On July 29 Roma will officially become property of Thomas Di Benedetto and his company. Even though the deal has practically been done for months, that day will represent a milestone in the club's history.
The American era has already started, though, and since the appointment of Walter Sabatini as director of sport the structure of the club has been completely revolutionised. It wasn't the only change: Franco Baldini is set to become the general director by October. This appointment represents a further step from the new owners in the process of strengthening the Board's structure.
However, changes in a club which was run almost like a provinciale in the past will always be hard to digest. Roma is indeed a complicated piazza to work in. The pressure placed upon directors and players is comparable only to the one felt at the highest level of the game.
In this context, the warning message sent by Baldini directly to Roma's captain and legend Francesco Totti must be read as a significant signal of how politics within the club are going to change and how this transition may be incredibly painful.
“Totti has to free himself from his laziness and from those using his name without his knowledge,” claimed the future Roma director. “He has to stop his laissez-faire attitude. The lighter his load, the further he will go with football.”
Baldini's comments clearly didn't go down well with Er Pupone and his followers. But Baldini has no intention of winning the fans over with kind words towards the Giallorossi No. 10 and didn't read the usual pro-Totti script. The England general manager knows exactly how things work in Rome, having previously been in charge of the club for over six years including the season of the legendary Scudetto.
Furthermore, Baldini's attack wasn't exclusively directed at Totti. Reading between the lines of these comments, the director's message may well refer to the player's staff too. In the new Roma there will be no space for the likes of Vito Scala, Totti's personal trainer, as well as a couple of other staff members (Vincenzo Buzzi and Luca Pengue) who are close to the Captain. Francesco himself will be expected to behave differently from in the past.
Under the Sensi family, Totti's power and influence grew dramatically. Il Capitano was involved in the club's transfer market too (Baldini reportedly told him to stop calling players like Totti did with Gigi Buffon). His opinion in the dressing room always echoed louder than anyone else's. His relationship with Coaches also counted beyond reasonable and some still believe Luciano Spalletti's exit from the Olimpico was partially the result of a misunderstanding between the two.
Baldini won't take that and is trying to confine Totti to the playing field while clearing the Trigoria offices of intrusive characters who may interfere with the new società. Still, in a city where doubting Totti is like questioning the Pope's sanctity in the Vatican, Baldini is playing with fire as he dangerously prepares a minefield for his arrival. If the two don't agree, the club could face a serious fracture. Indeed, this may well be the biggest internal battle for the new direttore generale and the Americans – if they win it, Roma will certainly take the shape of a big club.
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