James Pallotta is due to fly into Rome at the start of next month, and there are a number of issues that will require the Roma president’s attention during his stay in the capital. Chief among these is Francesco Totti’s contract renewal, as the captain’s current deal expires in just over a month’s time, but there is also the matter of confirming Walter Sabatini as the team’s sporting director, planning out transfer business for the summer, and concerns regarding stadiums new and old.
Totti’s contract has more or less now been agreed, as confirmed by Luciano Spalletti in the last couple of days. “The last details of the contract need to be ironed out, but we’ve finally all come to an agreement,” the coach explained at the Memorial Niccolò Galli on Sunday. The contract is reported to be 12 months in duration, worth around €1m, with an agreement that Totti will join the club’s management on a six-year deal when the playing contract expires. However, what is yet to be defined is the exact role he will fulfil when he takes up a director’s position, and it is this that Pallotta needs to decide on next month. The sticking point, according to the Corriere dello Sport, is that Totti isn’t interested in a purely representational role, but wants to be in a position that will have tangible effects on the club.
Keeping Walter Sabatini at the club is also a priority for Pallotta, and further face to face meetings could be decisive. It’s no secret that Sabatini has been closer to leaving Roma in the past few months than ever before, and is said to have handed in his resignation after Rudi Garcia was sacked (a move the club rejected). Sabatini has since been courted by Bologna, who recently parted company with their own sporting director Pantaleo Corvino, but the Canadian owners seem to be looking to Riccardo Bigon as Corvino’s replacement. Sabatini also seems to be having a change of heart, which has partly been influenced by Spalletti’s own insistence to Pallotta that the president should do all he can to keep the sporting director in place. Pallotta himself has never gone back on his belief that Sabatini is the right man for the job, but the uncertainty of the situation needs to be cleared up in order that the club’s hierarchy can work cohesively in the transfer market ahead of next season.
The club’s activity in the transfer market is also a serious question that remains to be answered. Roma remain under scrutiny from UEFA due to their Financial Fair Play obligations, and while a second season of Champions League TV revenue has helped to boost the club’s finances there is still a major concern that Roma will have to sell off another of their stars this summer to balance the books. Miralem Pjanic is the number one candidate, due to his €38m release clause, but Radja Nainggolan and Kostas Manolas have also been heavily linked with big money moves to the Premier League. Pallotta and the club’s management must decide whether their finances can sustain retaining their key players or not – the alternative is to offload the likes of Seydou Doumbia, Adem Ljajic, Edin Dzeko and Iago Falque, but the risk is higher as they will be harder to shift and will command fractions of the fees Roma can demand for Pjanic or Nainggolan.
The other major matter that requires Pallotta’s attention during his stay in the capital is Roma’s new stadium. It is now over a year since the then Mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, declared that “the first stone of the stadium will be laid this year ”, but the bureaucratic processes have been endlessly delayed in Pallotta’s absence. One of Marino’s potential replacements, Giorgia Meloni, said she preferred Rome’s Olympics project to Roma’s proposed new stadium as “it’s based around the redevelopment of the Flaminio and not around the construction of a new and futuristic stadium which we don’t need.” There are, therefore, still many obstacles to overcome and people to persuade, but before all of that the club still need to present the definitive project to the local authorities: Nicola Zingaretti, president of Lazio (the region, not the club) told Il Sole 24 Ore last week that he was still waiting to see it after it was presented to CONI in April.
This is all quite aside from the issue of the Stadio Olimpico. As the club continue to sell season tickets for next year (around 14,000 fans have already renewed), the question of the barriers in the Curva Sud and how Roma will bring their ultras back remains to be answered. The stubborn former prefect of Rome Franco Gabrielli said after the Coppa Italia final: “Finally, the Olimpico is full. See, even with the barriers. I’m happy with that. It shows fans can be relaxed when they go to the stadium.” Quite apart from the clashes outside the ground between Milan and Juventus fans, the fact remains that the Curva Sud is likely to be largely empty again last season unless Roma and Pallotta can find some way of finding a compromise. That is unlikely to happen without the removal of the barriers, which Roma fans see as a unique demonisation of their supporters.
As ever, Pallotta will only be in Rome for a short space of time but it will be a busy period for the Roma president with a great many serious issues facing the club to resolve.