Sunday September 16 2018
Roma strengthen by selling

Roma fans blame the business philosophy for poor results, but Andrea Tallarita claims they're literally improving the team by selling the best players.

For Roma, the story of the weekend wasn't so much that they drew against a side that hasn't won a single game this season, but that they did so in the silence of a half-empty Stadio Olimpico. The fans are deeply disillusioned, and the poor results (five points in four games) are not enough to account for the sullen faces.

What truly upsets the Romanisti is the club's new business philosophy, which appears to put cash before cups. Following last month's defeat to Milan, the tifosi hung a banner claiming the club's only objectives were "profits and sales" and a short while later, sporting director Monchi felt compelled to defend his selling strategy.

It's easy to understand why Romanisti would be upset. Since Monchi took the reins, both summers the club sold its most valuable player (first Mohamed Salah, then Alisson). Recently the Spaniard also let go of fan darlings Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman.

The anger over these sales is exacerbated by a sense that the team, despite a busy mercato, has not really been improved. It's worth finding out if this is true.

At the beginning of the 2017-18 season, the sum worth of Roma's squad was €327.6m (as per Transfermarkt data). This season, it is of €369.2M, showing an appreciation of €41.6m. If we interpret the market-worth of the players as a rough approximation of their quality, the team has clearly been improved.

The protests of the fans appear a lot more justified, however, when these improvements are compared to those of the Giallorossi's competitors. Monchi's incrementation of the squad worth by €41.6m appears paltry by comparison with Juve's appreciation by €228m, Inter's by €203m, Napoli's by €140.7m, Milan's by €128m, and even Lazio's by €118.7m.

Though upgraded, Roma have not kept pace with their rivals, and their squad worth is currently a distant fifth in the league: their total of €369.2m sits behind Juve's €768.5m, Inter's €550.6m, Napoli's €489m, and Milan's €475.5 (Lazio are behind Roma, but not by much: their worth is €339.5).

And yet, the Lupi are the weaker team by traditional measurements mostly because they are not pursuing a traditional strategy. The approach adopted by most football clubs dictates that if a team's strongest defender is worth €20m, then the way to strengthen is to acquire a defender worth more than that amount.

Thus, Juventus signing Ronaldo, Milan buying Gonzalo Higuain, Inter retaining Mauro Icardi, Napoli retaining Kalidou Koulibaly, and Lazio retaining Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, are all examples of the same logic: a team is strengthened by buying players better than their best, whilst it is weakened by selling the best already there.

Monchi jettisoned this principle in favour of something completely new, which impatient Roma fans are wrong to dismiss as a simple 'money first' approach. The Spaniard's new paradigm dictates that you must improve the quality of all team-members collectively, and never buy a player above a given value (say, €30m) until the average value of the players already at the club has reached that mark.

Breaking down the numbers above illuminates this strategy. Roma's three most valuable players are Kostas Manolas, Steven Nzonzi and Alessandro Florenzi, at €40-30-30m respectively. Compare this ratio to those at Juventus (€110-100-65m), Inter (€95-45-45m), Napoli (€60-60-35m), Milan (€55-40-40m), and Lazio (€90-50-35m) and one important difference leaps out.

All the other big clubs evidence a very steep drop in value from their first to their third most valuable player, in some cases with chasms of €45-55m, whilst Roma have by far the gentlest curve at a mere €10m (only Milan are close, but they are still at €15m).

Furthermore, the mean average worth of a Roma player is €14.2m. This means that Manolas, the club's most valuable player at €40m, is worth roughly €26m more than his average teammate.

Compare this with Juventus, where Paulo Dybala exceeds the worth of his average teammate by a whopping €78m. At Inter that figure is €72m, at Napoli it is €40m, at Milan it is €38.5m, and at Lazio it is a fairly ridiculous €80m.

Some of this is the result of market inflation, but mostly it's a systemic issue – similar proportional ratios are found at Bologna, Chievo and Frosinone. Monchi is clearly and deliberately doing something different, by spreading the quality of his players as widely as possible over his collective squad.

Since all these players are youngsters with immediate prospects, the result is that this collective quality rises naturally, spontaneously, with no need for massive injections of capital. As it does, the club's market leverage rises correspondingly and the 'ceiling' beyond which Monchi won't buy also rises.

