On Thursday afternoon new Roma sporting director Gianluca Petrachi was presented to the media for the first time.
After being formally introduced to the assembled journalists by chief executive Guido Fienga - who declared his pleasure at being able to appoint Petrachi, adding that "the first few days have been encouraging - the intensity and thoroughness with which he has begun" - the former Torino director answered questions on a variety of topics.
“The first thing I'd like to say is that I'm very happy to have joined Roma – it's a real honour," Petrachi began.
"I think anyone who does my job hopes to be able to work their way up to a big club like Roma, so I'm honoured and proud.
“I'd also like to thank everyone at Torino for the support they gave me during my 10 years there. Now I have this new challenge before me – and it's one I intend to do well in.”
Read what Petrachi had to say about his targets at Roma, his approach to his role, his assessment of the many options available on the transfer market right now, and more.
What do you think of Trigoria?
“I was already familiar with the training ground as one of the first deals I ever did was here with Roma when I signed [Alessio] Cerci while I was working for Pisa. And two years ago I was back here for Iago Falque and [Adem] Ljajic. The place has had a bit of a makeover now and it looks even better. I think what you see in Trigoria is a reflection of just how big this club is.”
Why do you think Paulo Fonseca is a good fit for the Roma job?
“I want to be very clear about this: I've been really impressed by Paulo Fonseca. I've been keeping an eye on his progress for a few years because there was a Shakhtar player I was interested in signing for Torino and while I was scouting him I got to see how Fonseca's team played.
"In those three games I realised just what a quality coach he is. You could see a clear playing philosophy and a compact, aggressive team good at winning the ball back immediately – the sort of football I love. I was a player myself, and I played a few times in Serie A, and if I'd had a coach like Fonseca I think my career might have gone a little differently.
"He has a systematic approach and gives his players very precise instructions, but he's by no means set in his ways. He's very flexible and looks at the players he has to work with. I've been really impressed by the desire and determination he's shown. If I'm feeling this confident it's because of the coach. I really believe Fonseca can give all Roma fans a clear idea of the team they can expect to see. And I hope the fans will understand what I mean once they've seen the first few friendlies.
"It will take a bit of time because it's not easy to introduce a certain mentality or a certain brand of football. I have a very good feeling about Fonseca, though. We know exactly what we want. We speak regularly and we share the same football ideas, which is fundamental. You need the coach, sporting director and players all on the same page.”
What do you plan to do in the transfer window to raise the bar so that Roma can aim for something more than fourth place?
“I think we should be realistic – that's how I am as a person. I think this is a 'year zero' for Roma. The team needs to start over with players who have values and principles. I've never gone for players who have lost motivation or who are only interested in money. I pick human beings first, and footballers second. If we want to raise the level of this team, I think that's the message we should be putting out to the players coming here.
"I've read lots of reports of players rejecting us but Roma is not a second-choice destination. Anyone coming here must do so with desire and enthusiasm – and that's exactly what I saw in [Leonardo] Spinazzola's eyes when he first came here. He didn't come from some small-town club either but from Juventus. That's the enthusiasm I want to see in all the players I sign for Roma. They must bring something extra, the desire and enthusiasm that was lacking last year, team spirit and a sense of belonging.
"I am fully committed to instilling discipline and a sense of belonging, which are the things fans want to hear. We need people who run their heart out for 90 minutes, You might win or lose but fans must be able to identify with their team. That's the message I'll be giving to all the players who are already here and those who join us.”
What will happen to Edin Dzeko and Patrik Schick? Are Roma interested in Gonzalo Higuain?
“Let's be clear about one thing. A player doesn't wake up one day, decides he wants to leave, agrees terms with another club and then holds us to ransom. Roma won't be held to ransom by anyone. If there's a player who no longer wants to be at Roma or who decides he's no longer motivated enough, then he has to show us a club who wants to buy him and who's prepared to pay for him. Then he can leave.
"I won't hold anyone against their will but I don't like it when people put the squeeze on me. I don't care if a player has reached an agreement with another club – which actually goes against the rules. The player has to understand that this isn't his house. He's here to help this house but he's not the owner of this house. And it's the owners who decide. I can assure you that no one is going to put the squeeze on this club, on Roma.
