It’s another in the basement department of Totti Today. Sometimes we do profound thoughts on Hannah Arendt, sometimes we do clickbait. On a really lucky week, we get to mix a little of both. Here’s the best of the salacious rumours flying around Roma and Italy this week.
Roma Should Sign Gianluca Mancini’s Fouling Doppelganger
Hey, FFP bills need to get paid eventually. With Roma defender Gianluca Mancini’s recent form putting him firmly on the radar of clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, PSG and Juventus (all reported this week alone), it was only by watching Turkey’s Star TV (as I assume all Italian football sporting directors do when planning their transfer campaign strategy), that it dawned on me how Roma could replace Gianluca Mancini and not royally upset the fanbase in the process: Sign Sergio Ramos.
Star TV’s hit-show Sefirin Kızı (“The Ambassador’s Daughter”) managed to upset their fans by trying a mid-season replacement of their own. Faced with a situation that couldn’t be helped—their female lead Neslihan Atagül falling victim to leaky-gut syndrome in real life—the show was forced to write out the biggest character, and take the awkward step of replacing her with actor Tuba Büyüküstün. That left the show going through a strange mid-season plot change, where main hero Sancar went from literally chasing the love of his life for years, to falling in love with another women in less than a month.
Some people might say such a plot reflects real life.
But fans were livid, accussing the show of cashing in on Büyüküstün and Akyürek’s former success as an on-screen couple in years gone by; the abuse the show’s producers are getting on social media is still going as we speak. But Roma can curtail any abuse of their own by simply signing Sergio Ramos this summer, and maybe even getting him to legally change his name (lest we be accused of wanting to go back to Mussolini’s era where this was the custom).
He looks like Mancini, plays like Mancini, leads like Mancini. Sergio Ramos has made a career out of being so good that he doesn’t need to foul you to win the ball of off you, but he’ll foul you anyway. Why? Because he can.
It’s much the same for Gianluca Mancini. His defending and aggression is only outdone by his excellent vision on the ball. The only way Roma could one-up this plan of mine is to keep Mancini at the club (highly advisable in any case), AND sign Sergio Ramos as his defensive partner. Label it the Two-Man Power Trip and let’s get this show on the road.
Andrea Agnelli Reckons Only Dinosaurs Watch Football
The business of football is on the slide. We’ve known that long before Andrea Agnelli decided to use it as a talking point in his speech as acting president of the Association of European Clubs this week.
The AEC (or ECA if you’re Italian) meet up for the 25th time since it’s inception, this week. And their main talking point is almost always the same thing: Do we really still put up with UEFA taking a cut of our money as the promoter? Or do we finally break away and make our own Champions League?
Agnelli used this week to tell his fellow
Sith leaders chairmen that football is getting less and less popular among the youngest generations, with as much as 40% of 16-24 year olds surveyed claiming they have absolutely no interest in watching football. To some degree, this is to be expected.
The business of football has expanded to the point where it can afford to canvas more people’s opinion than ever before. Spending is relatively out of control, and we know that when people like Marcelo Bielsa come out and admit that his coaching staff often don’t even know why they’re getting paid, and come up with tasks to do simply to justify have a job title. In any industry, an expansion (a sustained one like football’s over the last four decades) must be followed by people tightening their belts for the business to survive, eventually.
That day is coming for football and soon. Bielsa’s own words reminded me of Steve Stoute’s decision to leave his cushy job at Interscope records, at the height of hip-hop music’s commercial popularity in the early 2000s. Stoute simply justified his decision by claiming he looked around his office and saw managers who didn’t even know why they were collecting a salary for signing the latest artist. Stoute left to go independent and, within a matter of years, his prophecy came true as hip hop has never been the same since.
Football has got to think about the same thing today, if not yesterday. Because it’s one thing for me, as a 35-year-old, to not be interesting in picking up a Zaniolo replica shirt for hundreds of euros. That can easily be explained in marketing terms as me being old, bitter and resentful of Zaniolo’s popularity with women. But if my 16-year-old self can’t be swayed into buying a Zaniolo shirt, then Roma is really screwed after having signed that backend-heavy deal with New Balance, which could be looking like Roma should have held out for more security up front.
