: Don’t trust the mayor, but...uh...tell her I said hi.
JonAS: If someone asks you about Simone Loria, just say he was a great actor in La Vita è Bella.
ssciavillo: Patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day. For Roma to conquer European football, it’ll take time.