AS Roma president Jim Pallotta has revealed his renewed optimism about Roma's potential following the first meetings with new coach Paulo Fonseca...
Read what the president had to say following the discussions with the new head coach...
How was the meeting with Paulo Fonseca?
“The meeting was absolutely terrific. We all wanted to sit together with Paulo, and some of his staff, away from any distractions, and just start to really get to know each other. The meeting was very productive and positive and we had about half dozen people from Roma at the meetings and dinners.”
What did you discuss?
“We discussed a lot but we actually tried to listen more than talk. We heard many of his thoughts about his football philosophy and how he would like his teams to play. He has very clear and intelligent thoughts on what he wants to create for Roma and what he expects from all of our players.
"As we saw at Shakhtar, he likes his teams to play with the ball and with a very high intensity, controlling possession but not just possession for possession’s sake. He’s very attack-minded and, as he said in his first interview, he wants to win – but win in style. He also realises that Italy is one of the most tactical leagues in the world and some adjustments, which he articulated, might have to be made. What was most encouraging to me was his flexible approach.”
Does he think that Roma have players who can play the football he wants to play?
“He was very complimentary about the squad we have, in particular many of the young players. He fully admits that it’s going to take some time for the players to adapt to his methods – and for him to learn more about our players.
“One thing he did stress, and he brought his lead performance coach to the meeting, was the importance of the players being in the best possible shape. It’s something I felt we had built but didn’t take advantage of in the last couple of years. To play with such high intensity, the players have to train every day in a very intelligent manner. Last season, I don’t think the players were in great shape – and most of the time that wasn’t the players’ fault - and it resulted in an inordinate amount of injuries.
"We have already started to change our performance programme and we - including Paulo and his team - are completely on the same page. It was evident on the first day that we both have a lot to offer each other in terms of training capabilities.”
What impressed you the most about the coach?
“I was very happy with how he spoke about how he and his coaches will work with players individually, trying to improve both veteran players and also young players on a daily basis. This was very important to him. At the same time, we need players who want to learn and improve themselves and realise that they can always get better.
“If players want to learn and improve then he wants to help them – and he said that this was something he did a lot at Shakhtar, staying behind after training to work on different things with different players. I know for a fact that last season some of our players, who maybe didn’t play every week, felt like they weren’t learning or progressing because no one was there to help them. This was something that he was very passionate about and so am I.
"If players want to improve, and they want to stay behind after training to be able to work on their game, then those are the players he wants to see at the club. I will do everything possible to make sure we have the resources available to do that for our players.”
Did he talk about discipline?
“He spoke about disciple quite a bit. He was adamant that discipline will be one of the major keys to achieving our objectives. Immediately he’ll explain to the players what is expected of them and what they will all need to do. He emphasised the importance of everyone being in this together and there must be genuine unity within the squad.
"Roma isn’t about individuals, it’s about winning as a team. Not every player can play every game and for those not involved, for whatever reason, he still expects the same discipline and the same intensity in training so when they are called upon, they are ready. Anyone who doesn’t want to be part of what we are trying to create can leave. He made that very clear and I am 100% behind on him on that.”
Is it a risk that Paulo has never coached in Italian football before?
“Look, whenever you appoint any new coach, there are risks involved. That goes for every club in the world, not just Roma. What I liked about Paulo was how excited he was by the challenge of coaching in Italy, which we know is a very tactical and competitive league. He has his preferred system he likes to play, but he spoke about how he has to be flexible and able to adapt to different situations. Rather than be frightened or daunted about the task ahead, he was excited about the challenge and proving himself.
"He’s very calm and considered but he’s very ambitious – but with humility to that too. Every day he says he tries to learn how to make himself, his staff and his players better. It’s clear he has confidence in his ability without a drop of arrogance. He wants to prove himself in one of Europe’s top leagues and he believes he can do that with Roma.”
Did he talk about players he’d like to bring to the club or players who may leave?
“We spoke about players but that’s between us and him. He knows the areas where we need to improve and he has some players who he clearly likes and would maybe like to see at Roma. It’s our job to help give him the players and the squad that can help him deliver results for his style. Many of us are working around the clock to fix things that are wrong and we’re always looking to find ways to improve even in the areas we think are already good. For instance, on Wednesday night we were up past midnight in a restaurant enthusiastically talking about what we need to do.”
