In the first installment of an exclusive 21,000-word, 17-part series, asroma.com revisits January and the departure of coach Rudi Garcia…
Jim Pallotta, Roma President: “Watching that winless run of 11 games when we had a good team, I found it to be a fairly easy decision, even though a number of people internally thought that we should wait until the end of the season. I felt that the team was mentally sinking fairly quickly. If we didn’t do something then, we would have no chance to be in the top five, never mind trying to get back into the Champions League, come the end of the season.”
Antonio Rudiger, Roma defender: “I was used to managers leaving and arriving because at my old club, Stuttgart, I had six coaches in four or five years. I was used to that sort of change. Of course, when I came to Roma, [Rudi] Garcia was my first coach and he was a nice guy and a good coach.”
Wayne Girard, Roma fan: “Heading into January 2016, I was really frustrated. This was a good team from the past season with Rudi but it seemed like the players seemed to have forgotten what used to come naturally to them. Other teams had started to figure out Roma’s tactics. We started to look one-dimensional, which you often see with coaches who are deemed really good but then one-and-a-half or two seasons into it, the other coaches adjust to their tactics. Professional coaches can understand how to counter tactics and that’s what happened with Rudi Garcia.”
Mauro Baldissoni, Roma General Manager: “It’s always very tough when you have to think about changing a coach because first off, it certifies that you are not doing well, so you have a problem to solve. And you cannot be sure that you can change the dynamics that are creating the issue at that moment.
“The decision to change the coach may seem like the right thing to do, but you enter into a situation of uncertainty: because you have to pick the right guy to replace him and you are in the middle of a season, so you don’t have many options because the coaches you may want to look at are probably already with other teams.
“It’s a very critical decision: you don’t have much time and you have to consider the pros and cons that come with the uncertainty of having a new coach thrown into the mix in the middle of the season without having enough time to establish his relationship with the players and to teach them his view of football. You need to make the right choice and you need to be lucky and this is probably what happened to us.”
Kevin Strootman, Roma midfielder: “Undoubtedly Rudi Garcia is a good coach and a great guy. It's always tough when a coach has to leave. He was important for me: he wanted me at Roma and he put faith in me. During my injury he was constantly helping and supporting me and I'll always be grateful to him for this. However, when the team isn't picking up points you can't get rid of all 23 players. You need to try something different and change the coach. We needed a change.”
"In January you could see something wasn't right with [Rudi] Garcia and it needed a change.”
Tommaso Guccione, Roma fan
Jim Pallotta: “I wasn’t happy with the way a lot of things were going in terms of performance training. In December, when you have players coming to you and saying, ‘This is the easiest I’ve ever had it in any place I’ve been,’ and, ‘I can’t get in shape,’ that has to start telling you something. Most players would be saying, ‘I’m getting the s*** kicked out of me, this is too much,’ but they were actually saying, ‘We’re not getting in shape.’”
Mauro Baldissoni: “It’s not a pleasant call. You’ve established a relationship at a personal level with a human being even before the professional level. When you have to terminate his job, it’s not a pleasant message to pass on. On the other hand, when that happens, it is already quite obvious that things are not going well, so it’s not something that comes unexpected.
“Rudi could see that he was not succeeding in trying to change the dynamics at that point. It was very negative inside the locker room, and the team couldn’t react. So when the coach loses the strength and possibility to change the minds of the players in the locker room, he has to go. Coaches know when that is the case.”
Wayne Girard: “At that moment, I thought we needed a big personality that could take the focus off of the players and put it onto himself. Someone strong-minded who knew what they were getting themselves into.”
John Solano, Roma fan: “I thought the move should have been made probably 10 to 12 months before that when we were struggling in the Europa League, but that’s neither here nor there. Thankfully they did make the move and obviously it was the right one. We are playing much better football now and the team is much stronger.”
Jim Pallotta: “I think I should have done it earlier. I saw a lot of the signs the year before. Things were changing from the first year to the second year, and you have a couple of years left on a contract, so it’s not so easy. You try and bring in some people that you think can help, but it was just an inability to accept any of that help. My whole view is that the team has to work together and be very collaborative across the board and there were too many indications of, ‘It’s my way and that’s it.’ Not even reaching out or listening to many of the good people that we had internally to help. That’s not the organisation we want to be.”
Mauro Baldissoni: “Looking back, after the good second half we had, you can say that it was better to do it earlier. We had to think about it very carefully, because we had to pick the right replacement. That replacement has to be the guy you want for the future.
"It cannot work if you bring on a new guy only for six months because he wouldn’t have the credibility and strength towards the players. To make the right choice with few options in a rush is not the situation you want to be in. Looking back on it, the decision probably could have been made earlier, but we had to take time to ponder it and be thoughtful before doing it.”
Kevin Strootman: “We did well with Garcia, but we needed to make a step up in quality, which has happened under Luciano Spalletti."
“We’ve made some mistakes early on but I think we are getting to where we want to be. Clearly, with the change in coaches, a very important change in CEO and a couple of other things that we’re working on that I think people will be pleased with.”