"We'll try to make the best decisions possible and I think the ones we've made so far have been logical, football decisions. [Kostas] Manolas left because he wanted to leave. I spoke to his agent and that's what he told me. I said to Mino Raiola: 'If he wants to leave, then someone has to pay his release clause and then he can go.' If he wants to train and work hard then he can stay here, fine. But he can't decide what to do himself.
"Napoli made a big offer and we got a player [Amadou Diawara] in exchange who just needs a bit of confidence, but he's the sort of hungry, motivated player we're after. He called me yesterday and said: 'I'm willing to come straight there without taking a day's holiday.' That's the sense of belonging and the enthusiasm I want to see in all the players here.”
Is the Spinazzola-Pellegrini swap the start of a collaboration with Juventus? Is Higuain the sort of demotivated player you're looking to avoid?
“I think you'd have to be crazy to have doubts about Higuain. Maybe he's lost a bit of self-confidence, but that's not for me to say. He could certainly be a very useful player for Roma if Dzeko were to leave. But motivation is key. If the possibility of a move were to open up with Juve and Higuain, then he would have to believe in it 100%. I'm working hard to bring in players with the right desire and I won't let a big name cloud my judgement: if he doesn't have the right spirit or desire, I'll see it.
"We'll assess all aspects. But if he wants to rediscover his sparkle, I don't think there's a better place for him than Roma right now. He could follow in the footsteps of his fellow countryman [Gabriel] Batistuta, who certainly left his mark here. In any case, these are all matters that we may look at further down the line. For now I want to see Dzeko as a Roma player and I hope that when he comes back for pre-season training he'll realise that the atmosphere is different here now; that this club, this sporting director and this coach want to do things a certain way, and then we'll assess everything.
"If he did decide to leave, then Inter would have to pay a decent fee for him so that we could go into the market with a bit more cash to put to use; otherwise I'm not going to do it.”
Do you have a budget to work with? Do you know how much you can spend?
“I'm not used to working with a budget. [Torino president Urbano] Cairo never said to me: 'You have this much to spend.' When I spoke to [James] Pallotta, he told me that he wants to build a team and invest in youth if possible, that he prefers hungry players with potential. I've expressed my ideas to him and we've been very clear with each other. I told him we need to strengthen the squad and make a fresh start.
"We'll have to give some of the players time because if you buy young players that's how it is. I've told him the sort of player I'd like to bring here and he didn't say, 'No, he costs too much'; he said, 'Okay, if you're sure he's a player you want then go ahead with the talks and get him for us.' I've never signed a player against the coach's wishes. I think that's the worst possible thing a sporting director can do. You have to agree on things – above all on the tactics you're going to use on the pitch.
"We're hard at work. We have this press conference at the moment but I'm also working to complete a deal for a player today. I don't know if we'll manage it but we're trying.”
What's the situation with Nicolo Barella?
“Before I joined Roma, his agent sat down lots of times with the club, they agreed terms and he was very happy to come to Roma. That's what I've been told. I know that a bit of time was lost with all the changes following Monchi's departure, as was inevitable. In the meantime Inter came in and made Cagliari and the player an offer. [Antonio] Conte called him and he's very good at convincing players he wants to sign.
"I can understand the lad might want to play in the Champions League and that perhaps he doesn't see Roma on the same level as Inter at the moment. Personally I've never sought Barella; it was Cagliari who came to Roma saying that Inter were dallying and that Roma could make a better offer and buy the player. And as they say, there's no harm in trying. I thought it would be difficult from the start, and clearly it's even more difficult now. I say that because the player wants to join Inter.
"If Barella calls me and says he's had second thoughts and he might want to join Roma, then we can talk about it. But as things stand there's nothing doing. It would be wrong to try and force a player who has other ideas to join you. The player must have the right motivation to join Roma. If he doesn't, then it's only right that he should join Inter.”
Have you spoken to Franco Baldini?
“Franco Baldini has called me, as I think he has called some of my counterparts. He's one of the president's consultants and as such he suggested several sporting directors to Pallotta. I think he must rate me because I was one of the names he suggested. I was very frank with him, as I have been with president Pallotta and as I am every day with our CEO Guido Fienga, who is and will remain the person I speak to most.
