Earlier today (their time presumably), Roma’s former sporting director and resident Marlboro man, Walter Sabatini, for some reason felt the need to talk about his relationship with his former employer. Even though they parted ways several months ago and no one from Roma has uttered a peep about him, still he persists, waxing poetically about this bygone relationship. He’s like a certain world leader in that sense.
I know what you’re thinking. Here we go once again, CdT will take any and all opportunities to harangue James Pallotta. And, hey, there’s a kernel of truth to that, but since Walter Sabatini was rather restrained and measured in his criticisms of Pallotta, we’ll follow suit.
So let’s hear it from the man himself. On his relationship with Uncle Jimmy:
What didn’t work was the relationship between me and Pallotta...Everything worked at Roma because Roma was my life. Things were fine with Pallotta for a while, but less good after. At a certain point it was right that I change.
I shared a silent feeling of love with many people, but I couldn’t do it with Pallotta
Unfortunately, Big Walt isn’t giving us a lot to go on here, but he does mention one important thing, Roma was his life. Despite whatever misgivings you harbor about Sabatini, you can’t deny his love for the club and city, a bond which always made me feel bad criticizing him, but here we are.
Sabatini gave us a little insight into what exactly went wrong, intimating that he thought he’d ultimately have more control over Roma. And if one wanted to venture some wild speculation, one could presume that a sporting director who loved the club with every fiber of his being was a bit irked when his motives were questioned by an owner who goes to Rome about as often as one gets their teeth cleaned. And if one wanted to play pop psychologist, one could cast this as a tale of two men pitted against one another—the passionate but not always pragmatic romantic vs the cold hearted interloper. But one shouldn’t dabble in baseless speculation.
Sabatini wasn’t all slings and arrows, though. He was quite candid about his shortcomings during his stint with Roma.
When you do deals for 300 players, you can have 10 who don’t succeed. Gerson will in time, he was born in 1997, he’s had his difficulties but he has the quality.
I think we’re catching glimpses of that in training and during Roma’s pre-season schedule, putting the external blame for Gerson’s slow start on Luciano Spalletti.
Juan Iturbe was a victim of a decline which nobody could have seen coming.
As for [Seydou] Doumbia, he’s not a bad player, the best goal of last season’s Champions League was the one he scored in London...The time and the method [of bringing him to Roma] were wrong, and I take responsibility for that.
Well I don’t quite buy his Iturbe argument—the kid had nothing but one solid season for Verona, so his projection was never assured, though we certainly drank that Kool-Aid—it was nice to see him own up to the Doumbia disaster, though he didn’t even mention Victor Ibarbo, the Phantom Menace of Sabatini’s filmography. But he’s right, Doumbia isn’t a bad player in the strictest sense, it was just a horribly timed and measured transfer.
Sabatini also gave his thoughts on the economic state of the game today, particularly as it relates to Italian club’s ability to lure top talent to the peninsula:
Whenever a €222m clause is paid, even if it’s for a top player [Neymar] it produces an effect that dopes all the other prices. Could Toni Kroos come to Inter? It’s a hypothesis with no foundation, it’s a wish by the northern newspapers, but with no foundation.
Can any top players come to Italy? No. No Italian team has the strength to do it. We have to work on another level, on a second market and find the talent first. Once they’ve been affirmed and acclaimed, they won’t come anymore. That’s just how it is.
While it’s a sad state of affairs, particularly for fans who long for the days when Serie A was the bee's knees, he’s not far off the mark. And though it seems Italy’s standing is slowly recovering, getting the Neymars of the world to Serie A still seems a bridge too far.
Between all of our collective anxiety about Roma’s comings and goings this summer, Milan’s €200 million splurge and Juventus being Juventus, Inter Milan has sort of gotten lost in the shuffle. They are legitimate threats to anyone in the league, and if Sabatini and Spalletti can get over their longing for Roma, they might soon make a run at the Old Lady.