It was a dream come true for most fans when Thomas Di Benedetto finally got his hands on Roma. For decades they have been waiting for their side to enter the elite of European football. Their hope was that with the dollars coming from the Americans, the Giallorossi could attract world class footballers like Chelsea and Manchester City.
But the reality has been disappointing so far. Under the Sensi family the outfit could not afford to spend in the transfer market, now, instead, the club's project is to invest in the future by buying talented youngsters and gambling on a tactician, Luis Enrique, who will hopefully import the Barcelona style to Trigoria. Fantastic plans, but whether the city and the supporters have enough patience for it has yet to be seen.
It all looked so promising in July, but a couple of bad friendly games and a defeat in the Europa League first leg against Slovan Bratislava turned up the heat at the Olimpico. The project has already been questioned and there are several veterans in the dressing room who are reluctantly adapting to the new course.
Daniele De Rossi is yet to renew his contract, David Pizarro is not happy to be a reserve, Francesco Totti gets annoyed every time he sits on the bench and Marco Borriello has already fell out with both the Coach and sporting director Walter Sabatini. These are already priority issues that Luis Enrique and Sabatini will have to solve as soon as possible if they are not to jeopardise the Giallorossi's season.
Franco Baldini will help Sabatini come November, but with the England director in charge things in the dressing room could get even rustier. It wasn't too long ago that Baldini took part in a meeting in Rome. In the presence of Vito Scala, Totti's aid, Baldini announced that Totti would no longer have a private office at Trigoria explaining that, after all, Raul didn't have one at Real Madrid either. That was even before Baldini's "lazy" comments about the Giallorossi captain. Tension will only rise as the battle for power continues.
Rome is a city were rumours spread rapidly and potential conflicts travel faster than light. Luis Enrique hoped for a better pre-season, but the reality is that their campaign doesn't look so promising.
On paper, it is difficult to understand whether Roma have actually improved their squad compared to last year. Maarten Stekelenburg is a good buy, but in defence Roma will have big problems to deal with. José Angel has so far proved to be a liability, Juan isn't getting any younger and Gabriel Heinze may not be as good of a back-up as Philippe Mexes.
The Giallorossi gave away Mirko Vucinic and Jeremy Menez because they were almost forced to, but while Bojan Krkic should be a sensational replacement, it may take Erik Lamela more than a couple of months to settle in. Furthermore, the Argentine wasn't specifically requested by Luis Enrique, but is a gamble of Sabatini. The Spaniard took the signing well though and said: "Now we have got our Iniesta."
But the problem lies exactly there. Luis Enrique wants to build his own Barcelona in Rome, but he doesn't have the same tools available. The Spaniard will be exposed against experienced Italian tacticians and Sabatini has only given him some promising youngsters, but not the established talents the man needs to be competitive straight away.
Last year the Giallorossi finished sixth and chances are that they won't do any better this term, while Delio Rossi's shadow is already haunting Luis Enrique. Roma may have a bright future, but their present doesn't look so rosy, because their project needs time and plenty of it. Rome wasn't built in a day, but that is a lesson Romans don't seem to be learning.
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