Exceptional individuals who rise too quickly above the team's average value are sold (Salah and Alisson), as are players who lag behind it (Gerson, Maxime Gonalons), or who can rise no further (Nainggolan and Strootman). Since these sales are happening because and not despite Monchi's system of resilient growth, it is quite accurate to say that Roma are literally improving their team by selling their best players.

Whether fans choose to see this or not, the collective worth of the Roma squad is undeniably being raised. Evidence is provided by the characteristic Roma phenomenon in which a player's value goes up even as their rank in the hierarchies of value goes down.

For example, Stephan El Shaarawy and Diego Perotti both went from being worth €17m to €20m, but dropped from being joint-sixth to joint-eighth among the most valuable players. Edin Dzeko appreciated from €22m to €25m, yet dropped from fourth to sixth.

At other clubs, players who appreciate in value find themselves holding their place or climbing in the rankings, because the increase in the mean average value is being dragged up by one or two very expensive players (either signed or retained). At Roma, unless the appreciation is very substantial (Manolas and Florenzi both jumped by €10m and leapfrogged to first and second place), players actually drop, because the average worth of all their fellow players is rising simultaneously.

It is said that predictions are only remembered when they fly against consensus, so I'll stake my credibility on this: unless James Pallotta or Monchi leave the club, Roma's system of resilient and sustainable growth will establish them as the second football power in Italy within three years.

As for the trouble they are experiencing now, it's like your feet hurting when you walk, it only happens when you're going places.

Have your say...
The money hungry ownership is killing this club. We should have never sold Salah. Allison I can understand. Ninja needed to stay. Strootman too, but I could understand he's an injury risk.

I know some people may argue hindsight, but theser are insane moves right from the get go. Salah was clearly one of the best players in the SERIE A at the time. And his potential was unquestioned. But management cashed in.

This article is looking at all the wrong numbers.

Forza Roma. Sempre.
on the 23rd September, 2018 at 10:07am
Kinda like MoneyBall in American baseball. Which unless I'm wrong, almost worked once... guess time will tell.

Either way, can't help but think a team being lead by players like Alisson, Strootman, Nainggolan and Salah would be a pretty decent team.
on the 20th September, 2018 at 5:28pm
Roma need to buy a new decent keeper with some of that Salah / Alisson / Strootman Money.
on the 20th September, 2018 at 1:38pm
I havent once written here, even though been reading stuff around here for nearly 16 years. But seeing this filled with the most stupid twisted numbers, for the most stupid arguments to create the most stupid content and by far the most stupid title, I just had to get it out of me. What the hell are you smoking man? I want that. clearly it makes you insanely high.
on the 18th September, 2018 at 8:13pm
"the Lupi are the weaker team by traditional measurements "

Yea, I know those old fashioned measurements like wins, points and place in the table.

Where's our trophy for transfermarket value?! When's the parade?
on the 18th September, 2018 at 4:51pm
Dumbest column I've seen in a long time. Selling your best players and rebuilding every single year is not a recipe for success on the pitch. But Roma's owners don't seem interested in that.
on the 18th September, 2018 at 4:50pm
The values they put on players in transfermarkt are often a joke.

The epl players are vastly overpriced, despite not being particularly good.
on the 18th September, 2018 at 4:23am
Thanks for a good laugh Andrea. Lets see how your BS theory holds up after Pallotta sacks EDF. Being able to hold on to your best players wins championships. Go look at the teams that actually win something. No coach in their right mind would to take on such a project. In fact EDF should leave, they don't really need a coach. Just Monchi selling and buying players.
on the 18th September, 2018 at 2:46am
How about Monchi being so succesful? During his 16 seasons in Sevilla at the first season they won Segunda division and promoted. Following 15 seasons in Primera: 8,10,6,6,5,3,5,3,4,5,9,9,5,5,7. Twice they were 3rd. Hooray.

