The Gentleman Ultra on very interesting times for one of Italy's big clubs
The crest of Capitoline Wolf still covers the heart of the Giallorossi shirt, a constant that connects the club and the city's inhabitants with the mythical tale of Romulus and Remus.
There is a distinct need for Romans to be entangled with their past. Their city echoes this and tradition dictates her heart beat. It is a stubborn passionate and violent past that hides libertines and self-interest under a cloak of morals and strength. Rome can modernise and the Eternal City's mix of glass fronted shops amongst the old buildings is proof of this. Sport is also in the Romans' blood and now one of its most emblematic clubs is ready to embrace the future.
To start a revolution, you must aim to dispose a King. That is the theory anyway. How do you start a revolution when the King is loved, adored and even worshipped? That is the problem that Roma have faced for the last 25 years, perhaps more. When Giuseppe Giannini, ‘Il Principe’, handed over his title to Francesco Totti, the Roman born boy started his journey to not just become a King but a demi-god. Few would have anticipated it, especially not the baby faced local boy but after a career that spanned three decades, with over 600 appearances and over 250 goals (11 of them in the Derby Della Capitale) it was no surprise. At 40 years of age he has one last Derby to go and this is his last season. His influence has been so total that it has seen coaches dispatched almost at his will. Like a beautiful despot that can do no wrong, he has consistently delivered and entertained his Curva Sud. His success however, has arguably held Roma back.
As Totti continually embodied what is was to be Giallorossi, even Roman, he encompassed the southern mentality that has seen his club win only three Scudetti in their history. "To win the Derby is more important than winning the Scudetto" is a common phrase used by both sides and it is this mentality, along with entertaining the crowd that has only seen the Roman clubs dominate Serie A for a two year spell at the turn of the century. Totti’s "move upstairs" will allow the Romans to plan for life without him and the equilibrium will be still be kept in place as the future will be influenced by dear Francesco. James Pallotta - Chairman of Roma and an American billionaire - had been shrewd here as he planned to maintain an icon yet remove his power.
Coach Luciano Spalletti was brought in as a man who knew the club and its eccentricities and arguably was the only one who could manage Totti without causing riots in the stands. His transition of ‘Il Capitano’ from permanent fixture to super sub was proof of this. The ‘mister’s’ statement that he would leave the club if he did not win silverware however, showed again the weakness in the system and that they did not have a consistent presence in the club that would direct their growth and development beyond simply the coaching.
Enter Ramon Rodriguez ‘Monchi’ the ‘The Architect of Sevilla’. Called one of "the best minds in world football" by Pallotta, the former goalkeeper and now sporting director has been credited for the Spanish side's chameleon abilities as they consistently regenerated after their team was picked apart after every success. The man with an eye for talent was hot property and many of Europe’s elite wanted him in their ranks. The man who found Dani Alves, Kevin Gameiro, Julio Baptista, Grzegorz Krychowiak, and Ivan Rakitic to name a few (and for little to no money) was always going to be attractive. The Spanish club won 11 trophies whilst he was there and let’s put this in perspective: They have only won 13 in 127 years. Now he comes with the sole purpose of taking the Giallorossi, not only to contest for every domestic honour but also to take on Europe in a very serious manner.
His comments on his arrival that he needs to get to know what it means to be Roma are positive for the club, as he will no doubt look for a mixture of academy players and the best of the world's hidden talents. Developing youth will be a must but Pallotta has made it clear that buying low to sell high is a bonus and not a business model. The club are entering a new modern and unusual era yet they are not abandoning their roots or what it means to be Roman.
This ‘New Roma’ will also be moving from the Stadio Olimpico into a new home. It was confirmed by ASNA on April 5th that the first bricks will be laid for the modern Stadio Della Roma in 2018. This will surely heighten their rivalry with Lazio as both wolves will have dens of their own, although the Derby Della Capitale will be missed in its current state at the Stadio Olimpico.
The new state of the art venue will be able to hold 52,500 people yet this could be expanded to 60,000 if there is need to do so. The stadium will be purpose built and will give all the modern comforts that can been seen in the Bundesliga, including unblocked views, media facilities, family and corporate seats and of course, the Curva Sud. The promise to the pitch (like at Juventus) will be close but more importantly it will be privately owned and multipurpose. The design is intriguing as it offers a mix of the cities past and present whether in design or materials used. It promises to be one of the go-to places in Serie A upon completion.
The building of this new Roman Empire is masterful in its conception. It mirrors the city in its beautiful extravagant mix of old and new yet whilst it represents the old design, the mindset is modern. Totti has been respected and exhausted to a powerless position. The coach, whoever that will be will be simply that as the powers that be will busily scurry around in the background like a modern-day senate. Finally, they have their new Colosseum that can accommodate, family, corporate and of course Ultra. Rome is changing. It is dangerous now but it could soon be devastating.