Former Roma owner believes he ‘f***** up’ when he bought Monchi to the club as Sporting Director. The former president gave a lengthy and frank interview to SiriusXM where he discussed his tenure as owner and highlighted some of the mistakes he believed he made:
On the early years
Many forget that from 2012 to 2020, for nine consecutive seasons, no other team apart from Juventus won the scudetto. Nine consecutive years in which the richest club in Italy – with its own stadium – had dominated.
Despite all of this, we finished second three times and third in two more seasons. Additionally we also reached the Champions League semi-final. This is probably a better trend than any other rival we have challenged in Italy outside Juventus.
I look at the team we had put together and, frankly, I think that if it wasn’t for Financial Fair Play that forced us to have to sell players, Roma would be in first place today. Over the years we have had Salah, Alisson, Nainggolan, Dzeko, Pjanic, Strootman, Paredes, Emerson Palmieri, Manolas, Benatia, Marquinhos.
Walter Sabatini had done an incredible job of scouting talent before others and unfortunately the way the world of football works – selling in order to respect Financial Fair Play or letting players who want to leave go – is simply the harsh reality of life when you’re not one of the richest clubs in the world.”
On financial fair play
“The big clubs have managed to get away with all kinds of things. Owners can achieve anything they want. When we generated around 200 million euros in revenues, Real Madrid or Barcelona or other clubs that wanted our players, they had 800 or 900 million in revenues.
So, it’s really hard to compete with them without trading football players. In a way, we had built a model similar to the one Atalanta is using today and that everyone praises. We were taking players, improving the team, then selling them to balance the costs, knowing that people like Sabatini and others could find new players to keep the team competitive. That was the only way we could do what we did – we always qualified for the Champions League until I f***** up and signed Monchi.”
“I thought Juventus were the strongest team of the last nine years, but now, when you look at the ongoing investigations, I start to question that. They had their own stadium and more than double our revenues, every time we had a good player in the squad we had to worry if Juve would come and get him.
They did it with Napoli, Milan, they did it with us with Pjanic, and they just did it with Fiorentina. But then you see the on-going investigations they’re involved in, we do not know what will come of it, but it seems clear that Juventus may have done something fishy in the transfer market.
Other teams are doing better and the league has grown, but in general I think Juventus no longer have the same team they used to.”
On owning Roma
“When we bought the club, we were the first foreign investors in Italian football. The league was a disaster at that point. International television deals were a joke.
There was a lot of violence and racism in the stadiums. We knew from the polls that families didn’t feel safe going to matches, attendance was down. Lega Serie A thought they were the best in the world but in reality had become the third or fourth league in the meantime.
Stadiums were old then, now they are even older. The Italian league was probably 20 years behind the Premier League.
Compared to the one we sold, the club we bought in 2011 was very different. I don’t care what the previous owners or others say, we inherited a club that had huge debts, low revenues and was bankrupt. I know I’ll take more shit for saying it, but we negotiated the purchase of Roma with Unicredit and if I’m dealing with a bank, then it means that the bank owns that team. They are done.”
[Article originally appeared in RomaPress]