But he made 200 million euros during that time. So he can make money selling players.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 11:13pm
I might have agreed to this argument if roma hadn't sold strootman effectively replaced by nzonzi a player over a year older than him. It not like roma even kept a hold of the academy players both politano caprari and romagnoli plying their trade elsewhere in italy. Roma seem stuck on a path of selling players for stack of raising funds for a transfer campaign which brings in objective weaker players or youngsters who have potential but aren't capable of replacing the players which left.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 9:14pm
So the path to a championship is selling your best players every year? I'm sure Real, Barca, Bayern, Juve etc would disagree.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 8:13pm
Yea all that selling of their top talents got some insane money in their pockets. But will it, CAN IT used wisely to win a scudetto? I mean that’s the real prize they need as a whole...for vindication and ticket sales,etc. it’s been a long gap since the Capello years.
Sadly they don’t even have the new stadio they promised 3 years ago.
They’re just going in circles. I truly believe their main goal is just to stay a top 4 team.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 8:02pm
Wow, this article is so stupid, I couldn't believe what I'm reading. Simply put I can create fantasy team, with a worth close to Juventus team, but it will struggle to survive in Serie A.
Transfermarkt does not decide real prices, it is all approximate.
Want an example?
1. Iago Falque age28 S16/17 - 12Goals 8Assists, S17/18 - 12Goals 8Assist. Price 13mln.
2. Viktor Moses age27 S16/17 - 3Goals 3Assists, S17/18 - 3Goals 4Assits. Price 20mln.
Almost 2x more expensive ;D Kale Walker - 50mln ;DDDD
on the 17th September, 2018 at 6:30pm
Its a project!

what you rather have Nagolain, Strootman and have now results and no scudetto in three years?
Or a bad season a good season and a scudetto.

thats the question
on the 17th September, 2018 at 4:28pm
Well let`s pretend this theory makes sense. Then how do explain Strootman and Nainggolan vs Nzonzi and Pastore? Beats me.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 4:27pm
Monchi is a genius ! If you compare him to a sporting Director like Inter's Ausilio who spends 40 mill on Kondogbia + 45 mill on Joao Mario + 30 mill for Gabi-one-gol + 20 mill for Dibert and has yet to win a game this season, Monchi's buying and selling puts the rest to shame. Wait until the new stadium is built. With this young team in place and a few buys they may be able to snatch the Scudetto from juve in a few years.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 3:47pm
i have stood many many times for the management, coach, players before, even when we had rossella ! tried to always judge at the end of the season, even now with monchi, though i don't accept many of his decisions but i will still not judge him until the end.

but this piece of article does not make any sense !!! Sorry LOL
on the 17th September, 2018 at 2:51pm
never heard so much rubbish to justify stupidity.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 11:06am
If Roma ever get their own stadium, they will have another 40-50 mill per season, meaning the have more financial muscles.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 11:04am
Roma fans have been listening to all those theories and aproaches for almost two decades. The patience is gone. Selling big players and buying some maybee future stars will produce a disaster this year. Roma will not qualify for Champions league and gap to the first place will be aronud 30 points at hte end. This Monchi strategy is insane. Real Madrid will demolish Roma on Wednesday.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 10:39am
Interesting and understood, but fans pay mney to see their team perform and win.The off field economic activity and strategy of James Pallotta & Monchi is explained by your piece, but the team winning matches is what it is all about,football is a simple game.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 9:47am
Vale this, value that. Bottom line is that they play worse I as naive as I am I thought that was the point of the game
on the 17th September, 2018 at 8:22am
Hope they explained this to their players, because although I think Roma has a sane economical strategy, morale of the players is impacted here and that will be an issue for any team.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 7:44am
Were not getting better soooo....
on the 17th September, 2018 at 4:25am
thats because they are owned by american conglomerates that only think of profits ... sad
on the 17th September, 2018 at 1:32am
When Monchi-ball wins Roma the Scudetto, I'll be fond of this strategy. 5 points from 4 games is unacceptable, even if those 4 games are vs Napoli, Juve, Inter, and Milan.

In the meantime, I rather have a traditional approach vs the Milans, Napoli, and Juve.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 1:17am
Great article, Andrea. Really interesting.
on the 17th September, 2018 at 12:19am
Totally agree. Thanks for the write up.

I just hope that the don't fail to qualify for the CL along the way.
on the 16th September, 2018 at 11:52pm
Your entire argument ignore inflation or in this case hyperinflation, rendering it moot.
on the 16th September, 2018 at 11:16pm

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