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Monchi: Signing Rugani Impossible, but Very Italian Roma to Come

Excerpts of Monchi’s January feature with the Gazzetta dello Sport.

AS Roma v FC Internazionale - Serie A
ROME, ITALY - AUGUST 26: (L-R)AS Roma Sport Director Monchi and Team Manager Morgan De Sanctis speak during the Serie A match between AS Roma and FC Internazionale on August 26, 2017 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Monchi’s been a busier man in front of the media than on the mercato this January. First came his segment on New Year’s Day with Di Marzio for Sky in the “Decoding Directors of Sport” series.

Monchi spoke long-term philosophy with Di Marzio in that TV segment, but switched up the gears just a week later by confronting more immediate questions with the Gazzetta dello Sport today.

If there’s anything to immediately take from this interview, it’s that the club is working on transfers with a view to Eusebio Di Francesco being Roma’s coach well past the summer.

That would put EDF in with a shot at being just the 5th coach in Roma’s entire history to sit on the bench for 4 seasons or more, going into the next campaign.

Monchi on life in Rome after 20 months:

“It’s better to judge a project when it’s done, and I still have a long way to go here. Judging by last season, you’d say it’s positive. But the results this season up until now have not been good. But a few bad results won’t change my way of thinking, or dull my enthuasism for working in Rome.”

Monchi on defending Di Francesco:

“It wasn’t hard because there has always been 100% belief in my idea to stick with him. And everyone agreed. When we were in Boston with Pallotta, we spoke about Eusebio for 15-20 seconds at most. And sure, there are moments in the season. You lost at Udinese or Bologna, or you draw at Cagliari in the way we did and everyone wants to kill the coach and myself. But my belief in him was already big when I first signed him, and now we’ve worked together I have even more belief in him than before.”

Monchi on the accusations that Di Francesco is a ‘company man’:

“Eusebio isn’t a company man, he’s a worker, like all of us. Last year we did have to make difficult choices. I didn’t enjoy selling Salah or Rüdiger, but I had to do it. We were lucky to find a coach who understood the moment and found results all the same. And we can’t now lose faith in him just because of a few bad results. I only do it when the attitude changes, the work doesn’t get done or the coach loses the faith of the team. I’ve always been very slow to dismiss any coach in my career. You only do it suddenly if you’ve lost your head.”

Monchi on De Rossi’s injury and future:

“Knowing how emotional De Rossi gets about Roma, it wouldn’t do him any good if we speculated on the future. Right now we have to focus on him coming back from injury, and luckily we’ve had good results come back from the tests so now we see how he’ll do returning to the training pitch. Two days ago, I saw Daniele in a different mood for the first time [since the injury]: he was optimistic, positive and pain-free.”

Monchi on the renewals of Manolas, Ünder, SES and Lorenzo Pellegrini:

“They’re all different situations. Some of them will be looked at, at the end of the winter transfer window. Others will be looked at, at the end of the season. Don’t forget there’s Zaniolo too who, given his performances, may be the first renewal we’ll confront. He is amazing everyone and I know that Italy needs footballing heroes to rebuild the confidence in the sport right now, but we have to calm down with Nicolò for his own good. He’s only 19 years old. I’m telling you that Zaniolo is the future of Roma and won’t be sold. He has a long and important path ahead with this club. He’s like a palace that we’re building brick by brick, but if we don’t do it well then it can tumble in an instant. I’ve seen too many great talents that lost themselves. Like Nainggolan, you ask? He’s a good player. The problem is managing him.”

Monchi on Roma getting more Italian players:

“I’ve plenty of flaws, but two big strengths: I recognise when I’m wrong, and I like to learn. The Monchi that first arrived here had a second-hand knowledge of Italian football, today I know it better and I understand it’s better to sign Italian players when you can. Of the signings made, often the ones that have done better are Italian. That doesn’t mean I’m just going to skip looking at the transfer market abroad, but Roma will be very Italian in the future.”

Monchi on whether his mistakes include Pastore and Schick:

“They’re two different conversations. Pastore is a strong player, and the question is whether we can rediscover the player who was at Palermo and first came to Paris. I believe we still have time to do that. I believed he was a better fit at mezzala for our team. Schick’s problem isn’t the footballer, but the person. Sometimes a person can’t find the ideal environment to make the most of what the footballer inside of him can do. So we’ve got to work on the person. I still believe Patrik is a diamond we have to press until the very end, and we have to spend as much energy as we can on him. I believe we will. Think back to Immobile. If you talked about the guy who was at Dortmund or Sevilla, they would want to kill him, whereas now at Lazio he’s idolised.”

Monchi on his best value-for-money signings at Roma:

“I’ll say Kolarov for his performances, but [Lorenzo] Pellegrini has huge potential.”

Monchi on the new stadium:

“In a moment of financial crisis, keeping a pause on a project that brings a billion euros [into the economy] makes little sense to me. It could give a lot not just to Roma the club, but the city. We don’t just want to close the gap to Juve, but to all of European football. The stadium is crucial there.”

Monchi on January transfer dealings:

“Roma invested a lot of money in the summer, and we already took care of the important things. We’re only looking for players that raise the level of the team. It’s not easy, but we’ll keep trying until the end. But in terms of quality and numbers, we’ve got what we need already. Of that I’m sure.”

For the rest of the Gazzetta feature, Monchi answered quick-fire questions on whether players were impossible for Roma to sign or not. For the most part, it seems a tall order on Roma doing any business this January window. And Roma’s sporting director sure is putting his neck on the line claiming that the right squad is already in place to reach Champions League qualification by May.

For what it’s worth, here are his quick-fire answers to transfer targets, both realistic and otherwise, below.

GdS: “Let’s finish with a game. We’ll give you names and you tell us only if they are ‘possible’ or ‘impossible’ for Roma to sign. Let’s start with Piatek...”

Monchi: “It’s possible, if they weren’t asking for 70 million euros.”

GdS: “Tonali.”

Monchi: “He’s one of the most important young players of Italian football, but I could say the same for Barella.”

GdS: “Mancini.”

Monchi: “He’s impossible right now, but it’s a different story in the summer.”

GdS: “Rugani.”

Monchi: “He’s impossible both now and after. They rejected a 40 million offer from Chelsea. We can’t spend that much on a central defender.”

GdS: “Thiago Mendes?”

Monchi: “Impossible.”

GdS: “Ziyech and Belotti?”

Monchi: “I like both of them.”

GdS: “Bennacer?”

Monchi: “We like him, but we’ll talk about it in June.”

GdS: “Dendoncker and Ozyakup?”

Monchi: “Both impossible, just like Herrera.”

GdS: “Malcom doesn’t get games at Barcelona. Would you take him if they offered him?”

Monchi: “No, when you’re a sporting director of a club, you have to recognise how the fans feel. Malcom took Roma for a walk down the garden path, and the club’s image is important to me.”

GdS: “If you could make a dream pick between Mbappé and Neymar?”

Monchi: “I’d take Mbappé, because he’s younger and stronger.”