On Monday morning, on the eve of the start of pre-season, Roma coach Paulo Fonseca sat down with the assembled media to hold his first press conference at Trigoria.
After being introduced by sporting director Gianluca Petrachi, who gave the Portuguese a warm welcome to the club, Fonseca made a few brief opening remarks in Italian.
“Hello everyone," Fonseca said.
"I'm thrilled to be here and I'm excited about working for this great club in this magnificent city. I'm studying the language and I hope to be able to speak to you in Italian soon.”
He then took questions from journalists - read what he had to say about matters ranging from his playing style, his plans for pre-season, his objectives with the club and more.
How do you envisage your Roma?
“First of all, it won't be 'my' Roma but everyone's Roma. I'm very motivated, as are my backroom team, Gianluca [Petrachi], the management and all the players. I want to build an ambitious team that all our fans can be proud of.”
You faced Roma as an opponent just over a year ago. What do you remember about the Stadio Olimpico and the fans from that day?
“I don't have a particularly good memory of that night because my team was knocked out, but I got a taste of the atmosphere at the Olimpico – and the crowd was an important part of the team's success. I'll do everything I can to get the fans behind us so that we can recreate the atmosphere I saw that day, albeit unfortunately from the other side.”
Lots of things have changed at Roma since then. What do you think you can do in the transfer market to strengthen the team? For example, why have you chosen Pau Lopez as your goalkeeper?
“Gianluca, Guido [Fienga] and I are working hard to try and build a strong team. We're looking at everything and considering our options very carefully so that we bring in players who add quality to this team. So far we've signed [Leonardo] Spinazzola, [Amadou] Diawara and Pau Lopez. When we complete other deals, we'll let you know. The main thing to say is that we're considering our options carefully to find the right sort of players to improve the team.”
Is Gonzalo Higuain the right sort of player?
“I'm on exactly the same page as Gianluca regarding what he said the other day and I don't intend to talk about players who aren't here. If Higuain were to arrive, then I'd be able to talk to you about him but I don't want speak about deals that haven't happened. I prefer not to discuss players who aren't here right now.”
What targets did Jim Pallotta set when you met in London?
“The president didn't set a specific target but clearly I want to get Roma back into the Champions League for next season. Another aim of mine is to build a strong, ambitious, courageous team. We want to win every game and while we know that's not always possible we do want to put together a team that all of our fans can be proud of. If we can achieve that, then I think we'll be close to winning something. I'm not the sort of person who likes to make promises but that's what I believe. I have a two-year contract with an option for a third and I'm convinced this team can win one of the competitions we're involved in. As I said, that's not a promise but what I believe.”
What do you think of Nicolo Zaniolo? Is he important for your sort of football?
“Zaniolo is a highly talented player and we believe in him. But what I have to say now is for him and all the other players in the squad: what matters to me is the present and the future, and each and every player in this squad must show me they deserve to be here by the way they train every day. Zaniolo has my confidence, like all his team-mates. I believe in these players and that's why I'm ambitious and why I believe we can achieve great things with this team and these players. The present and the future are what matter. We must build with players who are willing to put this club and this team before their own interests, because I believe that's the only way you can be successful.”
Have you spoken to Edin Dzeko? Will you try to keep him?
“I haven't had the opportunity to speak to him yet but I know Gianluca has. I can tell you this: in my view it's important that we only keep players who are happy to be here, who are motivated and who want to fight for this club. I think those things are vital. We need players who are 100% committed to the cause and committed to chasing this club's targets.”
Have you received assurances about which players will definitely be staying and will be central to the future of this club? Do you think a major overhaul of the squad will mean it takes longer to build a team that can live up to expectations?
“There are some players we are definitely counting on and who are key to our future – players who are a fundamental part of our plans. We'll start work tomorrow and I think it will take a bit of time for the players to take my ideas on board but I'm optimistic: I'm convinced that with the players we have here and those who will join we can build a great team.”
