To Roma fans everywhere,
I’ve stayed silent for the last few weeks but there are some things that I feel I need to address. Whether you want to believe me or not - and I know some of you are quick to dismiss everything I say - I don’t think anyone at the club has been more disappointed, more depressed or more upset with how things have gone at Roma over the last 18 months than I have been.
I’m sorry for the mistakes that we have made - and one was a massive mistake on the football side. It was probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my entire career and, at the end of the day, I have to take responsibility for that.
It’s something that we are fixing right now and some of it is going to take a little time. I’m sure many of you think, ‘Well, I’ve heard this story before…’ but we’re working hard to clean up a number of areas at Roma that probably should have been addressed before – and some issues that have only recently come to my attention.
We are diligently working on attracting talented people that will help us put Roma back where we should be – playing on the biggest stages, competing for trophies and making our fans proud.
In regard to people saying, ‘Blah blah blah, we’ve heard this stuff before’, I truly believe that before this year, at least for the last five years or so, we have put out very competitive teams that have always wanted to win.
We’ve been regularly involved in the Champions League. We have broken some records but it hasn’t been enough to win a trophy – and that’s a major regret for me because at the end of the day, that’s why I am here, to win trophies and create a team and an atmosphere that Roma fans worldwide will be proud of.
Last season for me was a complete disaster but at the same time, it’s difficult for me to accept the argument that we haven’t been trying to punch above our weight with the resources we have to deal with.
We have invested in the team. Regardless of what some may think, the numbers and facts speak for themselves. Along with my investors, we’ve poured in hundreds of millions of euros and have already spent probably close to 90 million euros on a stadium project that should have been approved years ago.
A stadium that would be for the benefit of AS Roma, the benefit of the city and the benefit of Italian football. I’ve said it a million times before but if we want to consistently compete with the largest teams in Europe, we need the stadium.
For those who think I’m only interested in making money out of Roma, they couldn’t be more wrong.
I’ve never taken a salary; I’ve never taken one penny out of this team. I don’t get anything from transfer market deals. I don’t get anything from shirt sales. I don’t get one cent.
And if the team is worth more at some point in the future, that’s not going to change my life one bit. I have been lucky and blessed and my life is not going to change by me making more money.
I understand if many of you are not happy about some of the things that have gone on – particularly recently. I’m also not happy – not happy with the football results and not happy that we still don’t have a stadium – despite the fact that the stadium and infrastructure will be privately financed
As far as the article in La Repubblica on Thursday goes, I saw some initial snippets when I woke up at 5am in the morning and I called them bullshit. Having read it fully, and also having since had a very long and very detailed conversation with one of the journalists who wrote it, there were some parts of that article that were true and some parts of that article that were clearly not correct. Mea culpa.
Some aspects of that article made Daniele De Rossi look bad, which is not fair because Daniele has been a warrior for Roma for 18 years. He deserves respect and I have always respected him.
We may have had some differences of opinion on how his playing career at Roma has ended but I’m not going to get into that in the public domain; that’s between Daniele and myself.
Daniele was emotional but he’s emotional because he cares and has cared about Roma forever. He plays with his heart – we’ve seen it for 18 years with Roma and on the world stage with Italy. He shows his emotion in the locker room, that’s what made him a great captain, and I firmly believe that whatever Daniele has ever done, it has been for the betterment of the club.
Was he upset that someone was being brought in to play in his position, as stated in the article? Yes, he was – but that was because a day before he was told by Monchi that we weren’t bringing in somebody to potentially play ahead of him in his position.
So he was lied to and the emotional reaction one day later was what it was.
A day later he came back and said, ‘I’m sorry for my outburst’.
Also the notion that Daniele was out to get Eusebio Di Francesco sacked is 100% false from all of my conversations with him.
In fact, with 12 games left in the season, I had a phone conversation with Daniele and he personally asked me to keep the coach until the end of the season. So if anyone is suggesting that he was asking for Di Francesco to be sacked, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
My mistake was that I wanted to make changes across the board in football operations and performance training back in December and I was convinced not to make those changes. I should have made the changes when I thought we needed them and maybe that indecisiveness cost us a place in the Champions League.
