Roberto Mancini has experienced his fair share of city derbies. As a player Mancini played his best years at Sampdoria against Genoa in the Derby della Lanterna and the tail end of his career for Lazio in the Derby della Capitale. Then as a manager he managed Inter in the Derby della Madonnina and Manchester City in the Manchester Derby. All told, he’s experienced some of the most heated in Italy and England. However, now as the manager of the national side, his main interest is finding the best talent to make Italy a power again. With this in mind, Roma has become of particular interest to the former Lazio man.
On Thursday, Il Messagero released a full length interview with Mancini which spoke all things Italy, but had a large focus on Roma and the work it’s doing with its growing Italian core. I have written a few times this season about Roma’s growing number of Italians and if one day it would be considered the foundation of the Azzurri. When asked if he had a special interest in Roma, Mancini responded by saying, “It is the team with the most Italians. My role as coach of the National requires me to.”
In the last year, since he’s been the manager, Mancini has recalled five Roma players to the his side: Florenzi, Cristante, Pellegrini, El Shaarawy, and Zaniolo. When he was asked if these players were ready for his style of calcio and to help Italy qualify for Euro 2020, Mancini praised the work of Eusebio Di Francesco in giving young Italians a chance, not only at Roma but also at Sassuolo. Mancini compared EDF to himself in this regard, using a young Mario Balotelli as a reference point.
“A great job has been done. Di Francesco had the courage to focus on the youngsters, and is one who is not afraid to launch them. Others that he has weaned at Sassuolo are also with me: Sensi and Berardi. I too am like that. It’s nice to be able to say, ‘that started with me’. I am immediately reminded of Balotelli: eleven years have already passed since I decided to make him debut at Inter. Mario was just seventeen.”
Later in the interview, Mancini was asked a series of questions about Nicolò Zaniolo, who he called up even before he made his senior team debut for Roma. He was asked how he could call up a 19 year old who hadn’t even played a professional match yet.
“I became CT in May. What did I do? I immediately went to see the Euro Under 19. It was there that I had the chance to follow Nicolò, before I did not know him at all.”
Mancini then continued on about Zaniolo’s development and the media attention he’s gotten.
“Too much, at least mediatically. In this city it takes little to go from exaltation to rejection, when instead with the young you have to be patient, because the ups and downs are normal.”
On Zaniolo playing various positions under EDF.
“At nineteen, to play, you accept any role. Meanwhile, increase the minutes on a big club.”
Mancini was then asked if Zaniolo could take the place of Verratti or Barella. Mancini made it sound like Verratti and Jorghino were irreplaceable, but the third midfield spot is an open competition between a number of young players, including three Roma men.
“Today I have Jorginho and Verratti as references for the midfield. Then I can add to them Zaniolo or Barella. At the moment. And anyway I also have the others: Cristante, Pellegrini, Gagliardini and above all Sensi, who impressed me for how he joined the group and for the personality he showed on his debut.”
After answering some other questions the interview moved onto Roma Captain Daniele De Rossi. First, Mancini was asked if there was a chance DDR could return to the national set up.
“It is a closed chapter. I spoke to him immediately and he was clear and sincere. He told me that if I needed it, he would come and give me a hand.”
Mancini was then asked about the time he tried to convince De Rossi to join him at Manchester City. Believe it or not the Roma idol was close to leaving to join Mancini at City.
“We met in Rome, all night talking, it was all done, but he declined at the last moment. He called me and said “I won’t do it”. I was hurt, I got angry. It’s been a long time, Daniele was in the middle of his career, he would have enjoyed. I considered him fundamental.”
Mancini was then asked about the large Italian contingent that Roma fielded against Porto in the Champions League.
“Yes, especially if we consider that a presence in Europe has more weight. The young guys grow up first. And I’m happy. There is no better way to gain experience than in the Champions League. This is why Roma, in this sense, can affect the national competitiveness.”
Mancini was then asked about Italy’s trouble finding a consistent goalscorer. Payers like Ciro Immobile and Mario Balotelli were discussed before he was asked if El Shaarawy could be an option.
“Another player I like. Who has great qualities, I’ve followed him since he was on the Genoa Primavera. But he, too, must bring out all he has inside.”
The conversation then turned to the upcoming derby and the Champions League race. Mancini was asked if this is about what he expected from the two Roma based clubs this season. Mancini said that Lazio has played as expected, but Roma has left eight points that it should’ve claimed. However, he doesn’t attribute that to the young players. In fact he said, “You lose more when the old guys play.”
Mancini said that the Milanese squads do have a leg up in the Champions League race, but said that the season is far from over and expects at least five sides to compete for the two spots in question. Last Mancini was asked about some of the coaches, including EDF.
“He’s done well everywhere, especially with Sassuolo. He works well with young players, he has courage. Then to judge him well you have to see them train.”
The full interview can be read here.