"I don't compromise on my choices. I'll discuss them from a financial perspective, because it's up to the club to say if we can or can't spend a certain amount of money, but when it comes to purely football decisions, assessing players, I'm the one who has to take responsibility, as I've always done since my first day in this job. President Cairo never insisted that I should buy this or that player – it was always my call. I've always taken that responsibility. I want everyone here to understand that Franco Baldini won't be influencing my decisions or telling me what to do, because before joining this club, I said quite clearly: 'If you want me, this is who I am; otherwise, you've got the wrong guy.'
"But Franco Baldini can be resource for me. He has an in-depth knowledge of the game and he's done my job before. He knows the difficulties and problems I face. If Franco Baldini calls me tonight, as he's done in recent days and weeks, and says, 'There's the chance to get this player', if he knows the right channels to go down, and if he's the right sort of player, I'll tell him to go ahead and then I'll speak to whoever I have to speak to. That's the sort of collaboration there should be between a consultant and a sporting director. I can assure you that if the opposite were to happen, then I wouldn't be sitting here.”
Have you spoken to Nicolo Zaniolo? Where are you at with his new contract? Does he have the right enthusiasm to remain a Roma player?
“Zaniolo exploded onto the scene last season but didn't play to his full potential towards the end of the campaign. He got sidetracked from what a young player should do, which is train hard and remain focused on your football. Zaniolo is like all the other players who need to discuss a new contract or improved terms.
"He has a contract and the club wants to improve it because he's an important player. Players who have played 15 games in Serie A can quickly get bigged up here, but I'm a bit more wary. The boy still has a long way to go. He could make it to the top if he keeps his feet on the ground and works hard and consistently in training, as I'm told he did for the first six months of last season. Then he could be one of the stars. But it depends on him.
"We have to make sure he keeps his feet on the ground because at his age you can lose your sense of proportion. Hard work and commitment should be your bread and butter in training. I think he's maybe lost a bit of that lately and that's one of the first things I'm going to talk to him about. It's not that I want to bring him down a peg or two, because he's young and we all did stupid things when we were 20. The main thing is he understands where he must improve and that he hasn't achieved anything yet.”
When it comes to purely football decisions, assessing players, I'm the one who has to take responsibility, as I've always done since my first day in this job.
When Monchi joined he said: 'Fans go to the stadium to applaud trophies, not balance sheets.' Have you come here to win trophies?
“I've always been ambitious and I've always loved a challenge. Some of my colleagues said to me, 'Why would you go to Roma? After what you've done, you could choose any team.' But I think being the sporting director of Roma and achieving something here would mean I've succeeded in my career, and I'll do everything in my power to make that happen. I can't sit here today and say, 'I'm going to win a trophy.' That would be stupid.
"Right now we have to rebuild, re-lay the foundations and turn this into a winning team again. Rome wasn't built in a day and if you want to build a house, you have to start with the foundations, not the roof because otherwise it will fall on your head. We need to rebuild a sense of belonging. We already have something to work with because there are lads here who have those values and principles. Only time will tell if I'm able to achieve something and if Roma are capable of lifting trophies. I don't like to talk too much; I prefer to do my talking on the pitch.
"I'm not a particularly sociable person. In fact, I'll take this opportunity to tell you all that I don't answer to anyone. If someone thinks they might be able to obtain favours because they're the editor of a newspaper, you should know that I'm not in the business of giving out names of players. I work on the pitch and that's where my focus lies. I don't have favourites: the smallest journalist gets the same treatment as the big names. I've received lots of messages over the last few days and I responded to them all in the same way. That's how I am.
"I don't answer to anyone; I just get on with my job. We'll see in due course whether I've been able to achieve results, whether I've been able to give his club and these fans a team that represents them. Right now knuckling down is all that matters.”
Has Fonseca made any specific requests about the players currently at the club? Are there any he definitely doesn't want you to sell?
“Fonseca has told me what he thinks and we're working along those lines but I'm not going to name names. If he decided to come here, it's partly because he thinks there are players here that he can work with and who can perform better than they did last season.”
Can you update us on Stephan El Shaarawy?
“I've spoken to El Shaarawy's brother, who is his agent besides [Federico] Pastorello. I told him I'd like Stephan to stay. He was one of Roma's better players last term. We'd like to renew his contract but we can't push the boat out. He deserves a new contract on good terms and if he wants to stay at Roma, I'll do my best to give him what he wants. But if he wants the sort of wages he can get in China and if Roma receive enough money to buy a replacement, I'm not going to hold anyone against their will.”