If not De Rossi, did Dzeko, Manolas or Kolarov ask for the coach to be sacked? No. I’ve never heard any of those players say that they wanted us to sack Di Francesco. They never came to me either directly or indirectly.
In the past, I have had conversations directly with players like Edin, who was very honest with me about things that were going on that he did not like as a professional. Those comments were only because he wanted the team to be better, and I appreciated that. So players know that they have an open door with me. They know that if there are issues, I want to hear them. I have never heard any of them say negative things about Di Francesco.
I think that there is no question that some people externally like controversy and want to cause issues for this team. They want to see Roma fuck up. They care about their own agendas rather than about the team or the true fans. I believe that is why they continually feed negative information to journalists, trying to sensationalise everyday rifts or normal issues within the dressing room or the football club.
I’ve been involved in sport for a long time and these kinds of things happen in any locker room. They certainly happen in every sport in the States. I know plenty of athletes and owners around the world and, with a group of 25 athletes, you are always going to have arguments, discussions and even fights.
That stuff happens all the time in sport – from playgrounds to professional teams. And you know what, those arguments, discussions and fights, the vast majority of them are because people are passionate about making a team better.
In this case, people seem to be trying to turn managers and players against each other. Daniele has always had constructive conversations with me about the locker room, about players and what we need to do to get better and it’s the same for Francesco Totti. To allude that these guys, who have had this special relationship for 20 years, are at war is nonsense. Have they had disagreements? God, I hope so. The last thing we need are yes-men all over the place.
In fact, on Thursday I witnessed the continuing maturation of Francesco as a director. His insight and expertise with me and Guido, discussing a potential manager, was more helpful than input from anybody else.
I continually read negative stuff about me and what we are trying to do at Roma and to be honest, I’m disappointed that many fans don’t think I care passionately and emotionally about this club.
As I’ve said before, I think in the last five years or so, before this year, we’ve done a very good job given the restraints and resources that we’ve had. We don’t like it but Financial Fair Play is a reality for us and it has dictated many of our actions.
People don’t want to hear it but for a long period of time, there was a lot to clean up.
I personally know that some clubs have not taken Financial Fair Play as seriously as we have but that is on them. I called it with AC Milan a couple of years ago, when I looked at what they were doing, and I simply couldn’t understand it.
People told me I was wrong but now they are being looked at for what they did and they are not the only club currently under investigation and who will probably be punished. We cannot afford to be in that position or take those risks.
Did I want to sell Salah? No, he asked to leave with two years left on his contract to prove that he could be a success in the Premier League.
Did I want to get rid of Alisson? No, but we had to address Financial Fair Play and he also wanted to go to a team who could pay him a lot more than our resources would allow.
Sometimes we sell players because we have to address Financial Fair Play, other times we make sales that we believe are for the betterment of the team. Maybe the impact won’t be felt immediately but for the future of the team, we thought at the time that all of our sales made sense.
Do we get it wrong sometimes? Of course, every club does.
Did we get it wrong a lot last summer? Without question.
The biggest issue in the last year was not sales, instead it was our purchases. There’s no question that we bought some very high-quality players. The issue was not the players themselves, but getting the right players to fit the system that Di Francesco wanted to play.
I outlined the issues and the needs of Roma last May to Monchi.
Monchi asked for 100% control and trust as our sporting director. I look back almost daily on our summer transfer market and maybe I shouldn’t have given up all that control. The team simply didn’t fit well together with the system that Di Francesco wanted to play.
At the end of the transfer market, I looked at what had been done and realised this probably wasn’t going to work.
I felt terrible for the position Di Francesco was put in.
When things were going sideways, Di Francesco told us he may have lost the dressing room and if we think it’s time for him to go, then he will go without a fight. Di Francesco has always been first-class. He is a true gentleman. He was clearly put in what I think was a tough position this past year and was collateral damage. That’s something that we all regret.
What do I think when I see people protesting against me? Let me make this clear: I can take the beatings. When results don’t go our way or other teams win or we make football decisions that some people don’t agree with, I’ve been a target and a punching bag almost on a daily basis. Although it’s tiring, I can take it.
However, what I can’t take and what I think is disgraceful and despicable and certainly not representative of Roma and our fans are the hundreds of people who have called my sisters such names such as sluts, whores and pigs.
