Roma’s Rudi Garcia is probably about as close to being a shoe-in for Serie A Coach of the Season as he can possibly be without having already won the award.
Since his arrival at Stadio Olimipico last summer, it is no exaggeration to say the Frenchman has completely galvanised the club. Had it not been for the winning machine that is Antonio Conte’s Juventus, the 50-year-old would surely now be entering the home stretch of a previously unthinkable and glorious Scudetto victory that would have immediately placed him in Giallorosso folklore.
As it is, he will in all likelihood have to settle for second this time around. While this does not take any gloss off a season that will have been an unqualified success regardless of what happens over the coming weeks, Garcia again showed in his media briefings this week just what an ambitious, positive and forward thinking tactician he is by immediately turning his attention to future challenges.
“I want to stay at Roma but I want a competitive team,” he said. “I want a team capable of competing in the Champions League and at the same time challenging for the Scudetto.” Where other Coaches might have chosen to bask in the glory of a successful campaign and gone through the motions until the summer, here was Garcia not resting on his laurels and making a real statement of intent. He will not settle for second best, a mindset that he clearly wants to see reverberated around the club from top to bottom.
It is just as well then that Roma President James Pallotta has a track record in delivering success to teams previously straddled by mediocrity. In 2002, the American bought shares in his beloved NBA franchise the Boston Celtics and was part of a revival in fortunes that saw the team go on to become champions in 2008, a feat they almost repeated two years later. While his role at the Celtics is by no means as influential or demanding as his position at Roma, the fact he has played his part in a sporting organisation rising from also-rans to winners must be a source of great encouragement to Garcia.
Pallotta also seems genuine in his intentions to make Roma: “one of the top three clubs in the world. That’s the goal and I’m not afraid to say it.” Plans for a new state of the art 52,000-seater stadium have been unveiled, while the 56-year-old has also been working hard behind the scenes to secure new investment and sponsorship. This includes the Giallorossi signing a lucrative new 10-year kit deal with market leader Nike, as well as new partnerships with the likes of Disney and Volkswagen and the team completing money-spinning pre-season tours across the pond.
With seemingly strong and driven individuals therefore occupying the positions that matter at Roma, the scene seems set for an exciting and prosperous long term future for the Giallorossi. What Pallotta must now do is find the right balance between realising his vision for the club over the next five to 10 years, and providing Garcia with the necessary funding he will need to remain competitive on the pitch in the meantime.
This is not to suggest that Roma should recklessly lavish money on expensive transfer targets this summer. What it is saying is that Garcia is right when he admits that, with the Champions League to account for next season, his small squad will struggle with the demands of playing twice a week if it is not significantly strengthened.
If last summer’s underwhelming sell-to-buy transfer policy can now be excused somewhat by the fact that the club were not in Europe, had a new and unproven Coach and that the President was still getting accustomed to his role in Rome, Pallotta must surely be more proactive this time around.
The drastic overachievements of Garcia and his team this term have ensured that Roma’s on-field staff have more than fulfilled their side of the bargain. Now it is up to the off-field contingent to deliver on theirs if the club are to make the most of their upturn in fortunes. With both Milan clubs, Napoli, Fiorentina and arch-rivals Lazio all playing catch-up, this summer represents a golden opportunity for Pallotta to hammer home the Giallorossi’s newly-found advantage on the Italian football scene. It must be taken.