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Stuart Harper On April - 5 - 2011

Sette Sempre Unica - Seven Turbulent Days With AS Roma

Early last week Thomas Di Benedetto flew into Rome’s Fiumicino airport to a fervent reception. Both media and tifosi alike were eagerly awaiting his arrival and subsequently waited for that watershed moment - when a Serie A club would enter into foreign ownership for the very first time. A week later and there are still details, diligences and more small print to mull over. No sale yet.

The lack of a denouement poses no real problem and in the grand scheme of things Roma are not disadvantaged by any procedural delays. Aside from an eagerness to placate disenchanted or sought after players (something which can be done without the need for a formal handover), the prolonged nature of such a complicated deal is wholly understandable.

Seemingly however, the absence of a final conclusion to the sale has not stopped the new regime from engaging with candidates for key positions with ‘new Roma’ - and if media reports are to believed, the names under consideration make for interesting reading.

Corriere dello Sport reported that former Roma midfielder (and former Lazio director of football), Walter Sabatini, had not only been offered the sporting director position, but had rebutted Sampdoria’s advances to accept the position (pending completion of the buyout).

Thereafter, it has also been reported that Di Benedtto met with Fabio Capello’s current lieutenant, Franco Baldini, with the Italian making a favourable impression upon the American. Although the meeting was somewhat fortuitous rather than premeditated, it did little to quell speculation that Baldini, who is scheduled to leave the FA in England in 2012 regardless, will rejoin Roma in some capacity.

If indeed both stories are credit worthy, it may suggest that Benedetto is looking to employ personnel with Roma in their DNA. For a club with obvious, intrinsic links between its players and its city, such a ploy would be both understandable and laudable – providing the candidate possess qualities beyond just a previous dalliance of course.

As far as playing personnel are concerned, it’s a case of mixed blessings. Firstly, football agent Ernesto Bronzetti quashed rumours of ‘DDR’ joining Madrid, claiming that los Merengues are sufficiently blessed in the midfield area and no approach has even been mooted. That said, Madrid are just one of a few suitors and even if Bronzetti is correct, there is still ample interest from elsewhere.

Fellow transfer target Philippe Mexes prematurely concluded his season, limping off on Sunday evening with a season ending torn cruciate (knee injury). Obviously this is incredibly sad news for Roma but could the severity of the injury now dissuade the likes of AC Milan from trying to sign Mexes? Alternatively, given Milan’s propensity for rehabilitation, could the injury pique their interest even further?

In all seriousness Roma will miss Mexes. Back in January of this year, Roma were leading Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, when the Frenchmen failed to emerge for the second period. Juan replaced Philippe and then proceeded to gift il Doria two goals in a decidedly shambolic performance. Furthermore, against Juventus on Sunday, no sooner had Mexes departed then Roma folded – a worrying coincidence considering Juan was arguably culpable for Juve’s second goal and furthermore, Roma travel to face Messrs Sanchez and Di Natale at Udinese this Saturday.

Ultimately, it was a week of what could have been both on and off the pitch. Just shy of sixty-thousand filled the Stadio Olimpico to see Juventus, many no doubt buoyed by a recent revival in form and looking to celebrate a new era with a victory of an ailing old lady. Conspiracy theorists were lapping up Gigi Buffon’s exclusion for a high temperature –with suggestion being that the keeper was obviously fit and well, just unable to be trusted against his future employers.

As it happened, Storari deputised magnificently, effectively keeping Juventus in the game until Krasic and Matri clinically took their chances. Montella was left bemoaning the inadequacies of his forward line with Menez and Vucinic singled out for criticism.

To be fair, Juventus defended in numbers and made the central channel almost impregnable, bar a few chances, the best of which spurned by Totti. Thus, with heavy ‘middle lane traffic’ could persisting with real width been Roma’s best policy? Rather than substituting Vucinic, could Montella have kept both he and Menez working the channels and alternating sides to keep Juve’s questionable full-backs guessing? Maybe even subbing Totti and playing Borriello as a target man – especially with no Chiellini to boss the box?

Regardless, in a week which saw Di Benedetto return to the States empty handed and Mexes possibly play his last game for Roma, this is a week to forget for Romanisti. With a wounded Udinese ahead, Montella will have to work hard to quell Guidolin’s prolific outfit, especially without his main central defender and full-backs who will not welcome the speed and guile of Sanchez.

If Roma’s diminutive coach has genuine ambition to lead beyond this season, now’s the perfect time, and the Stadio Friuli the perfect place to prove his credentials - onwards and upwards.

Stuart Harper

Freelance sports writer covering football, calcio & futbol. A Villa, Roma & Barca fan. Cycling too.

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