Someone else that seems to get beat on and constantly berated is Franco Baldini.
For a long time, Franco has been a very valuable sounding board and confidante of mine and Franco has never done anything to the detriment of this club.
If you think Franco is involved in most of the club decisions then you are completely wrong. It’s clear that some people are trying to stir up a lot of trouble for a guy who quietly has always given me great advice and has helped us with some of the best players that we have on our team and some of our best sales over time.
From looking at the protests, it seems that people believe he was involved in the Daniele contract decision and that’s simply not true. Franco had no input at all on Daniele. I didn’t even talk to him about it because the discussions were with management over the last two years, as we looked at extensions and contracts.
We all have to make sure that - whether people like it or not - we make decisions that are for the betterment of the team. I don’t mean just for the people who are playing on the pitch but for the hundreds of employees that we have, and what we are trying to accomplish together. It can never be about one person if we are trying to have a great team, culture and winning tradition.
Now, that being said, we need to treat people with the respect that they deserve.
Did we get it completely right with Daniele in how we dealt with him? No, I don’t think we did. Our view was that this was probably going to be his last year.
Let me give you a scenario that shows why it was such a difficult decision.
Let’s say we have Daniele and another defensive midfielder. We only have 24 people on this team, so we have two defensive midfielders. What if, in the third game of the year, God forbid, the other defensive midfielder breaks his leg? What does the team do then?
Daniele had said he would like to play 10 to 15 games next season. So what does the team do then? You can't buy another player - the transfer market doesn’t open until January.
It's almost impossible to bring up a 17 or an 18-year-old and throw them into one of the most important positions on the team in a league like Serie A.
So what do you do? And if you're in Champions League or Europa League, that's three games a week. That's a physical impossibility that Daniele himself admitted.
While I would love to have Daniele on the team, you only have two positions and if one gets hurt, Roma is screwed. It's just as simple as that.
You can't move an attacking midfielder into a defensive midfielder position. That is a specialty position. You can't do it. That's our rationale - it's just realistic. It's a football and team decision. It's not about a single player – as much as Daniele is a great, great player and a spectacular person.
Daniele has been very loyal to AS Roma and AS Roma has been very loyal to Daniele. People cannot question our loyalty, because we said, 'Daniele, we'd like to have you as part of AS Roma for the rest of your life’. That's pretty loyal to me. We never said, 'Goodbye. See ya later. Have a great life.’
We want Daniele to be part of this club forever and hopefully he will be.
I made the incredibly hard decision not to go to Daniele’s last game because it was his day and I didn’t want to detract from that. If you want to protest me, that's fine but I didn't want to take any attention away from what should be a celebration of De Rossi’s brilliant career and it was.
I'll have my conversations with Daniele in private. We exchanged texts on Thursday morning and I’ve invited him to come and see me after his vacation and spend some time with me. So if you think there's hard feelings or we're not going to speak or anything, you're dead wrong. It’s the same thing with Francesco. I've invited Francesco and his family to come to stay with me and I hope they do.
I know a lot of people might think that the club is in disarray. That’s a foolish thought. Senior management is on the same page. Maybe some people are upset that we - Guido, Mauro, myself and others – have been making tough decisions over the last six months to correct some issues. There are things that have happened that are not the way that I would like this club to be run.
There's inevitably going to be some hard feelings. There's going to be people who are going to say things, who are going to spread rumors as if they know what's going on. The truth is, we are on the same page and we are going to get better.
As you know, I haven’t been in Rome this year. I was so upset since last August with how things were going that I thought if I went it would not help the situation. That was a serious mistake and I will be there next season.
I should have been there more.
It’s obvious to me that there are certain people who are unhappy that they can’t manipulate, blackmail or berate me enough to get me to sell the team.
I understand the history of almost 3,000 years of Rome and I know how this works. If people think they're going to drive me out, it's just not going to happen.
We want to build something great here and so do the people who are working at the club every day. I think the vast majority of fans want the same.
We have an amazingly dedicated staff and it hurts them when things don’t go well or they read that everything is in turmoil.
It's a shame that there are some people in Rome who I know are trying to manipulate the fans against Roma and me.
Unfortunately for them, I’m not going anywhere.
All we care about is building a great and successful Roma and nothing and nobody will deter me from my objective.