Advanced warning: If you want to sit through what’s basically a transcript-version of his next ‘Monchi Method 2: Monch Harder’ book, then this presser is the one for you. This one really wasn’t for the fans, nor for Justin Kluivert. It was just Monchi vs the Roman press.
Even me as a pro-club guy with no problems about how this mercato has played out - I am tired of hearing Monchi talk, and that’s likely even the outcome he wants.
His answers seemed angry behind the laughs and smiles. Everywhere throughout his long-winded monologues were underhanded shots at Alisson’s agent, Inter Milan, AC Milan, and whoever else wanted some. Maybe the guy just needs his family to finally move with him to Italy, I’ve no idea. Maybe the club has been taking just that much flak from the Alisson deal.
Meanwhile, Justin Kluivert spent most of it looking bored and confused as to why he’d been dragged along under the pretense. As if the presser weren’t stilted enough by that, Kluivert insisted on speaking in English (commercial value?) when he was clearly more comfortable answering in Dutch.
But yeah, if you have the patience, read on...
Buongiorno Justin. What are your qualities and what do you think you have to improve?
Kluivert: “What my positive things are? I think how fast I am, one-against-one and the focus on the goal I think is important for me. I think I have to better everything because I’m still a young player but defending is something I have to learn.”
How difficult was it to sign a young player that was still very much targeted by other clubs like Justin was?
Monchi: “It definitely wasn’t easy. I can’t say how hard it was, but it was a complicated negotiation because a player like this... a ‘99, with that potential, a player wanted by everyone. But I always say the same thing. When you have the desire of the player to come here, everything becomes easier. The first time we met Justin, I think that was important to make him understand that Roma is an ideal place for his career path.”
What are the differences you’ve noticed between training in Holland and here in Italy? How have you found the demands of Di Francesco?
Kluivert: “In Holland, we don’t sleep at the club every day. And I think [the way we do it here in Italy is] a good thing for the players, to know the players and to get fit very quick. I like it. Everything is good: the facilities, the food, the people. That makes everybody a better player and that’s good for the team.”
The ritiro is already about to end because it’ll conclude tomorrow. Are you satisfied with the team’s work?
Monchi: “Very much, very much so. I think the choice to train here at Trigoria has been a beautiful choice. We’ve been able to work very well. And also the attitude of the players... for me it’s been a beautiful ritiro. I think that we’ve done what the coach had in mind.”
What’s your main goal for this season?
Kluivert: “It’s to show [what I can do]. Not only what I did in Holland, I want to do it here and do more. And to the world as well. I’m still young and I think I can learn here a lot. I think I can start the competition and, with the players we have, I think we can create something nice this season.”
Just so that we don’t beat around the bush about it, I wanted to ask you if you sold Alisson because the Liverpool offer was one too good to turn down for a club? And now that we’re here, I imagine there’s a Plan B. I want to ask if Olsen if the favourite to take Alisson’s place?
Monchi: “Before anything, I’d say right now we haven’t closed anything. The deal gets closed when everything is ready. It’s true that Alisson is in Liverpool. It’s true that we’ve in very advanced talks and that’s why he’s there. But still nothing is closed. If everything goes as planned, I think it’ll be done soon. I’ve explained many times that the work of a sporting director is not just one of buying players, planning. It’s also about understanding what’s best for the club. An offer came that I think we can all agree is outside the market rate. For that, it’s a very important offer. We evaluated the pros and cons and we made a choice to talk with Liverpool and find an agreement.
Is it a message that we lack ambition? For me, no. For me, Roma’s ambition continues on the same level if not even more. We’ve sold two important players from last season up until now. Radja and Alisson. And we signed our players sooner than anyone else. And we’ll continue to work. You know we’ll continue to work to find players that’ll help us to become an important team.
But the word ‘ambition’ is a word that we sometimes play with, even if it lacks something. Because what is ambition? For me, ambition is doing real things - but with the head. Without the head it just becomes inexperience talking. And I don’t want to do things that put the club in difficulty. We have, unfortunately, recent examples of important clubs in this country that went bankrupt. We have examples of historically extremely strong clubs in this country that right now cannot even play in Europe. We have examples of strong clubs in this country who have cannot even build a full squad because of UEFA’s decisions. I came here to try and build the strongest team possible not just for now but for many years. I’m 100 percent convinced that I’ll find that team, but at 100 percent conviction not at 99 or 90 percent. 100 percent. But before reaching the tenth floor, you need to go by the first, second, third...