What did Conte see at Inter that he didn't see here at Roma?
“I've known Antonio for well over 30 years, since we joined Lecce in 1981. I know him very well and he's the sort of guy who wants to win immediately – coming second means losing for him. He saw a slightly stronger squad and a better chance of winning the Scudetto immediately at Inter. And I don't think he was entirely wrong, especially as Roma have to rebuild some of the pillars here for the coming seasons.
"I told him that winning at Roma is worth five league titles at Inter or Juve. I didn't beg him but I tried to make him understand that we could have worked well together. I was the first to believe in his ability because I suggested him to Arezzo. That's the way he is, though: nothing gets in his way when it comes to winning. I appreciate him as a professional and as a friend.
"I'm a sentimental, passionate guy so I thought I'd fit right in here at Roma. I think I'm a people's man and I'd like to live in the centre to soak up everything the Roma fans have to give, and then to convey it to the players. I was disappointed with Conte's choice but I believe Fonseca can really surprise a lot of people. Having Fonseca in charge fills me with confidence. I believe greatly in him both as a person and as a coach.
“I always sensed something different when I came to Rome as an opponent. I'd get goose bumps when I stepped out at the Olimpico. The Roma fans – when their energy is channelled the right way – really are a 12th man on the pitch. I could feel that from the other side. These fans have so much to give. If we all realise how much of a difference they can make, we'll be halfway there already.”
Have you spoken to Francesco Totti?
“I was really sorry about Totti. He'll always be a club icon and a talisman for Roma fans and this city. I'd have liked to work with him but sadly he made a career choice and we have to accept that. It would have been a big help for me to have him by my side – he could have helped me understand things more quickly – but that's how it went. If he ever wants to come back, I'll welcome him with open arms.”
Is there a chance Kevin Strootman might rejoin Roma?
“Lots of possibilities get mooted during the transfer window and lots of options are considered, some of which make it into the papers and some don't. It is a possibility but it's a very remote one.”
The fans have seen Daniele De Rossi leave too. Can Alessandro Florenzi be the next captain?
“I haven't spoken to the players yet except [Aleksandar] Kolarov, who wanted to talk to me. Florenzi is the captain at the moment. You have to feel a sense of belonging inside of you. I'm interested in people who feel a sense of belonging and who show it through actions, not words. I've seen so many players kiss the badge on their shirt and then ask to leave. I'm not talking about Florenzi but you have to show a sense of belonging on the pitch by battling and giving everything for Roma. I don't want players who suddenly get a little niggle, or who act like hotshots in the less important games. The players will be able to see my sense of belonging because for me there's Roma and nothing else. They must be the same. Hotshots won't last long here.
“It's a shame about De Rossi and I don't know if he'll stop playing or continue. Maybe he'll be back here as the Roma coach in a few years' time. There's no point looking back now. We have to make people understand that we're trying to change things, and help them identify with the new team that's taking shape, one with a different mentality, strength and courage. We must have the courage to play football.”
Do you prefer a young team or one with experienced players?
“You need a mix of youth and experience, that way you can help young players develop and you place less responsibility on their shoulders. You have to strike the right balance. Generally I prefer a young, energetic team, and a slightly less technical style of football than in the past. Football has changed and nowadays if you're not strong physically, you get trounced. I'll try to put together a team that is strong, physical and energetic, then the coach's tactical solutions will make the difference. You all saw what Ajax achieved last season. They were a team that knew exactly what they needed to do, even when they visited Juventus. The gap my friend Conte sees between Inter and Roma can be bridged with the tactical ideas our coach can give us.”
Could Mauro Icardi join Roma?
“He's an excellent striker. He has a few issues at Inter but I don't want to discuss specific transfer targets. I prefer to keep silent.”
Would you prefer to see Roma displaying power or finesse?
“You can't choose between the two – you need both during a match. You need skilful, clever players but also players who rise above the crowd to win headers at corners. I like to see an attacking brand of football and a team that wins the ball back quickly. That's what impressed me about Fonseca's football and it's what he's told me he wants to do here. If every player knows what he has to do, then you're one step ahead. I hope the fans at the stadium will realise that Roma have a distinct playing style.”