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Tiago Pinto Post-Mortem Roundtable: Where Did it All Go Wrong & What's Next?

Tiago Pinto's shocking resignation will have far-reaching implications for Roma. To get a sense of this week's development, we assembled the CdT crew to sift through the wreckage and figure out what went wrong and what it all means going forward.

AS Roma v FC Sheriff - UEFA Europa League Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With today's news of Roma's impending acquisition of Juventus defender Dean Huijsen, not to mention the club announcing a January 24th friendly against Al-Shabab in Riyadh, yesterday's bombshell announcement, the departure of General Manager Tiago Pinto got swept under the rug. While some of us are frustrated by the Huijsen deal (and perplexed by the oddly timed friendly), make no mistake: Pinto's departure will have far-reaching implications for the club.

Hired in 2021 to spearhead Dan Friedkin's remake of AS Roma, Pinto made waves during his first summer on the job, surprising the footballing world by appointing José Mourinho as the Giallorossi's next manager. Pinto’s next move was to scoop up Tammy Abraham from Chelsea, giving Roma a young and brash forward to fill Edin Dzeko's enormous shoes.

While Roma failed to crack the top four during the 2021-2022 season, Pinto's moves helped the club end its decades-long European trophy drought after the Giallorossi captured the inaugural Europa Conference League title in May 2022. Pinto followed that up by bringing Paulo Dybala to the Italian capital last summer, seeing his club reach another European final, the bitter defeat to Sevilla in the 2023 Europa League final.

Despite those bright spots, Roma's inability to qualify for the Champions League put a dour note on Pinto's time with the club, which may have contributed to this week's shocking developments.

To get a grasp on Pinto's dismissal and what it means for the club's future, we assembled the CdT to sift through the wreckage.

Pinto’s dismissal, whether by mutual consent or not, was a bit surprising. But what do you suppose was behind this decision?

JonAS: I thought Pinto would at least make it till June. But actually, this makes way more sense for Roma. He’ll leave after the Winter Mercato is done, so the new DS will have some months time to settle, get to know the club, players, staff, owners, etc, before the (more important) Summer Mercato begins.

That’s a good thing since it’ll immediately be the first real test for the new guy. There’s no use in keeping Pinto on until the summer if the poor man can’t make long-term decisions anyway.

Bren: Well, clearly, they were dissatisfied with his job performance in some respect; otherwise, they wouldn’t have shown him the door five months ahead of schedule. His brief tenure here wasn’t too dissimilar from any other DS/GM we’ve had during the American era: some decent finds on cheap deals, some mega purchases that flopped, and a few signings that never stayed healthy, all with the sword of FFP hanging over their heads.

In that respect, I suppose he’s just a victim of circumstance, but if the good outweighed the bad, you’d suspect he would have been given another chance to prove himself.

Jimmy: I don’t think it’s right to frame this as showing him the door five months ahead of schedule; even now, you have to imagine that plans are being made for the summer mercato, so Pinto leaving right after the January window makes the most sense if he’s going to leave. This seems like a mutually desired departure, as it seems like the job truly drained Pinto while management is looking for a new chapter to start. I know I wouldn’t want to be Roma’s GM; it seems like a nightmare job, no matter how you slice it.

ssciavillo: I agree with the other guys that this had to be a dead man-walking situation where it made more sense just to cut ties and get a new DS hired with time to prepare for the summer mercato. There’s no need to keep Pinto around for five more months if the plan was to never renew him in the first place.

What was Pinto’s greatest success during his three-year stint with Roma? His greatest failure?

JonAS: I want to say Dybala and Lukaku, but how much of those transfers is his ‘work’ really? Did it involve a bit of Mourinho magic as well? Maybe even more than we think. Do world-class stars like Dybala and Lukaku really look up to Pinto? Were they convinced by the Portuguese? Or did a phone call or two from a certain José make the deal happen?

I’ll leave those two out of consideration. So I’ll go for Matic. A free agent, only one year at Roma, but boy, he nailed it. 50 appearances last season, rarely disappointing. He showed us exactly why we miss a true DM right now. Tall, physical, smart, great tackler, stamina. And one of Mourinho’s pupils.

Great, now we’re back at the start… Well, for the love of God, let’s just pretend Nemanja was 100% Pinto’s work, shall we?

Bren: Yeah, I agree that it would be impossible to discern the extent to which Pinto truly made those Dybala and Lukaku deals happen, so that’s sort of a wash. He did a decent job getting Matic, but unfortunately, it didn’t last. Ultimately, I think the top note on his Roma resumé should be the relative ease with which he was able to finally free the club of Monchi’s mistakes. It’s a shame he won’t be able to reap the rewards should the club ever get their head above water, but he did an admirable job finding new clubs for those players.