I’ll only say one message. Last year at this time, we were talking about the same thing. Salah, Rudiger, Paredes. I think the team did the best season of the last ten years. It came third place and reached the semi-final of the Champions League. For that, I think it’s nice to talk about ambition, but ambition with the head. Without doing things that after would just trash the club.
Alisson is very strong. For me, I don’t know if he’s the best keeper in the world but maybe one of them. But even Alisson had to grow. Last year at this time, it was said after Szczesny’s exit that the world had ended. After we saw that we have a great goalkeeper that needed time. I know that time doesn’t exist for fans, but sometimes a club needs it.”
Excuse me, I had another question maybe if you could answer it...
Monchi: “No but my tactic was that the more I talk, the less questions you could ask me...”
No, no, and it was well played. But I’d also asked if you’d like to sign Olsen?
Monchi: “No, I know and I was pretending not to listen. It’s true that Olsen is a possibility but not the only one. We’re working relaxed, without any rush because up until now we have Antonio Mirante, we have Fuzato and we have the kids Cardinali and Greco. It’s better to find the best deal for the club than doing something under pressure of Alisson’s exit. I think by now you guys know me. The hardest pressure I have to cope with is my own. There isn’t anyone who puts more pressure on me than myself.”
In some ways will your father’s experience in Italy be invaluable for you to get to know this league, this country and this atmosphere?
Kluivert: “Yes, I talk with him of course. He played here for one year, but we didn’t only talk about this competition. We talk about how you have to develop as a player to play at the top. We talk a lot because he went through the steps that I’m taking now and eventually I want to follow his steps.”
Alisson’s sale raises the fans expections on the next signing to maintain the club’s ability to compete. You just said ‘there isn’t any other person who knows how to put pressure on me like me’ but do the fans expectations make it that the club needs to make another signing? And will it be two signings like Olsen and Malcom?
Monchi: “I don’t think you’ll find a sporting director that’s closer to the fans view than I. Sometimes I become too much of a fan. But I have to take decisions for what I think is best for the club. Because at the end of the day, today maybe one part of the fanbase is angry and another part no. But do you know when everyone will be happy? When Roma wins. There isn’t anyone that says ‘but we only won 4-0 and not 5-0’, they’re all happy. That’s my job. My job it to find this road to give the strongest team and, like that, the fans are happy. But if I put myself in their head, I know that they are tired of words and the blah blah blah. I don’t know how you say it... Roma wasn’t conquered in a day?
I’ve been here fourteen months. Let’s give it a bit more time. The team will be even stronger. I want to go back to what I said at the beginning: We’re here presenting Justin Kluivert. Something that three months ago would have been impossible. One of you here would have told me ‘Kluivert? How are we going to sign Kluivert? Everyone wants him.’ He’s here.
Pastore, one of you sent me a message, sometimes too many messages.... that’s a subliminal message!... But you told me ‘Pastore? Pastore is impossible!’ I replied ‘yes, it’s impossible.’ Then Pastore was right here, sat next to me.
This I think it’s right to point out. Today, one of you was here told me ‘signing Malcom is nonsense’ and yet you just told me now Malcom is a possibility. I think it’s right to point that out when talking about Roma. Not just the sale of Alisson, not just the sale of Nainggolan, but the signings we’re making.
Me, if I used this as a measurement (pulls out his mobile phone) - I’ve plenty of messages, plenty of messages of congratulations not for the sales, because for me I don’t like to sell a player but I think we have to do it for the team we’re building. But congratulations because we have, at the club, players with very important potential that all of my colleagues in the football world know about.
It’s true that today maybe, for some fans... well not for everyone but I get that some can understand it’s an important step for the club at an economic level. But I think it’s right to point out how big it is to have players like Justin, Pastore, Cristante, the players who are arriving and talking about big players... it’s right to point that out.”
