Pressure? That was the theme lobbed at Bryan Cristante for most of his official unveiling yesterday. Pressure for becoming the most expensive midfielder in the club’s history so far. Pressure for taking a shirt number to go along with that tag.
Nevertheless, everyone at Trigoria reckons Kevin Strootman has competition for most competitive on the training pitch. Whether it be Roma lifelong commentator Alessandro Sparta or Roma TV’s newest journalist Max Tonetto (yes, Tonetto is back), they are all agreed Cristante looks like he wants it the most, at this ritiro so far.
Luckily the Italo-Canadian took a break from all of that between morning and afternoon sessions to give his thoughts, along with Monchi (who ended up sounding like he was writing a Roma communist manifesto during this presser).
Monchi: “For me, I think it’s an important day. I think Roma has signed maybe the strongest midfielder in Italy last season. I think the numbers say this perfectly. But we’ve also signed a player who has a very important path ahead, not only for Roma but for the Nazionale.”
Before training what has the coach asked of you in specifics?
Cristante: “Well, we’re still at the beginning. These are the first few days, we’re starting up the engine again and re-activating the muscles. But he gave us an input of his ideas, of what he wants. Bottom line, he wants to play beautiful football and he wants high pressing, that’s it. Then it’s up to us to take the time to work well and make ourselves available.”
During the training sessions, how have you seen the team and what’s expected of this ritiro?
Monchi: “It’s still soon but I’ve seen a good attitude and good atmosphere. But above all, I’ve seen Eusebio Di Francesco work. For me that’s something I like a lot. I think we’re lucky to have a coach that works with that much desire and transmits so much across. That’s important since it’s a team with ten new arrivals and wants to fight for important things. Having a coach that works together with the whole team is important. We’re in a strong financial position but we’re still a way behind the strongest teams financially in Europe. The way we can compete is with two fundamental things: work and the collective. They are two things none of us can forget, no one who’s working here at Trigoria. That’s the path of least resistance for us to success: work and the collective.”
To Monchi I wanted to ask: With Cristante and Pastore and even Coric, but without Nainggolan now, it’s a Roma that’s different. In your head and in the coach’s head, is it a super-offensive Roma compared to last year. Cristante, Pastore behind the three up front?
Monchi: “I think that when the seasons finishes, our duty is to reflect on what’s missing. Not just in midfield but the whole pitch. I think, with these names, we were looking for more options. Bryan brings his runs into the box, Pastore has different qualities. We have to look for more options. I think we lost seven games at the Olimpico, something didn’t go right. We had to look for options to find what we need to win more at home. For me that was one of the biggest obstacles of last season.”
Your name during the year was linked to many teams. It was said you were wanted by Juventus and above all by Lazio. I wanted to know how much of that was true and if you’re here because you chose Roma?
Cristante: “Look, I’ve never looked much at the news, the papers and all of that in general. I only know there was an offer from Roma and I didn’t hesitate. I felt it was the right place for me, for the growth the club has made, for the coach they have. For everything, really. So when the Roma offer came in I ran straight here because I felt it was the right place for me.”
Can you be the most expensive signing in Roma’s history? Is this a thing that can be a weight on your shoulders or work to push you more? Does it not interest you to give you an extra incentive?
Cristante: “Above all, the times have changed a little. So in today’s market, the prices are higher. In my opinion we can’t make those kind of comparisons. But I’m living my career as usual, I know I have to do well and I know I can grow a lot still. And I have to show that here.”
There were other teams, as was said before, so were there difficult moments in the negotiation or did it all go to plan?
Monchi: “In negotiations, there are always easy moments and other moments where it’s more difficult. But I always say the same thing: when a player wants to come, everything becomes easier. Like he said earlier, I always felt his conviction to come here. That gave me confidence. It’s true at a certain moments there were doubts, but that was always solved by his desire to come here.”
Bryan, what was once said about strikers under Zeman maybe is now the same to be said about midfielders under Gasperini. Because we’ve seen it in the years past, the big clubs always looked for midfielders who’ve played under Gasperini. What is it - beyond the discussion about your growth and maturity - that Gasperini gives you?
Cristante: “Mister Gasperini, we know he’s a great coach. Especially with youth players who he gives a big hand to grow even more. But look, it may be one part hard work and another part the style of game he plays, but I don’t think we’re talking about a magic potion. It’s enough to just keep working, keep growing and you can do well in even the kind of club I’m arriving at now.”
To Monchi I ask there: in this role we’re talking about Cristante, but there’s also Pellegrini. Is there a question mark on Pellegrini’s contract? Is there an open question on his future or is it not something to worry about today?
Monchi: “On Lorenzo, there’s nothing new. I’ve read his comments at Villa Stuart the other day with a lot of satisfaction, that he’s happy to stay here and do important things. For Roma, having Lorenzo Pellegrini and Bryan Cristante in the same team is a point of pride. Because maybe they are the two mezzale that represent the future of Italy’s midfield. That’s what makes me excited and happy. I think Lorenzo will stay here for many years, we have a lot of time to talk over many things. Today, having the possibility of Pellegrini and Cristante in the same team, I think anyone who’s a fan of Roma and of the Nazionale has a chance to be happy because they are the future.”
To expand a little on the question before, are you a little afraid that leaving the system of Gasperini - that gives a lot of advantages compared to a different system like Roma - can bring you problems? The same problems that everyone who has left Gasperini has run into, like Gagliardini who has struggled at Inter. Like Kessie who maybe has struggled less...
Cristante: “No, I’m relaxed. Like I said before, I think it’s about working in the right way. We have a great coach who knows how to make the most of the mezzale, he’s already shown it. And I think it comes down to personal details. With enough hard work and enough desire to do well, anyone can do well here, actually they have to.”
You’ve taken a jersey number with enough weight behind it, because it belonged to a player who was very loved not just for his goals but for his attitude on the pitch. Do you feel this weight of this responsibility, above all in facing the fans?
Cristante: “Well facing the fans can happen in any way. Whoever comes here has to show the fans they play also for them. But in terms of pressure, no I don’t feel it. I didn’t come here to do battle with who was here before. I’m here to do my own path.”
Is there a deadline for accepting eventual offers for players like Alisson? If an offer came right at the end of the mercato would Roma accept it anyway or... ?
Monchi: “Everything has its own time. We’re not desperate. Everything has own time to make sense. I can’t tell you that if an offer arrives on the 4th of August, Roma will accept it but everything has its own time.”
Last year, you had a great understanding with Papu Gomez who brought you into the goals. I wanted to know if there’s a player here where you can find a similar understanding? Maybe Pastore, for example...
Cristante: “Well there are so many big players here at Roma. It won’t be hard to find the right guy to give you the right passes. We’re at the beginning and there are so many players, many strong players. We’ll definitely make something happen.”