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Monchi Pleads for Fan’s Faith

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Shrewd insight or desperate plea? You be the judge.

'Più Libri Più Liberi' fair and media publishing Photo by Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Roma fans, like followers of any other football club, have a strong bond with the players on the pitch. And while, outside of perhaps exchanging pleasantries after a match, you’re never likely to meet them, you’re nevertheless invested in their life, their future and their success. So when that bond is broken by the transfer market, it’s tough to completely sever the ties—you wear their shirts, their images adorn your walls, your phones, and in some instances even your skin—so watching them leave is no trivial matter.

And whether it’s out of a lingering affinity for the player, simple curiousity or a sick, masochistic streak, we tend to follow these players intermittently throughout the remainder of the careers. And while part of you wishes them well, the other part secretly hopes they fail, just so you don’t have to bear the weight of them reaching greater heights with another club, like they’re almost throwing it in your face. Couple this with the armchair GM/DS factor, and you’ve got a heaping helping of retrospect-induced anxiety.

No player has provoked this symptom among Roma fans more than Mohamed Salah. The conflation of Roma’s FFP deadline last summer and the ensuing sales of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, which so drastically reset the market, left a bit of egg on Roma’s face. And whether the subsequent scorn was deserved or not, Salah’s meteoric rise with Liverpool—he scored his 30th goal in all competitions today—has made an uncomfortable situation practically combustible.

All of this makes the timing of Monchi’s latest press conference rather coincidental, though I’m sure the direction it eventually took was due, in part, to Salah’s spectacular run of form with Liverpool, typified by his Champions League goal today. In any event, Monchi addressed the sale of Salah, diving straight into that controversial €50 million price point, which by now looks like the bargain of the century:

At the end of the day, we could reach €50m with bonuses, but at that moment we had to sell and that was an important option. The Neymar and Kylian Mbappé transfers changed the market, but at that moment it was necessary that we sell.

I still think the price could’ve been better for Salah, but it did give us the possibility of making other moves. When I arrived, the Liverpool offer for Salah was €32m plus €3m in bonuses. In today’s football, players go wherever they want to.

Source: Football Italia

Full marks to Monchi for meeting this controversy head on, but admitting the price could have been better is like throwing gasoline on a fire. Given that the global market is a bit short on right wing players, by some estimates Monchi still sold Salah short by some €20 to €25 million (even when the Neymar Effect is removed from the equation), but for all the reasons we mentioned above, that €50 million sum now seems like a slap in the face, which has only increased the hostility among the Roma fanbase.

In the face of that hostility, Monchi has pleaded for faith from the Roma fanbase:

The figures are important, because at the end of the day we are a business, but the fans cannot be bought. In my years at Sevilla, people counted the trophies and those are so far missing at Roma.

I understand the fans perfectly well, I know they don’t want to talk about numbers, they just want to win, but that is my job. We have to build a club that doesn’t just win, but does so consistently over time. Fans don’t want promises, they want results.

I accept all of that, but ask them for a little faith. It takes time. We’ve got to stay quiet and work harder to find the right path towards what the fans want.

Once again, this was a perfectly measured, and perfectly reasonable reply. No qualms there. However, if I may speak on behalf of the beleaguered section of this fanbase, let me just say this—Monchi is arriving late to this party. This is the same line we’ve been fed since 2011 when the Americans purchased the club, and yet here we are, facing yet another summer of sales and empty promises of a brighter future interspersed with pleas of patience.

In some ways, I feel bad for Monchi, he’s willingly, but perhaps unknowingly, entered into an untenable situation in which Roma is unable to get off the FFP hamster wheel. It’s almost as if Roma are running the Daytona 500 ten laps down, and everytime they cut that down to five, their reckless driving and refusal to draft results in blown tires and diminished fuel efficiency. And rather than reassessing their race strategy, they just fire the crew chief at the end of every year, telling their fans “we just need time, bear with us, but this guy. This guy is the one, and once that new race track is built, watch out!”

I’ve re-written this last sentence several times, struggling to articulate how frustrating watching all this unfold has been, but it’s just been enough already. Just be honest with us, bare your soul and tell us you have to blow the whole thing up—if that’s what it takes to reach these lofty ideals, I’m sure a substantial portion of the fanbase could shoulder that burden, but this “do as we say not as we do” approach is well worn and threadbare.

Make no mistake, Monchi is more than capable of building a stronger and deeper Roma, but he may be more hamstrung in those attempts then we, or even he, realized.