And another question...
Monchi: “Ah you countered the same tactic...”
Can the players we have this year maintain the continuity?
Monchi: “I’m here having sent away Radja, who’s a very strong player. Having sent away Alisson, who’s a strong player. But really before anything, there are still strong players here. There are still players here that had a transitional season last year and, this year, I think will be even stronger. And strong players have arrived and strong players will arrive, they will come definitely. We’re working to continue bringing players to make the strongest and most competitive team possible. There is still a month to go.”
Do you see Roma, in the arc of your career, as a place where you’ve arrived or a stepping stone? Do you think of staying here or do you see even bigger things in the future?
Kluivert: “I think this is a great step for me to come here from Ajax. It’s a great step for me and eventually I don’t know, because Roma as a club wants to grow. If we accomplish that as a team and we stick together as a team, maybe we can bring Roma to a higher level. What I’m going to do after? I don’t know. Maybe I will stay my whole life, maybe not. We will see.”
How much did Alisson’s will play a role in this? Because Nainggolan was well known to be one to want to stay here, but Alisson never said this publicly. And was there ever a moment where you told yourself ‘no, we’re not selling him. We’re keeping him. It’ll be possible to find a solution’?
Monchi: “Well I can only give words of thanks to Alisson. I never felt pressure from him to leave. But I think in the end, he accepted the move because he wanted to go. But Alisson’s behaviour with me was top marks. It’s true that his desire was important. If he told me ‘I don’t want to leave’, there could be an offer of 200m euros...
So I think he accepted it but I tell you truthfully I never felt under pressure from him.
Your other question? No, I think the work of a sporting director is to understand as soon as possible what’s a serious deal. If I think about signing Justin, and the first time I call him he doesn’t pick up the phone. The second time I send him a message to say I want to talk with him, he doesn’t reply. The third time I call his agent and he doesn’t tell me anything. I have to start getting it, that maybe the possibility of moving to Roma doesn’t appeal to him so much.
On the other hand, if I start hearing that Real Madrid, Chelsea, that whoever is interested blah blah blah... I have to understand that something might be about to happen. In that situation, I can do two things. Pretend that I don’t understand what’s going on and keep moving forward. Or understand that an offer might arrive and start working to find the best outcome for my club.
And one time I said that Roma wasn’t a supermarket. Another time I said that if Alisson leaves, I’ll go in goal. And those are the things that will make them say ‘what the fuck is he going to say now?’
I do it because I think it’s best for the club. Because like I said to my friend Luca, and to Gianni and Lorenzo: If I don’t say that nonsense, nonsense talks nonetheless but I don’t get to sell it.
Sometimes I have to do things that you don’t understand and the fans don’t understand, but I always do it thinking about the club. In these last three or four months, I started to understand that something would happen. It’s true that we told ourselves ok, maybe we’ll find an agreement and maybe not. But when it involves a club that is very strong financially, you have to be prepared and understand that a serious offer could arrive.”
Alisson and Nainggolan left. Do you new arrivals feel the responsibility of carrying forward what they started here at Roma? Do you feel ready for that?
Kluivert: “That’s a good question. I have to show it. I will do my best. I don’t think you can do more than that and we will see. With the group we have, not only myself but others players, it’s possible of course. But we have to show it. We can say what we want but we have to show it, I want to do it and I think the others players feel the same.”
Was the strategy of Roma signing so many players at the beginning of the mercato based on Alisson’s sale? Would Roma’s mercato have been the same without Alisson’s sale?
Monchi: “No...” (at this point Monchi opens up with a catchphrase about how he always says the same thing and I lose interest in his answer, sorry but can’t do it. In general he talks about how important it is to let the coach work with the strongest possible squad, things we’ve heard before that are no less true. He says that knowing how Eusebio likes to work, that made it even more important to have a team ready as soon as possible. The journo won’t the Alisson thing go, and Monchi repeats Alisson’s sale changed nothing. Monchi claims he starts with Wyscout and doesn’t deviate from there.)
What impression do you have of the Italian league, watching from abroad? Is our league still at the top or is the Premier League better?
