On Wednesday afternoon, Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco sat down with the media for the first time to discuss his appointment.
After being introduced by the club's sporting director, Monchi, the Italian answered questions from the assembled journalists.
“Before I open it up for you to ask questions, I would like to thank president James Pallotta, Umberto Gandini, Mauro Baldissoni and Monchi for this opportunity," Di Francesco said. "This is a unique opportunity for me and I’m delighted to be taking it up.
“I would like to take this chance to thank everybody who worked with me at Sassuolo: the kitmen, fans, staff, players and all the directors I’ve had over the past five years. I particularly want to thank Mr Squinzi for the confidence, respect and warmth he’s shown me over the years. Sassuolo will always have a place in my heart.”
Read everything he had to say below.
Reporter: Looking at the club from the outside, what have you made of Roma in recent years?
Di Francesco: “I think Roma have a very competitive team with some really interesting, high-profile players. They’ve had to go up against a very strong opponent in Juve, but Roma have shown they're a top-level team.”
The Curva Sud only returned to support Roma at the end of last season. You are well aware just how much the love of the fans can help the team…
“Having experienced it first hand, I can tell you that it’s vital. I’m convinced that they are and will always be our twelfth man. Anyone who loves or wears this shirt has a unique bond with it and I think the Curva is capable of giving the players that extra something they need. As the coach, I want to create a real sense of belonging at this club.”
Roma have perhaps underperformed in knock-out cup matches recently. What have you made of the difference in form between league and cup?
“I think it’s important to work hard for all competitions. That’s what this club demands and I’m ready to try to improve across the board. The team broke lots of records last year that have been overlooked. One of the players scored more than 30 goals – that means that there was some great work done. Having said that, we all need to do more to achieve our objectives and that’s why I’m here.”
What would it mean for Roma to own their own stadium?
“It would be a huge boost and would mean the fans would be brought closer. Clubs owning their own stadiums is the future for Italian football and vital if we’re going to stay at the top of the European game. I think it’s something we’d all be very proud of and I’m sure we will get there – I hope I’m here to celebrate the opening of the stadium.”
Do you hope to work with Francesco Totti? Have you spoken to him?
“Yes, the club has spoken with Totti about his future as a director. It’s obvious that Francesco will need to give an answer soon, it’s obvious that I have a very special bond with him and it’s obvious that I would like to work with him in whatever role he and the club decide on, even though it’ll be different to before.”
Roma have changed coach eight times in nine years. Do you think the club is too hasty in that regard?
“I’m aware that things move quickly in football. I just want to perform well and focus on football and on working hard. I think that’s vital and I’m convinced that I can tap into the values of a club that I know pretty well, although it's changed a bit. I want to convey enthusiasm and that stems from the way we behave, the way we go about things, the way we build a close relationship with the people. We have to be sincere, secure the results that are at the heart of our football objectives and perhaps entertain a few people too.”
Is Roma a difficult place to work? If so, why is that?
“There are lots of problems that I'm not even thinking about. The main thing is we all stick together and work together to achieve our goals. I know there will be easier times and tougher times, but hopefully it will be more downhill than uphill. The atmosphere in Rome may not be the easiest but I'm calm and looking forward to getting stuck into this fantastic experience.”
Have you spoken to Zdenek Zeman or anyone else?
“Not about anything in particular. People have wished me all the best in my new job. I have lots of friends in football and I'm happy to have them. I'm sure this will be a different experience to my previous times here as a player and as operations manager. I'm confident in my work without being arrogant and I want to put my ideas across to the players and they'll need to buy into them if want to make this Roma team great.”
Are you interested in Domenico Berardi?
“I've been saying what a fantastic player Berardi is for two years now, so there's nothing new there. I've watched him develop and he's got bundles of talent. That doesn't mean Roma want to buy him, though. He and I shared some wonderful times together and I know he's a top-class player.”
Were you involved in the decision to sign Hector Moreno? Do you discuss all signings with the club or are you happy to work with the players the club gives you?
“I discussed Hector Moreno with Monchi. I work with the club and our sporting director to improve our team. The club and I are in the same boat – we're not on separate paths. We all work for the good of Roma here and we'll try to build a team together.”
Are you the sort of coach who sticks to one way of playing regardless, or do you adapt depending on your club and the club's objectives?
“Obviously coaching at a smaller club is different to coaching at a big club and you might change tactics for that reason. But even when I was at Sassuolo I never set out to play defensive football against anyone. We won't change our way of playing just because the stakes are higher. We'll play attacking football and try to take the game to our opponents. Of course, it depends on the match too. My basic idea is 4-3-3 but that can switch to 4-2-4 or 4-2-3-1 depending on who we're playing.”
How do you see Radja Nainggolan fitting into a 4-3-3? And will there be room for Lorenzo Pellegrini in your midfield?
“Pellegrini is a very interesting player and you all know the club is looking to bring him here. He's an excellent attacking midfielder who's made huge strides forward in the last two years. Nainggolan can easily score 18 goals a season playing as an attacking midfielder and he's perfectly capable of starting in a slightly wider position. There are times when you might change something a little during the game knowing you have a specific type of player. I was brought here because I play a certain brand of football so it's only right I should teach that brand of football to my players.”
You've always said you need six forwards to play 4-3-3 because you ask so much of them. Do you still think that?
“Definitely and it's one of the things I've discussed with Monchi. I need more from my wide forwards than the wide midfielders. In order to compete in all competitions we need quality players.”
What objective would you be happy with at the end of the seasons?
“We're not going to come out and start making bold statements. We just need to get our heads down and focus on working hard – that's what will get us results. I know what the fans would like, and what we'd all like. People often bandy around the word 'enthusiasm' but when you have it, when you go out onto the pitch and see the right atmosphere and everyone getting involved, that's already a step forward. That's what we need to do if we're to be successful.”
What position do you see Alessandro Florenzi in down the right flank?
“First of all, let's hope he's able to recover in time for our training camp in Pinzolo. He can play in lots of positions and, yes, especially down the right, but I prefer my players to focus on specific positions. He's great going forward and has an excellent shot on him. He's done very well at full-back too, although clearly there's plenty of room for improvement in the defensive side of his game. I want to work with him first before deciding on a position. I hope he'll be fit again as soon as possible.”
Where does Daniele De Rossi fit into your plans?
“The first person I called when I knew I was coming back was Daniele and this brings us back to the sense of belonging I mentioned earlier. I think he encapsulates what Roma is all about with his attitude and the way he does things. My son plays for Bologna and he's a huge Roma fan. He loves De Rossi and I understand why: whenever a team-mate scores he's the first to rush over to congratulate him and celebrate. I think a lot of players can learn from that. In terms of his football ability, there's not really much to say. I think he's a player the whole team can look to, regardless of whether he plays or not. They'll all get their opportunities.”
Bruno Peres struggled a little last season. Do you believe in him?
“I think all the players at Roma are very talented. I went through something similar myself: you get rough spells then you come through them and improve. He's been used to playing in a five-man system and you need to do things differently in a four-man defence but he showed what he can do when he was at Torino. I'll be able to work with him from day one in Pinzolo and, as I said, I first want to work with the lads so that I can see where they can improve.”
Do you think Kevin Strootman and Leo Paredes are good fits for your midfield?
“Definitely. I see Paredes in the middle of a 4-3-3 and obviously in a deeper role in a 4-2-3-1. Strootman is an excellent attacking midfielder and he's shown recently how well he can time his runs. He's leading by example again, he's like a captain out there and he's the ideal sort of player to play wide in a three-man midfield.”