Jim Pallotta has given a far-reaching interview to Il Corriere dello Sport about the state of play at Roma now and the prospects going forward.
The Giallorossi president discussed the futures of Francesco Totti and Luciano Spalletti, the club’s objectives for the season and his tenure in charge of Roma as a whole, while there was also time for a few words about the transfer market, Walter Sabatini, Kevin Strootman and the new stadium project.
Read what the president had to say below…
“There wasn’t just one reaction – let’s say I had two. I was surprised by Francesco’s words on the one hand, but at the same time I understood that it was an outburst borne of frustration. I didn’t expect something like that, even though, in a sense, part of me understands it. He’s a great player, he’s made history at Roma, he adores to compete and he’s a superstar.
“It’s absolutely not true that Spalletti has shown a lack of respect towards Totti – that’s just speculation. Let’s start from his four-minute spell against Real Madrid. First and foremost, Spalletti wanted to bring him on at 1-0 in the hope of equalising. But I see it from another angle too – it could have been Francesco’s last home game in the Champions League, you never know what’s going to happen in the future. And so Spalletti gave him the opportunity for a last run-out. What’s happening here with Kobe Bryant in the NBA? It’s an ongoing tribute...
“We’ll sit down around the table and I’ll speak with Totti and the others too. The last time we met, in December, he told me he wanted to keep playing. We’ll see now. When you’re the owner of a team you have to have respect for all your players and in this case there is a huge amount of respect towards Totti. Totti can stay at Roma either as a player or in a management role. However, I haven’t had a response from him since that meeting in December. I asked him what his intentions were but so far I’ve had no confirmation from Francesco. Now we’ll meet again and I expect him to tell me his decision. Out of respect, I can’t say what will happen until we’ve had our meeting. I don’t like speculation – it’s not for me. We’ll take the best decision for the good of the team, but only when we meet. As I’ve said, it’s going to be a private conversation that I can’t talk about now.”
“Were Spalletti’s actions supported by the club? Absolutely, yes. Luciano is our coach and since he’s arrived lots of things have changed for the better, and I’m not just talking about the on-field management of the team. Spalletti is a fantastic coach, one of the top five coaches in the world. You could say he lives at Trigoria, he meets with the players, he’s a great professional, he’s easy to work with, he’s always available and he has the chance to achieve something big with this team. What he did stemmed from a fundamental principle – the team comes first and no player comes before another.
“Spalletti has said that he is not sure he will be at the club next season if he doesn’t achieve the objective of qualifying for the Champions League? For me, no matter what happens Luciano is and will remain the coach of Roma. If it’s true that he’s said something like that then it’s a statement that couldn’t be further from reality – I want him with me. If we’ve got one decision right so far then it’s definitely been to bring in Spalletti. That’s my philosophy – having a great coach inevitably leads to great players and a great team. You achieve these objectives through hard work, training and great professionalism.”
“I would like him to stay. He has a contract for another year. We often argue but straight afterwards we’re friends again. Isn’t that what happens with everyone? What I’m worried about is his health – he smokes too much. And at the same time I worry about Roma, almost as much as I do about my own family. My friends and acquaintances are always asking me to watch the matches together, but I can’t do it. I have to be alone – I pace up and down, get agitated…”
“We threw too much away in the first half of the season. It’s not the players’ fault – I’ve never said that. If we’d got two or three more wins we would have been up there with Juventus and Napoli. There are 12 matches left and I expect results, because this team has the ability to get them.
“If we missed out on the Champions League it would be a result of the legacy left from all of those wasted opportunities at the start of the season – that 11-match run without a win – but it wouldn’t change my plans. Because we’ve done good things and our players are warriors. The plans for a top-level team wouldn’t change. We need to strengthen the defence and we’ll be focusing on that area of the team in particular – not because of shortcomings within the current squad but because some of the players we’ve brought in are on loan and others have been injured.”
“I think about it a lot, that’s obvious. But from the start I knew that there would be a lot of work to do. I haven’t got rid of the organisation I found when I took over Roma – I’ve just tried to improve it. The Sensi family did a great job, but times have changed, and quickly. We had to take action. There was no database or communication between the various departments, but there is now. The example to follow is Juventus. From what I’ve been told, they’ve always had a fantastic level of organisation so that’s where we need to act. I have faith – we’re on the right track to achieving that level and once we’re there we’ll win the Scudetto too. As I’ve said in the past, we can win the league because we have the team to do it, but to achieve your objectives you need to add the organisational system too and that’s what we’re working on.”
“Seeing him on the pitch again was an extraordinary moment. His contract? In my view he has one, but of course everything happens for the good of Roma. He’s another of our important players.”
“What if Roma are never able to afford a Messi, a Ronaldo or a Neymar? That doesn’t just go for Roma – there are only a few teams that can afford that type of player and in any case they’re not a sure-fire recipe for success. How many clubs are there struggling despite having first-rate stars? Didn’t Juventus get to the Champions League final last year without buying a superstar? It’s not in my philosophy to do everything in the spotlight. We’re working continuously behind the scenes to create a great team. We have some good young players who are improving and represent our immediate future.”
“I’m always thinking about the fans. What I’m trying to do – and what the club is working hard to do – is for their benefit. Some things are out of our control, and that brings us back to the fact that we haven’t got our own stadium yet. I have no problem with our fans: 99% of our fans are totally passionate, it’s just the 1% that lets me down. But an important thing for me, something I think about all the time, is that I never want to let them down. The team – a great team – is my primary objective.”
“If it were down to me the stadium would have been ready yesterday. Unfortunately, once we started the project problems came up that we weren’t expecting and that didn’t make us happy. That’s why I’m frustrated. But we continue to work on it constantly behind the scenes.”
“Of course we could have done better, but you could say that for anything. At the same time, I don’t think you can say we’ve done badly. We’ve qualified for the Champions League twice and we’re on course to do it again this year. And I’m convinced that we will do it. This is a great team, we have a strong core and we are definitely on the right track. I don’t let myself be affected by people who speculate about us, because that’s not my philosophy. Many people think that if I don’t say things publicly then it means I’m not doing anything. That’s absolutely not true. Roma, as a club, is always working, even when the lights are off and even if we don’t talk about it.”