His biggest misses were obvious: Eldor Shomurodov, Matías Viña, and the inability to close the Marcos Leonardo deal. But again, we don’t really know the full story there. Santos could very well have been negotiating in bad faith. In the end, his near €100 million shopping spree the first summer blew up in his face, which was only exacerbated by the club’s inability to qualify for the Champions League, not to mention Abarham’s struggles in the second year and his subsequent injury.

If I had to give him a grade for his three years at the helm, he’d be a solid C+. Not showing off, not falling behind. Right in the meaty center of the curve.

AS Roma Press Conference Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Jimmy: I’d give him a B-. It’s hard to separate the Mourinho Effect from Pinto’s ability as a GM, that’s true, but I’d say that the finances of a lot of his deals were well thought out. The Abraham deal was a good one, and structured very well, even though he’s been out for the last year. Yes, the Shomu and Viña deals were disappointments, but on the whole, I’d say the squad is in a better spot than it was when he joined.

ssciavillo: It’s so hard to truly separate Pinto’s work from the influence that Mourinho exerts over player recruitment. That’s why I don't feel confident saying that Dybala, Lukaku, or even Ndicka can really be credited as his best moves. Therefore, I’d probably lean toward the Abraham move. I think in that first season it was essential to Roma winning the Conference League and structured in a way that was favorable to Roma.

The biggest misses have to be Shomorudov and Matías Viña. I also don’t know how much of it was his fault and how much was on Roma’s finances and Carnevale’s conduct in negotiations, but missing out on Frattesi still stings. The kid wanted to come home and was basically begging Roma to bring him back to the capital, and instead, he’s helping Inter to a Scudetto.

Talk to us about the FFP cloud that dominated his tenure with the club. Was his fate predetermined, or could he have avoided or at least mitigated the damage? Could anyone have succeeded under these conditions?

JonAS: Well, in the beginning, Pinto did have some cash to spend, no? Abraham, Vina, Kumbulla, Reynolds, Eldor. Don’t forget Rui Patricio was almost €12 million, not too shabby for a 33-year-old. And is Tammy really worth € 40m?

Obviously, Pinto’s hands were tied afterward, but if he had done more smart/cheaper deals back in 2021, perhaps Roma was in a better place right now. I think Tiago went in balls deep and gambled on a lot of those players to get us CL, but most of them didn’t pan out. Actually, some were just bad businesses like Eldor or Reynolds, financially speaking.

That said, it’s a bit unfair to blame Pinto for everything that went wrong. Smalling, Kumbulla, and Abraham’s injuries, for instance. The questionable refereeing vs Sevilla in the EL final. Or Matic forcing his exit. Of course, it didn’t help Pinto to silence his critics.

Bren: Fair points there, Jonas. He certainly didn’t do himself any favors during the first summer transfer market. At first blush, it seemed great because Abraham was a revelation in the first season before falling back to earth in the second and then getting injured. But I’m not sure there was ever a justification for the money he spent on Patricio and Shomurodov, two questionable signings to begin with. I always cut him slack with Viña because that was a panic purchase due to Spinazzola’s injury, but that clearly didn’t work out.

I think, in the end, he didn’t realize what he was getting himself into with respect to Roma’s financial situation. And maybe we can even say the same about the Friedkins. Roma has absolutely no margin for error when it comes to the balances, so every transfer has to be weighed and measured accurately; they cannot afford misses, particularly 15, 20, 30, 40 million dollar misses.

AS Roma v US Salernitana - Serie A TIM Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images

In that light, I’m not sure how anyone could have succeeded. This is a systemic issue with the club, and I’m afraid we should seriously start tempering our expectations as to whether or not Roma is even a Champions League-level club anymore. It’s been over five years now, and they’ve barely even sniffed the top four.

So many things have to fall in their favor for that to happen, and for much of the past half-decade, they’ve come up wanting. We can blame Anthony Taylor all we want, but he’s not the reason Roma finished sixth last season…or the season before that….or seventh place before that—you get the picture.

Jimmy: Wow, you write third in these roundtables, and all the good opinions are gone already! I generally lean more on the side of Jonas than Bren here—FFP is no joke, injuries plagued Roma, but there weren’t many moves I thought were mistakes from the word go. As I said before: I certainly wouldn’t want the Roma GM job. It sounds like torture.

ssciavillo: Agreed Jim. Not much more to add here. I tend to think FFP would’ve hamstrung any DS. That being said, I still can’t understand the amount spent on players like Eldor. And every team has injuries, so I can’t really say that that’s a reason for his overall lackluster work.

