Luciano Spalletti, the new Giallorossi manager, talks exclusively to asroma.com about what it means to return to the club he loves…
Welcome back to Roma, Luciano…
“Thanks. I've never forgotten my time here and Roma has never left my heart.”
Can you describe how you're feeling at the moment?
“I'm excited because I know what the merits of this city, this club and this team are. It's exciting to work with such worthy people.”
Did you ever think this opportunity might come around for you again?
“I've seen things happen in football that I thought would never come to pass. I always had that hope because Rome is a fantastic place to be.”
There were lots of rumours about you possibly returning to Roma. When did you start to take them seriously?
“When I got the phone call from Walter Sabatini.”
How did your meeting with James Pallotta go? What did you talk about most?
“I found him to be a man of exceptional enthusiasm who, despite being physically distant, has the best interests of our team, our city and our club at heart. He clearly has plans for the future and I think that's the most important thing to say about our president. People often think that if you live far away, you see something like this as a pastime but Roma really matters to him. That's the most important thing.”
Pallotta has lots of very ambitious plans for Roma both on and off the field. Did you talk about those during your meeting?
“He set out his plans to me and told me how he wants to develop the club. He's forward-looking and wants to do a good job immediately – that's very important for us.”
Lots of things have changed since your first spell at Roma. How closely have you followed developments on and off the field since you left?
“As I said, I never detached myself from Roma. My family and I only moved away for a year but then my son came back to study – he's a Roma fan and knows everything about the club. I know quite a lot. The team is very different and I know a lot of good restructuring work has gone on – generally speaking – which I think in some ways was necessary.”
Is there one particular moment you think of most fondly when you look back on your first time here?
“If I think back to my past time at Roma I'm fond of everything because it was a very intense experience. There were several stages to it and it was an important part of my life, both professionally speaking and on a personal level. I'll never forget those Champions League nights with the Olimpico packed out. The song they sing at the stadium is another thing I've never forgotten.”
If you could roll back time and do something differently, what would it be?
“That's a game I'm not used to playing. There's no point wasting energy on what was or wasn't, but it is important to remember the past so you can learn for the future. I want to do a good job right from the start, and yes, that means drawing on my previous experience but I think it's better not to name one particular moment but keep it for myself.”
What do you think of the team you've inherited?
“We have no choice this year. You can see there are teams playing good football in the league. We have a good side and we have to play good football if we want to be on a par with the others. We've made progress on the European stage, where lots of teams start with the ball at the back, stay compact, know how to play the offside trap and press you high up the pitch. The squad we have here can do that and they showed they can with Garcia. That's what I'm aiming for: a team that plays good football.”
You took some time out away from the game after Zenit. Did that help you recharge your batteries for this new adventure you're embarking on?
“This is my job. I didn't need to recharge my batteries because I enjoy it. It can be a little tense at times but that's normal. I do my job with passion and I'm happy to be doing it again. If a wonderful opportunity such as this had come up earlier, I might have started again sooner.”
What playing system are you going to use? Do you think the players will need some time to take your ideas on board?
“It's hard to change things in football with the flick of a switch. I think it's mainly a mental issue at the moment. Hopefully by pushing the right buttons and speaking clearly to the players we can find the right spirit and character again – that comes before any numbers or any formation.”
How excited are you about going back to the Olimpico as Roma manager?
“I don't know what will happen yet. That's an answer I'll be able to give you after the game itself.”
You've always had a great relationship with the fans. How important will having them behind you be to get Roma winning again?
“Our fans can give the team tremendous support, we all know that. We have a huge number of fans and having them on our side will provide a bigger push than we can achieve by ourselves. But they appreciate commitment and effort – blood, sweat and tears – and only by showing those things on the pitch will we be able to win them over.”
The fans are very upset about the barriers the authorities added to the Curva Sud. Do you think the players have been affected by the supporters' absence?
“The fans get particularly involved in Rome and you do lose something without them. They're part of this club's history and part of our daily work. They have a lot to offer our team.”
Lots of people say Rome is a difficult place to work in. Would you agree with that given that you won two Coppa Italias and a Supercoppa here?
“It is a difficult place to work, precisely for all those factors I listed above. Lots of people love Roma and because there is so much passion, we have to show how professional we are – that's what they want to see. At the same time it can also be a distraction for the players. Our fans are all-consuming: they can give you a lot but also take away a lot.”
We're halfway through the season and Roma are seven points off the top. Is it still realistic to say Roma are in the title race?
“What we can say is that we have to take each day as it comes. We're in the situation we're in and we need to earn back the respect of those who watch us. I hear too much talk from too many people. We have to get on with the job seriously and professionally and make sure that – through our work – we create opportunities for the future. It doesn't depend on us alone, though. When you're a few points behind, as we are at the moment, it depends on our rivals too. That said, we're duty-bound to always give our all.”
One last question, do you have a message for the fans who have been so excited about your return?
“The message is the same one I gave when I first came here: I'll arrive at the training ground early, I'll leave late and I'll spend every minute there trying to help our team and our club. Forza Roma!”