Will some players leave?
“Inevitably some players will go, and some new players will arrive. In the case of players leaving, if someone isn’t 100% committed or doesn’t want to be part of what we are all trying to build, then they will leave. After last season, we can’t afford to have anyone who isn’t committed to the cause.”
There was a lot of talk in the media about Francesco Totti not being invited to the meeting in London. Is this true?
“Of course it’s not true. Let me state on record, quite clearly for those who think they can continually cause divisions within this club, Francesco was absolutely invited to the meeting in London. I believe he’s an integral part of our football operations management. I felt it was an important meeting so there was never a question about Francesco not being invited.”
Why did Francesco not attend?
“I honestly don’t know. Maybe Francesco feels he needs some time to think about his future and his role at the club. We all respect that. Francesco has spent 30 years in football, most of that time lacing up his boots and giving his all for Roma. If Francesco needs time, we’ll give him time.
"I’m sure he’s got lots of thoughts running through his mind about what he wants to do and he knows that I’m here for him, as I’ve always been here for him, before and since he stopped playing. Whether or not some of you believe that, I don’t really care. I know in my heart that I have been. You will not hear any criticism of Francesco from me or from anyone at Roma.”
Can you confirm he’s been offered the role of Technical Director at Roma?
“Yes. Guido [Fienga] has sat down with him numerous times and spoken to him about the role and what it would entail. This is a very important role at the club, easily one of the most important and influential roles in our football operations, and the fact that we want him to take on the role says everything about what we think of Francesco.
“Alongside the new coach, the next sporting director, Guido, Mauro [Baldissoni], myself and our support staff, we are putting together a strong team to help get AS Roma back to a place where we are competing for trophies and Champions League and in my mind, Francesco is an integral part of that. All of us together – not singularly – only want one thing and that is for Roma to win. That is what drives us all. It’s not about me and it’s not about Francesco or Guido or Paulo or the new sporting director, it’s about AS Roma. ”
Some people think that even with a title like that, Francesco won’t have much influence…
“Listen, I don’t know what is being said and by whom, because I’ve given up reading most of the media, but I believe Francesco already has great influence on our decision making. The idea with the new role though is to better define his position. Under Monchi, he didn’t really have a properly defined role but since Monchi has left, we’ve seen Francesco really step up and take on new responsibilities. Believe me, all of the decisions on the changes we’ve made this past spring - of people leaving or coming - Francesco has had more input than maybe even he thinks he has had. I speak to Guido daily and many times he’s passed on the thoughts that Francesco has given him.
“Francesco was instrumental in helping us bring in Claudio Ranieri. He’s also had a great input into the search for a new coach – offering a lot of very useful advice. I said it in my letter a few weeks ago and it’s true, some of the best input into considering different coaches came from Francesco. We work as a team, we make decisions as a team, and Francesco has been part of every football decision we’ve made – certainly since Monchi has left.
“Everyone knows what sort of player Francesco was, so if there’s anyone better at being able to judge a player we’re looking at, I’d like to meet him. In fact, when I went for dinner with some of my staff in London on Sunday night, Franco was saying again how great Francesco is at judging talent. In fact, since the start of the year, me and Guido have been looking to find a more important role for Francesco as part of the team because he can judge talent better than any of us. Guido, Franco and I have been 100% aligned in how important we think Francesco is to Roma.
“There’s no question we would like to see Francesco as a big part of our future and working with our senior football operations staff, he can begin to carve out a new chapter of his career.”
You’ve made no secret of how depressed you were with how things developed at Roma last season. How are you feeling today?
“I think everyone knows about my dissatisfaction last season and also my concerns about the season before, despite us reaching the semi-final of the Champions League. However, I can truly say that after the last couple of weeks of trying to put together a new team, with Paulo, a new sporting director, a new performance team and working on improving many other areas at Roma, I feel different.
"Walking through the streets of London in the middle of the night after finishing our conversations with the coach, I felt more excited about the potential of Roma, and its role in the world of football, than I have ever been before. I hope I give people more of a chance to see that and people realise how much I care. Maybe I need to do a better job of showing that but internally, there’s no-one who cares more. I’m looking forward to the start of a new future.”