We’ve already read about a couple of possible replacements. No matter who they choose, what should the new director’s top priority be? How can they make Roma consistently successful, not to mention solvent?

Huddersfield Town v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

JonAS: The first thing is the position of the coach. He needs to make it clear whether Mourinho remains or a new coach comes in. The fans will demand clarity sooner or later. After that, we can talk about transfers, systems, tactics, etc.

There are quite a couple of expiring loans and contracts that need to be addressed, too. Who will go? Who will stay? And please, please, pleeeease, do everything possible to keep Dybala on board.

Bren: Yup, job one is finding a new manager. I think with Pinto’s dismissal, Mourinho’s days are numbered. It’s easy to say the new manager should be one familiar with playing young and cheap players, but I feel like we’ve said that numerous times over the years. More than anything, the new manager has to get the best out of what Roma already has—this club has a massive developmental problem. We sign the praises of the U-23s every summer, but they seldom even become regular rotation players. That must change, and frankly, that probably extends beyond the first-team manager.

Apart from that, the new DS needs to have an expert scouting system in place. Like it or not, Roma is a Moneyball team. They simply must find a way to exploit market inefficiencies because, with the downward trajectory of Serie A, which will likely be accelerated by the death of the Growth Decree, Roma’s new DS won’t have his pick of the litter—they need to unearth players from every corner of the globe. They must find some sort of edge, some sort of advantage to compensate for the lack of transfer spending.

Jimmy: Roma has been a Moneyball team before, under the Sabatini regime. There were hits and misses, but on the whole, I don’t think it moved the club forward (Financial Fair Play played a big role there, too). I don’t think reverting back to that style of club-building will work; instead, I hope the new GM moves to keep Dybala and Lukaku around. If that can’t happen, then look to find the young, exciting coach that I know Bren is craving. That’s when you go prospect hunting in Azerbaijan—when you fully give up on the Dybala/Lukaku/Mourinho era (and yes, those three are inextricably linked).

ssciavillo: I think the manager is first and foremost, so the new DS knows the vision of the playstyle that he will have to recruit for. If the manager is #1, then keeping Dybala is #1A because he’s a generational talent who doesn’t come to Roma every day of the week. I think the priority has to be to be able to find young, affordable talents that can become stars in Rome like we saw so many times with Sabatini’s recruits. Roma needs to mix those types of players in with the occasional more established signing. And for goodness sake, please stop selling our top Primavera talents before they get a real hard look.

Okay, the big question: What does Pinto’s dismissal mean for José Mourinho?

JonAS: I believe he and Pinto had a good relationship thanks to the Portuguese/Benfica connection. But unfortunately Pinto was too inexperienced and unproven for José. Rome is a tough environment, and the pressure is real. Mourinho has been a head coach ever since 2000, and Pinto was like 16 back then. Tiago is just starting his career as DS so perhaps this task was simply too hard for him right now.

I don’t have any idea how Mourinho feels right now. ‘Betrayed’ by the Friedkins and soon to be next? Or relieved because there will be a new and probably more experienced DS coming in to help him? IMO, the Friedkins still haven’t made a decision about José at all. They’ll wait a couple more weeks to see how Roma fares in the standings and Europe.

AS Roma Training Session Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Bren: By this point, I’ve made my Mourinho feelings clear. Let him play out the string on his deal, shake his hand, and wish him well. Roma needs someone younger and more innovative. That’s just my opinion, and by no means does Pinto’s dismissal mean Mourinho will follow suit, but the club’s silence speaks volumes. With five months remaining on his deal and clarion calls reportedly coming from Newcastle or the Seleção, they’ve done little to broker a new deal for Mourinho, as far as we know.

In that respect, the writing may be on the wall. Besides which, a new DS will likely want to hand pick their manager rather than having someone with all of Mourinho’s baggage foisted on them.

Jimmy: My gut says nothing. Get CL, Mourinho and Dybala and Lukaku will all likely be back. If you don’t get that, they’re all likely gone. The future of Roma and its stars is hanging in the balance now, just like it was before Pinto announced he was leaving. It’ll be in the balance until June, so I hope Romanisti like suspense.

ssciavillo: I agree with Jimmy. I don’t think their futures are necessarily linked, and if it takes keeping Mourinho for another couple of years to keep Dybala and Lukaku, then I think that has to be done. However, if the players are ready to leave, I’d love Roma to make a hard run at Tiago Motta. What he’s doing with Bologna is impressive, and he should be able to do even better at a bigger club with more talent on the roster.

There you have it. Even the CdT crew is split on many of these issues, but what do you think: Why did this relationship end? What comes next? And what does it all mean for Mourinho, Dybala and Lukaku?

Let us know!