Tuesday November 17 2020
‘Roma were convinced they had Conte’

Gianluca Petrachi, the ex-Roma sporting director, has said the club believed they were on the verge of appointing Antonio Conte before he took over at Inter.

Petrachi, who is engaged in legal action with Roma after leaving his post, spoke to the Corriere dello Sport about his time at the Stadio Olimpico, going into detail on his fractious relationship with former owner James Pallotta.

Among his signings at Roma, Petrachi picked up Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling and he elaborated on the arrival of the pair, citing the latter as an example of a defender not seen often in the modern game.

“I loaned [Mkhitaryan] for free and they also paid a bit of the salary. He came from some injuries; I also took care of treating it. I made him do some specific work in the pool,” Petrachi recalled.

“We were trying to get [Dejan] Lovren. But he wanted to be signed on a permanent deal and I don’t spend €15m on a player with a groin problem.

“An Italian agent called me and said we could borrow [Smalling]. I thought it was a hoax. Smalling was one of those endangered defenders. I had to associate him with [Gianluca] Mancini, who is freer.”

And the former sporting director revealed the club was not happy with the signing of Roger Ibanez.

“When I signed him in January, I was massacred in the club. They were all angry, starting with Pallotta. An operation for €9m plus a bonus paid over two years.”

Petrachi also acknowledged Leonardo Spinazzola was discontented at the Olimpico and was on his way to Inter.

“He was not happy, he wanted to play at left-back,” the former director added. “But [Aleksandar] Kolarov was untouchable.

“To get him to play, the coach used him at right, but the lad was gloomy. In January, when [Nicolo] Zaniolo got injured and we needed a winger, [Matteo] Politano was supposed to arrive, all happy.

“[Inter director Piero] Ausilio gives us the OK and [Inter CEO Beppe] Marotta stops him. Today, he starts for Roma and the national team.”

Petrachi admitted he’s a good friend of Inter coach Antonio Conte but had to fight the Nerazzurri tactician, who continued to push for Edin Dzeko.

“We have a deep friendship, but I already quarrelled with him regarding Dzeko, who he wanted at Inter.

“Don’t push me with Dzeko, I won’t give him to you. I told him it’s useless to bang your head against the wall.

“He’s a player in the hearts of the fans and when I commit to a club, I also commit to the fans.

“At Roma they were convinced they were close to a deal with Conte. He was coming from a difficult year, after the legal disputes with Chelsea.

“He was eager for a new challenge. It’s a negotiation I didn’t follow, I wasn’t at Roma yet. I can imagine that Antonio didn’t feel reassured. Perhaps, if he had spoken directly with Pallotta, things would have gone differently.

“Roma wanted an Italian coach and when they missed out on Conte, I later learned they had talked to [Gian Piero] Gasperini, [Sinisa] Mihajlovic and [Roberto] De Zerbi.”