Kluivert: “No, I think it’s not less than the other competitions. I think Italian football is at a great level, big teams play here. We are good players. You see Juventus has Ronaldo now. It’s good for the competition. Young players come here as well, maybe Serie A fell behind a bit but it’s coming back now. It’s not less than La Liga. It’s a great competition for all players.”
To the director, you have an expression that’s a little more tired than other times in the press room. Maybe you’re a little tired. So I’ll put the question rapidly: Is N’Zonzi a target? Is Roma the second best squad in the league?
Monchi: “On N’Zonzi, before anything, big congratulations on winning the World Cup. More than that I can’t say. He’s a player everyone knows I brought to Sevilla but today he’s not a real target for us. I can’t say more than that.
On the other thing, on the face of it everyone is strong but then we have to see. Last year we were talking about a team that was doing a big, strong mercato. Sometimes when I’ve done a mercato I think look at this strong team I’ve built, and then after ‘boh!’ It doesn’t change anything to say whether it’s the second, third or fourth strongest... I think about building the strongest team possible. We have one advantage, I think. We have a coach that I don’t know whether he’s the strongest but if not, definitely one of the strongest in Italian football. We have a dressing room that’s clean, strong and ambitious. That’s important. And like I said the other time, an important collective working spirit around the entire club. That seems philosophical but it’s important. When everyone is working in the same direction, it’s easier to reach the goal.
And my face is the same. My face is a result of all the work we’ve been doing (laughs).”
What was your choice to come here and how do you feel?
Kluivert: “It’s an important place to come for my career. A beautiful challenge, not just football-wise but also in terms of growing as a person. I’m happy to have come here. I’ve only lived through this very first period within the walls of the club itself. I can’t wait to start the season. My hope is that this can be a growing experience for me, like I said before, on both a footballing level and a personal one.”
What is the plan for Justin Kluivert in the team?
Monchi: “Like he said before, he has a lot of work ahead of him. He’s coming from a very different style of football, no better or worse than Italian football, but he needs to adapt. And we have a lot of confidence in him.”
How important was Totti talking with your father in terms of your choice to come here?
Kluivert: “Yes, of course, I talked with Totti as well but only when I was already here. I spoke with my father about it. Totti talking to him didn’t play a very big part, but Totti is a legend here. He’s a great player, you look up to someone like that. You want to be like him one day and have the respect of the people. You can only have that when you give them answers with your feet.”
How do you manage the risk that these types of young players may not have the time to develop and reach expectations with the club given the expectations of the fans?
Monchi: “I understand the word ‘time’ is a hard one to speak in this press room. Because this Spanish director arrived and the fans of Roma, who haven’t won anything for years, want to say ‘look go back to Sevilla again’. But I’ve been here for fourteen months, I have to speak in what’s given me belief in myself. I can’t say anything if Roma won in 2012, 2013, 2014...
I make this petition to the fans for time, but I know that time in football doesn’t exist. But I need a little time because in fourteen months, we’ve arrived third and a semi-final of a Champions League. I think that deserves just a little bit of faith. I know that they’re all tired of words from the sporting directors, from the coaches, from everyone. They want to win only. I’ve always put my neck on the line and not hidden behind anyone. I’ve said before I’m convinced at 100 percent. After, if we haven’t won anything after two or three years then I’ll take the plane and go. I want all the fans to understand, and don’t forget that I’m a fan. I became a sporting director by chance but I’m really a football fan at heart.
Just one last thing, I know that you’re not all responsible but someone is. There hasn’t been one question about the terrible loss suffered by one of you yesterday against the club. I was waiting for some comment on it but there hasn’t been any.”
Well, you saved a penalty...
Monchi: “Yes I also saved a penalty but that’s secondary. I thought that maybe it deserved a question. no? Ok cool.”
I have no idea what kind of personal in-joke Monchi was making in the last part so maybe someone else can clarify. But this whole press conference was a throwaway. Maybe you got some nice catchphrases there, and some tidbits about who was behind the Alisson sale.
More than that, it seems clear the club views Kluivert as a squad player and not a starter from the very beginning of the season. Not shocking to some but genuine news to me, as I rate him highly but can’t argue with the logic.