Saturday August 26 2017
Spalletti thrown to the lions

Luciano Spalletti returns to the Stadio Olimpico as a rival, but already knows how it feels to be jeered by Roma fans, writes Richard Hall.

Luciano Spalletti will cross the Tiber with a new set of troops this weekend, as he descends on Rome in anger. His departure was self-inflicted, the Giallorossi would agree, but for different reasons.

The Tuscan has enjoyed a love-hate relationship with the Eternal City, but on reflection it became more the latter. One should never go back, as the saying goes, but there was more to it than this. Not understanding Roma and the City is an easy mistake and an excuse. Knowing it and still falling out is another thing altogether.

Eusebio Di Francesco is a man who also knows Rome, and he hosts the Nerazzurri this weekend. Spalletti will return with a well-drilled, free-flowing Inter squad to face his former club. His time in the city saw him produce some excellent football and one may be excused for thinking he left many fond memories, but perhaps they have been largely overshadowed now.

Speaking to Rome-based journalist and ESPN’s Roma correspondent Terry Daley, I asked about how Spalletti would be received on his return. “Given that the whole stadium booed him after the last game of the season, I think it’s safe to say the fans didn’t take him to their hearts.” The scenes were quite unforgettable, as the Coach had to put up with jeers from the home support, which to many may have been strange, as they finished second in the table.

“His second tenure was so linked to Francesco Totti’s farewell that it’s hard to say if the fans are still hostile to him or not. Too many people in this city are blinded by their love for Totti and his handling of his retirement overshadowed absolutely everything else. This included a record points and goals scored total. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he was heartily jeered again on Saturday.”

The relationship between Totti and the fans was certainly understood by Spalletti, who said “it would be easier to move the Colosseum out of Rome.” It is arguable that any man who tried to navigate Il Capitano’s final season would have been doomed for not playing him more, perhaps any man who tried to interrupt the ongoing love affair between Francesco and his adoring faithful in any manner would always have suffered this fate. Even so, would this relationship have been retrievable? What would Spalletti’s Roma have looked like without the ‘Totti-Party’? We will never know.

Could the handling of the Totti affair be the only reason for the fall out? Tellingly, Spalletti said in November last year that "my relationship with Rome is fantastic because I never take a wrong turn. I only know the way from my home to Trigoria.” Whilst he was referring to the fact that he sees little of Rome, it did seem to symbolise his relationship with the city. He mentioned his children grew up here and that meant he had an intense relationship with the Capital. It was almost like they had been brought together, a passionate affair where the chemistry was incredible, yet they couldn’t get along.

In the interview with UEFA, Spalletti explained that he understood the fans wore the club colours as a second skin and he was aware of the tension and intensity this brought. Perhaps the most telling statement was when he said that whilst understanding the fans, he has the responsibility of translating his love and support on to the pitch, and this was a burden that he felt heavily.

He will return on Saturday and most likely will be booed. The animosity is not because he didn’t understand them or didn’t try to, it is because he knew them only too well. The passion, the venom, the love and the hate, all of the emotion was perhaps just too much and in the end, they parted.  Now he returns with a new club and a new loyalty and he will walk out in front of the Curva Sud to whatever reception they decide.

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Have your say...
Interista here, both teams will have a hard game against each other and fight until the end but inter is not stronger than roma and i strongly believe that roma will take the 3 points. But i hope inter can prove me wrong.
on the 26th August, 2017 at 2:35pm
Roma fans predicting an Inter win? Give me a break. Roma have been superior to us for many years now. Just last season we were pushed aside 1-3 at the Meazza. You are the superior team and the favorites. Any points we come away with is a bonus!
on the 26th August, 2017 at 11:45am
Agree with the comments below. The problem wasn't not playing Totti every week, it was not playing Totti when it seemed the obvious thing to do. If we were chasing a game he should have come on with time to change it. If we were winning comfortably he should have come on to get fitter so when we did need him to change a game he would have been more able to do so. There were times when it seemed that Spalletti's main priority was forcing Totti to retire rather than winning the game.
on the 26th August, 2017 at 10:15am
Our problem with Spalletti wasn't the fact hat he did not play Totti. It was that he would put him on for the last 10 minutes. sometimes 5 as to make him look ineffective. The year before last, Totti saved this team from finishing below 3rd, he did so when subbed in for the final 30 minutes. Then there were situations where we were up by 2-3 goals and Spal never even looked at him. The man deserved more respect. Then he joined Inter.

The man deserved more respect.

Inter will win 2-0,
on the 26th August, 2017 at 7:18am
Spaletti is a great coach, but a petty person. The fact that he didn't even try to communicate with Totti showed people that he was there with his vendetta in mind. If he was up front about not playing Totti, he won't be booed so badly. It's because he talked one thing and did the other, made him a hypocrite. That being said, his Inter probably will win tomorrow because he is a great tactician, but he's just a lousy person.
on the 26th August, 2017 at 5:55am

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