Will Alessandro Florenzi and Lorenzo Pellegrini be captain and vice-captain of the new Roma? What position do you plan to play them in?
“I know both players well because I faced them as an opponent and I've watched a lot of Roma matches but I want to get to know them personally and see what they're like because that's an important part of being a team. That goes for everyone, not just those two. Personality and character are important. As for their positions, we'll see. We'll experiment a bit and then you'll see what we decide.
“We often talk about the expectations we have and I will expect things from the players and the club will expect things from them, but what matters is how much the players expect of themselves and of their team-mates. That's why the captain's role is so vital. We often talk about leadership on the pitch: well, that's what being a leader is. I hope the players feel that's important at all times. I hope the players in my team have the same high expectations of themselves and their team-mates, because it will help us to win matches.”
You left a club that was used to winning trophies for a team that finished sixth. Did you come here to try a new experience in a different league or to win something with Roma?
“I'm here because I firmly believe that together we can take Roma to the next level. We know we play in a league that is extremely difficult from a tactical perspective and that makes it a very exciting challenge for me – it's one of the reasons I came to Italy. Above all, I'm here because I feel we can achieve something big.
“My choices aren't motivated by financial reasons but by my feelings and when I spoke to Gianluca and he offered me the chance to come to Roma I didn't have a moment's hesitation. I'll say it again: I believe we can build something special here.”
Do you know what formation you're going to use? Your Shakhtar side was very solid defensively, but it was different in Europe. How do you plan to adapt to a different league such as Serie A?
“The formation is not the most important thing; it's more about how we move as a team. If you've looked at my past teams, you'll have seen that my players double up. Of course the coach's instructions are very important but you must always factor in the specific attributes of your players. If you ask me whether the players in this squad are capable of adapting to my ideas then the answer is a definite yes.
“As for the importance of defence, I think the last 12 league titles in Italy have been won by the team with the best defensive record. We'll definitely look to improve defensively because it's important but that doesn't mean we'll be a defensive team or a team that sits back and waits.
“I believe the best way to defend is to keep the ball. What really matters is playing with intensity at all times, while ensuring the team's defensive stability. I think you should try to defend away from your goal. If we're able to turn Roma into a solid defensive unit, then we'll be that much closer to achieving what we want.
“There's a lot more strategy in football nowadays. You know a lot about your opponents and you can study them in great detail. There's a lot of variety in Italy: you get teams playing with four or five at the back, with two or three up front. That means we need to study our opponents carefully and prepare specific strategies for each match. If you want to know whether we'll always play the same way, my answer is we'll play using a strategy that can help us to beat the opposition.”
Could you clarify whether Florenzi will be club captain?
“Florenzi has been the captain of this team before. It's something we'll look at together but given that he's been the captain in the past there's a very high chance that he will remain captain.”
You're Roma's eighth coach in nine years. Do you find that worrying? How do you think you can succeed where others have failed?
“I'm not afraid – fear is not something I feel. I don't like talking about myself and when you're a coach your results always speak for you. I'm convinced that if we obtain good results you'll see who I am. Coaches are known by their results and I hope everyone will get to know me for my results.”
Do Javier Pastore and Diego Perotti fit into your idea of football, and if so, how?
“If they're members of this squad, then they're players I'm counting on and I can rely on. I think they can be useful to the team. They're quality players and the same thing I said about Zaniolo goes for them: they must work hard every day to show they deserve to be here.”
You played with lots of different strikers as a player. What's your ideal striker like?
“My ideal striker is one who scores goals!”
What sort of relationship do you typically have with the sporting director? Do you give him a list of players you want the club to sign?
“I have to say that Gianluca and I have established an excellent relationship in the short time we've been working together. We're choosing the best players for this team in unison. There are two types of situation: either he suggests a player to me and I assess it or I suggest one to him and he assesses it. We're working together to make the best decisions possible. Financial factors are important too of course but there's no doubt we're trying to identify the best options to strengthen this team.”