While Paulo Fonseca is busy preparing for the second leg of Roma's Round of 32 Europa League fixture against Braga tomorrow, the Italian press is busy finding his next employer. No, this isn't a story about Fonseca getting sacked for poor performance. Quite the opposite in fact. With Roma in the thick of the top four hunt and on the precipice of reaching the Europa League Round of 16 for the second-straight year, Paulo Fonseca seems to be riding high in the Italian capital.
There's just one small problem: his contract expires in four months. When Roma tabbed Fonseca as their next manager in the summer of 2019, they only offered him a two-year deal. When you consider the fact that Roma spent most of that summer chasing big fish like Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte for the bench, not to mention the fact that Fonseca was making the biggest jump of his managerial career, Roma were right to exercise caution with their new manager.
While it wasn't made public at the time, we've since learned that Fonseca has an option for a third year built into his deal, one that kicks in automatically if he guides Roma to the Champions League. With 44 points through 23 matches, Roma are five points ahead of last season's pace but are in the middle of a five-team tussle for Italy's final two Champions League places (the first two seem safe in the hands of AC Milan and Inter Milan), so a return to Europe's big dance is far from assured.
But, according to the Corriere dello Sport, that may not matter if a certain Spanish club comes calling:
#Roma, il futuro di #Fonseca in bilico: Real Madrid e Benfica lo seguono https://t.co/1C29nbW4Uw— Corriere dello Sport (@CorSport) February 24, 2021
In a report published early Wednesday morning, the CdS speculates that Real Madrid (and possibly Benfica) are keeping tabs on Fonseca and his future with Roma. While Zinedine Zidane has carved out his own little niche in Madrid's coaching annals, Zizou may not be long for the Real bench, meaning one of the best gigs in football may soon be available.
Despite some intermittent calls for his job in the Roman press, Fonseca remains highly thought of (and apparently highly sought after) in footballing circles. In fact, the CdS cites an unspecified Roma player who, shortly after the club signed Fonseca in 2019, predicted that he would be coaching Madrid within three years.
The CdS doesn't speculate what might happen if Roma qualifies for the Champions League (triggering the third year of Fonseca's deal in the process) and Madrid still comes calling, but wouldn't it be oh so Roma for a coach they didn't want in the first place, one who was close to being pushed out as recently as January, to revive the club and then bolt for greener pastures?
We nearly saw this same scenario unfold in 2018 when Eusebio Di Francesco, fresh off orchestrating Roma's epic comeback over Barcelona in the Champions League, flirted with Premiership offers (Chelsea in particular) only to remain in Rome. We all remember how that turned out (he was sacked in the spring of 2019), so we can't really assume that Fonseca will follow suit—clubs like Madrid don't come calling every day.
Of course, this could all be nonsense and Madrid may have someone else lined up as Zidane's successor, but the fact that this rumor persists speaks volumes to Fonseca's standing in coaching circles.
Madrid or no Madrid, Champions League or not, Roma may be staring managerial uncertainty in the face once again.