Lorenzo Pellegrini is Leading All Sorts of Stats, But Does It Matter?
Here’s the thing about Lorenzo Pellegrini: He is an excellent rifinitore (or final-third player), when the game plays to Roma’s strengths. But Roma is a club that seeks to be stronger in the near future; as in 4th-place minimum or higher. That’s a result that Roma has never achieved with Lorenzo Pellegrini as a first-team regular at the club. So something has to change.
To Pellegrini’s credit, he has been taking the responsibility of changing on his own shoulders and not waiting on Roma to come up with the answers for him. His defending and blocking passing lanes has improved, as has his all-round anticipation. His ability to make himself open to receive the ball has improved to the point where he’s the 4th-most sought out Roma player to pass the ball to by teammates (behind Mkhitaryan, Mancini and Veretout—though that stat hasn’t been adjusted for playing time).
Daniele De Rossi even openly said as much this season, claiming that Pellegrini has now changed his attitude and evolved into more of a leader through his play on the pitch, which reveals a lot about how De Rossi used to see Pellegrini’s play as a fellow teammate. Now Pellegrini has already equalled, in early March of this season, the number of team goals he’s been involved in for the whole of last season. To top it off, Pellegrini racked up a UEFA Europa League Team of the Week appearance thanks to his great performance against Shakhtar.
It goes without saying that Roma are lucky to have a player like Lorenzo Pellegrini on the roster, but that’s avoiding the real questions of how Roma improve as a team. Because all Pellegrini has to do is look over to his left and see an elite player in teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan, or other teammates who can handle the ball under pressure in tight spaces like Gianluca Mancini, Roger Ibanez, Gonzalo Villar and Amadou Diawara.
Mancini, Ibanez and Villar in particular have been doing twice the work of others in trying to stretch games for Roma this season. The club is aware it doesn’t have much money for any truly technically gifted attackers up front (signing Mkhitaryan on a free transfer was minor miracle that will never happen again), so Fonseca placed the responsibility on the backline players to try and bait opponents onto them, in order to let guys like Lorenzo Pellegrini shine on the counter.
It’s no coincidence that the way Shakhtar played (high line, compact team that can be convinced to leave spaces behind their defence to goal) brings out a bread-and-butter performance from Pellegrini. There was plenty of space to run into. But it won’t be long before Roma hits that familiar wall in Serie A, of teams who just choose to defend deep week-after-week against them. And when that happens, we’ll be crying for more Mkhitaryans. Will players like Pellegrini manage to make the difference then? Until that question is answered, it’s an asset to have Pellegrini on the team as “One Of”, but it’s long since time to give up judging him as the potential to be “The One”.
I do think Pellegrini has it in him to improve even more. His touch in recent difficult games against Udinese was good in tight spaces with his back to goal (a scenario where he usually choose to dive under pressure and look to the ref for help), so it’s by no means a story with a foregone conclusion. It just isn’t that interesting a story to begin with, but maybe because I’m not Roman and I could care less about club captains being Roman.
Just make sure the captain is a good player, and make him a graduate of the club’s academy and that’s more than good enough for me. Lorenzo Pellegrini ticks both of those boxes.
Olsen Survives Armed Robbery at His England Home
We’ve heard of stories like Bryan Cristante punching an armed robber through a motorcycle helmet at gunpoint, and Stephan El Shaarawy chasing a thief down the streets of Rome at full pelt. But not all stories of that kind are so easy to brush off, in the face of the “what could have happened” alternative scenario.
Taking on someone in armed-to-non-armed combat is rarely ever a good idea without training (and even with training it’s just a less bad idea at that), and you’re lucky if you get away without reliving the trauma of the incident after it’s done. It doesn’t look like Robin Olsen will be that lucky, as he survived being put to knifepoint by armed robbers who broke into his house with a machete. His wife and two children were present in the household as well, as the robbers eventually got away with jewellry and Olsen’s watch.
The Daily Mail reports that Everton have responded by offering all their players heightened security at their residences, with the “heightened risk” of repeat incidents happening.