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Totti Today: Zaniolo’s Comeback, Serie A’s New Anti-Spending Law, Di Canio Against Mourinho and More

Crowbars, barbs and other attacks unleashed around Rome and Italy this week. Let Totti Today steer you through it all.

Netherlands v Italy - UEFA Nations League Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve tuned into the rumor mill around Rome and Italy, but discussion has been heating up on just about everything. From Mourinho’s Roma appointment to Roma CEO getting called squallido by a former co-worker, all the way down to re-elected FIGC President Gabriele Gravina’s plan to crack down on spending in Serie A - there’s a topic for everyone to come to blows on right now.

And the integrity of journalism remains under attack by rich tycoons and wealthy former football players. But what’s new there?

Let’s start with a name who’s silently navigating his way around everyone else’s car wreckage, in what we hope is a comeback to Roma’s first-team action next season:

Nicolo Zaniolo Meeting With Friedkin’s Specialists

Italy v Bosnia-Herzegovina - UEFA Nations League Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Steve and I touched on this topic in the podcast just yesterday, but we’ve both (and all) seen football careers cut short for less than what Zaniolo’s had to go through over the last 18 months.

That’s probably why Zaniolo is reportedly not just meeting up with his usual rehab specialist Dr. Fink this week, but Il Messagero (via ForzaRoma) report that Zaniolo is also being sent on a flight to St. Moritz; Nico is checking in with the guy who puts Dan Friedkin back on crutches whenever the billionaire owner injures himself falling out of flying planes onto a jump-ski slope—or whatever shenanigans Friedkin gets up to (I’m personally still willing to believe he tackles Roma’s crime rate by roaming the streets as Batman every night).

The St. Moritz specialist in question is Georg Ahlbaumer, whose opinion will be canvassed on the route to giving Zaniolo the green light for full-time training at Trigoria once more. For his part, Zaniolo himself promised his Instagram followers that the next social media post he makes will be from the pitch itself. We’ll keep believing, as Bren has a feature coming up about how Zaniolo looks the perfect fit to grab the spotlight under new Roma coach José Mourinho.

Gianluca Scamacca’s Father Vandalises Tiago Pinto’s Car at Trigoria

AC Milan v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

The most unexpected headline of the week was won, this morning, by ex-Roma academy player Gianluca Scamacca’s family.

The Gazzetta dello Sport (via Canale Sassuolo) reports that Scamacca’s father Emiliano took to Roma’s training center with a crowbar yesterday. The victims of Scamacca’s attack were reportedly the cars of Roma directors Tiago Pinto, Maurizio Lombardo, and Morgan De Sanctis. The exact motives behind the act of vandalism remain unknown.

It was left to Roma’s Primavera squad, who were in the middle of a training session at the time, to talk Scamacca down. The player’s father was later arrested by the police, while he was wearing a Sassuolo jumper throughout the incident.

If you wanted Sassuolo to crowbar their way into the UEFA Europa Conference League, Emiliano, you could have just said so. 7th place is yours!

Re-Elected Gravina Wants to Hard-Cap Serie A Spending

President of FIGC Gabriele Gravina holds a press conference... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Gabriele Gravina won another term at the helm of the FIGC this week, promptly celebrating his re-election by handing out a contract extension to his national men’s team coach Roberto Mancini, which we touched on yesterday when five Roma players were called up to the latest Italy training camp. But Gravina wasn’t in the mood to merely preserve the status quo, instead announcing some deep changes he plans to impose on the domestic Italian leagues.

First up is Gravina’s most ambitious plan to hard cap spending for all Serie A clubs.

It’s generally accepted that no European league can afford to stick their neck out and implement a salary cap, without every other league in Europe (and, indeed, the world) enforcing the same rules on their own territory. Otherwise, you’re just inviting a mass exodus of your top talents to go play abroad. But Gravina does have another way to reign in Serie A clubs from the brink of financial collapse, no doubt accelerated by the stand-off the FIGC is locked in with Juventus over their continued involvement in plans for a breakaway European Super League.

