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Monchi explains thinking as Alisson nears exit

Roma sporting director Monchi was open and direct as he responded to questions about Alisson Becker's proposed move to Liverpool on Thursday.

The Spaniard, speaking at the press conference to unveil summer signing Justin Kluivert, was asked a number of questions about the Brazilian - going on to explain in some depth his approach to the decision.

Monchi expressed his pleasure at being able to sign a player like Kluivert, and his hope that - while the exit of Alisson would be a blow - it would allow the club to build an even stronger squad in the long-term.

"Kluivert is an important signing for this club," Monchi said. 

"We’ve signed a good player and he’ll become a great one in the future. He has immense quality and I’m convinced that he’ll become an important player in Roma’s future."

How difficult was it to bring him to Roma?

"It wasn’t an easy deal. Given the calibre of player he is and the amount of potential he has, lots of clubs were after him. It gets a lot easier when you get to the point where the player wants to come here. The first meeting we had was really important because it was a chance to show him that AS Roma was the perfect place for him at this stage in his career."

Are you happy with how the team is working during pre-season?

"Very much so. It was a great decision to train here in Trigoria and the players’ attitude has been very good. It’s gone exactly how the coach had in mind."

Was the offer from Liverpool too good for the club to turn down?

"First of all I want to say that nothing is finalised yet. Alisson is in Liverpool and we’re at a very advanced stage, but the deal is not done yet. If everything goes smoothly, it will be finalised soon. The job of a sporting director is not just to make signings but also to understand what’s best for the club at any given time. Economic factors are important for the club too, not just sporting factors. The offer was way above the market average – it was very significant. We weighed up the pros and cons and decided to speak to Liverpool in order to come to an agreement. Does it show a lack of ambition? Not for me. Our ambition remains unchanged. We’ve sold two important players, Radja [Nainggolan] and Alisson, but we’ve signed ten players very early in the window. We continue to work hard to find players and build a great team.

"What is ambition? For me, it’s about using your head – without that, everything gets out of control. I don’t want to do anything to cause this club problems. There are recent examples of clubs in this country that have come unstuck – some of the big Italian teams that have historically played an important role that are barred from playing in Europe or have squad limitations due to UEFA rulings. I came here to try to build the strongest team possible, not just for one year but for many years to come. I’m 100% convinced I can do that, but before you get to the tenth floor you have to climb all the other floors. Last year people were saying the same thing about [Mohamad] Salah, [Toni] Rudiger and [Leandro] Paredes, but then we had our best season in ten years, finished third and got to the Champions League semi-finals. It’s nice to talk about ambitions, but you need to use your head. Alisson is a top player, perhaps the best goalkeeper in the world. Last year people were saying that the departure of [Wojciech] Szczesny was the end of the world. Alisson had to complete a journey too. I know fans can be impatient, but at times clubs just need time."

Is Robin Olsen a player you admire? 

"He’s an option, but he’s not the only one. We’re working calmly and without rushing things. The best thing to do is find a deal with the best economic conditions for the club rather than make a decision under pressure as a result of the sale of Alisson. The biggest pressure I have to deal with is the pressure I put on myself."

Does the fan unrest ramp up the pressure ahead of your next move in the transfer market? Would Olsen and Malcom make Roma competitive?

"I don’t think there’s a sporting director in the world that understands the fans’ point of view more than I do. At times, I’m too much of a fan. But I have to take decisions based on what’s best for the club. Perhaps some of the fans are angry today, but we know that all the fans are happy when Roma win. That’s my job – find a way to build the strongest team possible and make the fans happy. I try to put myself in their shoes. I know they’re tired of talk, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’ve been here for 14 months. Today we’re unveiling Kluivert, a player that some people thought we’d never be able to sign because of the competition, but here he is. The same thing goes for [Javier] Pastore. We shouldn’t just be talking about departures, but arrivals too. I get lots of messages of congratulations, not for sales – I don’t like selling players – but for the team that we’re putting together. There are some important players still here, including those that had a transitional season last year and will be better this time around. It’s important for us that we have Justin, Pastore, [Bryan] Cristante and the other players that will come in. There’ll be more arrivals – we still have 28 days to go. I have a few things in mind that make me feel hopeful."

Given the speed with which the Alisson deal has moved ahead, how big a bearing did his wishes have? Did you ever think you were going to be able to keep him?

"I only have words of thanks for Alisson – I never felt pressured by him to let him go. If he accepted the Liverpool offer, it’s because he was happy with it. He’s behaved flawlessly with me. As a sporting director, you need to try and understand what’s going to happen as quickly as possible. When you start hearing rumours about Real Madrid, Chelsea and Liverpool you can either pretend that nothing’s going on and plough on as normal, or you can accept that something could happen and work to find the best solution for the club. I’ve said that Roma isn’t a supermarket and that if Alisson leaves I’ll play in goal myself. You might think that I talk no sense, but I do what’s best for Roma. Sometimes I have to do things people don’t understand, but I always do them for the good of the club. When clubs in strong economic positions come in, you have to realise that something could happen."

How much has Alisson’s departure changed Roma’s transfer plans?

"I like to try to assemble a complete squad as quickly as possible, so that the coach has as long as possible to work with it. Knowing [Eusebio] Di Francesco, I knew that was going to be really important. It hasn't changed the plans at all."

Is Steven N’Zonzi a target?

"First of all I want to congratulate him on his World Cup campaign. Everybody knows that he’s a player I like – I signed him for Sevilla. He’s not a real target for us."

Are Roma the second-best team in the league, or at least as good as Napoli and Inter?

"On paper we’re all good sides, but then you have to compete. Last year the talk was of a club that was having an amazing transfer window, but then things didn’t work out. It doesn’t matter whether we’re the best, second best or third best – my aim is to build the strongest team possible. We have the advantage of having one of the best coaches in Italian football. We have a strong, united, ambitious dressing room with a healthy atmosphere. There’s a spirit of working together running through the entire club. It might sound philosophical but for me it’s vital – if everyone is pushing in the same direction, it’s much easier to achieve your objectives."

Is there a risk that Roma’s young talent might not get the time they need to show what they can do?

"I understand it’s difficult to talk about time here in the press room. A sporting director comes in from Spain and a Roma fan that hasn’t enjoyed success in ages could well just tell him to go back to Seville. I’ve been here for 14 months and I can’t do anything about the fact that Roma haven’t won anything in years. I need time – I know it doesn’t exist but we need it. I’ve been here for 14 months and we’ve got to the Champions League semi-finals, so I think we deserve a bit of faith. I know everyone is tired of talk and just wants to win. I always front up and my confidence is still at 100%. If I’ve not won anything in a few years, I’ll book a flight and leave. Nobody should forget that I’m a fan too, even before I’m a sporting director."

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