Few clubs in the world, let alone Italy, are more prone to self-destruction than Roma. This latest row between coach and star player isn’t remotely new, as they went through the Francesco Totti-Luciano Spalletti years, but this one feels different, because I sincerely doubt either of them will be at the Olimpico for long.
Totti was an icon, whereas Dzeko is a forward who seemingly every year is on the verge of leaving for Chelsea, Inter or Juventus. Spalletti was on his second spell at the club, whereas Fonseca had at best mediocre results in his debut season and hasn’t really connected with the supporters at all. Even without knowing what exactly the argument was about, it’s hard to particularly care one way or the other.
Dzeko played it smart, though. When frozen out from training with his teammates, he still insisted on attending every game in the stands, cheering on the Giallorossi and celebrating every goal. He knew the optics and that it would show the ultras he was the one who really cared about Roma, not this newcomer tactician.
The solution has been a stopgap, because with the January transfer window closed and Inter too broke to afford the taxes on Dzeko’s salary, they have no other choice but to grit their teeth and get through the next six months, trying to keep the seething mutual resentment under wraps. In July, we’ll have yet more reports of Dzeko ready to leave, while it’ll be an achievement if Fonseca lasts the full season.
If anything, the upshot of all this has been a decision that should’ve been made in the first place: making Lorenzo Pellegrini the captain of Roma. For decades that honour was given only to the local representatives, your Giuseppe Giannini, Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi. In recent years, those homegrown talents, the men who love Roma more than just as a job, have been systematically purged from the squad for reasons unknown. If the Friedkins really are determined to restore the club’s bond with the fans and even bring back the old badge, then making Pellegrini the captain is a big step in the right direction.
Let’s be honest, Dzeko was only given the armband because there was nobody else left and it was a way of appeasing him after the transfer to a bigger club again failed to materialise. He shouldn’t have worn it in the first place and this move simply restores normality. If there’s one thing that the fans can all agree on, it’s that they’d rather keep Pellegrini than either Dzeko or Fonseca going forward. That is probably something the Bosnian and Portuguese bickering couple can also acknowledge, because the next six months are just treading water.