Juventus v Benevento Calcio - Serie A Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Calcio e Finanza reports the FIGC would like to impose a new law where Serie A clubs (and maybe even all Italian clubs in each division) will limit their total wage bill to no higher than 100% of their revenue gained from the previous season. This would be the most generous limit at first, but gradually the cap would increase to limiting spending at no more than 90% of the previous season’s income gained, and further still to an 80% limit as time goes on.

If clubs were to exceed this limit at any time, they’d either need to provide the FIGC with financial guarantees that they have an immediate plan to back up that spending (like re-capitalization from the pockets of the club’s owners) or, failing that much, the club would be banned from making any incoming transfer moves on the player mercato.

The indirect implications here are that clubs would be galvanized to put pressure, more than ever before, on local councils to finally let them realize their commercial revenue potential by green-lighting private stadium ownership around the country. Otherwise, clubs like Roma (whose debt-to-revenue ratio is a ridiculous 53%—by far the most volatile financial model in the land right now) simply have no moves left on the chessboard.

Atalanta has been hailed as the example of grass-roots Italian football made successful, but even the Bergamo outfit have taken out a €40 million bank loan in recent years, to try and maintain the club’s expansion and competitivity at the top of the Serie A table. Meanwhile, newly crowned champions Inter are already rumored to be considering dismantling their first team after they’d lived the dream.

FC Internazionale Training Session Photo by Emilio Andreoli - Inter/Getty Images

Gravina wants to put an end to aggressive expansion and, by natural follow-through, an end to clubs doling out big player wages among their squads. If the FIGC gets their way, then the biggest clubs will have to think twice about handing out that next contract extension, as well as re-thinking just how many “key” players they can afford to bolster their squad (and bench) with at the club.

The second major change Gravina wants to bring is the return of the 18-team league format to Serie A. The FIGC head honcho had this to say on the plan:

“It’s an idea and a project which I’ve worked on and will submit all the details, when needed, from the 2023/24 season onwards: An 18-team Serie A.

Reforming the Italian football system is what interests me, well beyond just Serie A. Even if the 18-team top flight is a common theme for other federations, just like the playoff and playout system. That means we were ahead of the times. Already, from this Friday, we could see the first step towards discussing this reform.”

The Repubblica Leads Shock-Posting In Rome This Week

Hellas Verona FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso’s two-hour tirade against journalists last Friday has made shock-post (or “hit piece”) journalism a topic of discussion in football this week. Well, as much as it can be a topic beyond dismissing Commisso’s rant as just another tycoon claiming that more people should love and appreciate him for the money he throws around. Commisso certainly wasn’t right (nor even original) in his Trump-esque barbs towards the press, but he wasn’t wrong either.

The truth is the line between journalism, sports writing (which is the bracket we come under on SBN) and idle blogging really is blurred more than ever. The battle for your two second’s worth of attention, when scrolling through Google results, had long since taken precedence over simply giving an interpretation on current events.

Journalists have been told, for years now, that the only way they’re going to keep food on their plate is to rile you up into reading their articles, rile you up into leaving a comment, and rile you up into leaving a like or re-tweet; no matter the actual content in the article itself, or how much they have to distort the headline. It’s just as sad as ever to watch La Reppublica revel in the clickbait mud, for a paper that once was a legitimate broadsheet in Rome.

AS Roma v SS Lazio - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Don’t like the idea of Edin Dzeko hanging around at the club beyond this summer? Here’s La Reppublica breaking a story that Dzeko will be offered an extension through to 2023, just yesterday. Apparently, the plan is to cut Dzeko’s annual expense in half, by offering the remainder of his €7.5 million yearly salary over two years, instead.

I’ll admit this story is at least plausible, even if unnamed and uncredited.

Don’t like the idea that new coach José Mourinho could kill Roma’s youth careers next season? Here’s the very same Reppublica, this morning, claiming that Roma’s new plan is to offer up Darboe and one of either Zalewski or Milanese combined, as makeweights in a transfer deal to bring Torino striker Andrea Belotti to Rome.

