The day was April 24th, 2017. Trump was just wrapping up his first 100 days. “How to Be a Latin Lover” was tearing up the box office charts. No really, it actually was. And, perhaps most importantly for Roma, Monchi was officially announced as the new director of football. Upon arrival, Monchi was staring down the barrel of a reportedly €50 million budget shortfall, ahead of the June 30th FFP deadline to balance the books—A friendly welcome present from his predecessor, Walter Sabatini. Now that we have the benefit of a year’s worth of hindsight, how well did Monchi do in his first year at the wheel?
(Note: These transfer fees from transfermarket only take into account initial fees, not bonuses)
A year later, it would be easy to say that Salah’s departure for a reported total of around €50 million was a disaster for Roma. He could easily go for 2-3 times that now that he’s won the EPL’s player of the year. But, calling it a disaster doesn’t account for a lot of important factors that led to the sale. First, Roma had to make many sacrifices to the FFP gods, so several important sales had to take place by the end of June. Second, Salah asked to leave due to his ambitions to return to England, saying, “I had two great seasons in Rome but it was always in my mind to come back to the Premier League to show the people who said I wasn’t a success the first time.” And third, he had little time left on his contract. So, by the time Monchi arrived on the scene, there was not a lot of choice.
Maybe Roma could have gotten more for him, but no one could have predicted the unmitigated success he would have next year. At the time, what was a record sale for Roma and record purchase for Liverpool felt like a reasonable deal. Also, maybe Roma could have managed Salah better and extended his contract sooner so they had more options, but, given his desire to return to England, it is possible nothing could have kept him here. It still hurts that it worked out the way that it did, but it isn’t fair to lay the blame on Monchi.
Rüdiger and Paredes also proved to be painful departures. They were both young up-and-coming players who looked like they could help provide the team a new core identity as Roma attempted to transition to a post-Totti era. Rüdiger has landed a starting role at Chelsea where he has continued to develop into a solid and reliable defender with exceptional ball-playing ability. Rüdiger also may have been looking for a transfer due to the racial abuse he suffered in Serie A. Paredes has continued to develop, and now he is being targeted by Napoli as a replacement of Jorginho for around €10 million more than Roma got for him.
Despite all those major sales, Roma still did not meet the FFP goals in the summer and had to sell Emerson over the winter. This one especially hurt because he was our #1 U-23 prospect over the summer. To be fair, though, he really played best as a wingback, and that is not a position that EDF uses a lot. Nevertheless, it is already looking clear that €20 million for him is a big loss, but it will take a few more years before we have a clearer sense how big of a loss it really was.
But, not all the departures were bad news. It was a relief to offload deadweight that had been inflating the salary budget for years. In just a few months on the job, Monchi managed to finally and permanently clear both Iturbe and Doumbia from the payroll.
Also on the plus side, we managed to hold on to Džeko, Nainggolan, and Manolas (though not for a lack of trying on that one), who all scored key goals in the extraordinary Champions League run this year.
Without the inherited budget nightmare, maybe it wouldn’t have been so painful, but regardless it was going to be painful. It was expected that there were going to be major sales and a major overhaul of the team because, in the end, Monchi had to both balance the budget and make space to start to build the team in his image. In terms of performance, we met our Serie A goals and overperformed in the Champions League. To do that after selling two first-team players and a squad players and only replacing the squad player suggests that, as frustrating as the sales were at the time, they were not as damaging to the team as we may have thought last summer. Still, let’s hope this summer has more arrivals and fewer departures.
Look for parts two and three of this series where we discuss Monch’s purchases and the appointment of Eusebio Di Francesco.