If either of these two reports come true, I hold my hands up and apologize to Repubblica to say I’ve got it wrong. After all, I still have the luxury of writing as a pseudonym in the by-line here at SBN. But it’s long since been a few seasons now where I, as a reader and researcher, am tired of watching journalism descend into this bottom-feeding style of fast news. Not that journalism, by its very nature, is really as high-minded as some would make it out to be. At the heart of it, journalism is about the exploitation of other people’s lives.

ITALY-ROME-FOOTBALL-SERIE A-ROMA VS LAZIO Xinhua/Alberto Lingria via Getty Images

When done with reasonable intentions, I’d argue the price of exploitation is worth putting the truth back in the spotlight (besides, it sits well with a voyeur like me in any case). But, far from me doing the dirty work suggested by Commisso last Friday in some futile attempt to “call out” journalists, I admit he does have a point.

Whether it be accredited journalists, or us sportswriters, in turn, we will likely see Mourinho’s arrival in Rome put work on our table by his sheer presence. There’s a need to own up to that rather than wade in hypocrisy over it. Because the real question for us writers is: How much of a living can this kind of shock-piece writing really give us in the long term?

Reader trust (in general around the web) in journalism is at a historical low if you believe Nieman’s Journalism Lab, when it comes to the life-or-death events that have really mattered over the last couple of years, well beyond sport.

Sooner or later, we may just be all writing ourselves out of work. Or we may have already done so before it’s too late to even see it coming.

Sky Calcio Club Gets Into Handbags Over Mourinho

If there was anything that made Sky Italia’s monopoly over Italian football coverage worth it, it was Fabio Caressa holding court at Sky Calcio Club. The roundtable show has consistently brought amazing features such as inviting Max Allegri onto the panel to discuss how he sees football during his sabbatical, but the show can quickly veer into heated arguments over the smallest details at any moment.

That was the case this weekend when former Lazio player Paulo Di Canio re-iterated his stance that Mourinho was the “worst of the worst” coaching appointments Roma could make to their bench. Some will say this is just Di Canio being bitter, but his stance is all the more nuanced by the fact many believe he has an actual respectful, long-standing personal relationship with Mourinho.

Inter Milan v Catania - Serie A Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Back in Mourinho’s Inter days, the Portuguese tactician openly declared (un-ironically) that Di Canio was one of the few people in Italy who “totally understands football.” Yet Di Canio, today, remains firm on his stance that Mourinho’s destructive nature in the dressing room is the beginning of the end for the man from Setubal.

Co-panellist and journalist Sandro Piccinini took issue with Di Canio’s stance, which led to both men trading barbs over who has any clue about football. Piccinini doubled-down to tell Di Canio that the journalist’s experience of a dressing room runs deeper than Di Canio’s getting himself terminated from clubs throughout his playing career, while Di Canio insisted “he understands” why Piccinini has to be pro-Mourinho in the pursuit of likes on social media.

Do you see what we mean? Handbags have been breaking out all week, in Italian football, over the integrity of journalism. And Mourinho didn’t ask for it, but he’s already stirring up polarised opinions on the peninsula.

The Latest Music Hit in Italian Pop Charts

Finally, to end Totti Today on a lighter note, we’ve been playing Sangiovanni’s Tutta la notte on repeat. Check it out if pre-packaged pop music is your thing, or you’re wanting to brush up and immerse yourself in Italian.

This past Saturday saw Sangiovanni finish a runner-up in the final round of Italian TV’s reality talent show Amici. But the TV show discovering his potential was worth it for Tutta la notte alone, which isn’t the most elegant song, but a surprisingly addictive example of how someone can ride a chorus while staying relatable to what we’d sound like making a declaration of love, on a drunk night walking out from the kebab shop.

Which reminds us, kebab shops in Italy do far better pizza than Italian restaurants will ever manage. But that’s just Totti Today’s hot-take, straight from the oven.