“I’ll be an external consultant, I’ll be giving Roma some help.” This is what Franco Baldini has said privately to those who, recently, have been bombarding him with calls and messages asking: “Are you really coming back to Roma?”
He will, but without setting foot in Trigoria – at least for now. He will be a consultant (not on transfer activity) and will collaborate directly with president Pallotta, who still wants to give him a role in the club’s management. This option isn’t considered to be likely, unless something drastic changes.
Baldini will be an advisor (marketing, communication, sponsorship) but will also work with other clubs if they ask him to. He won’t have any input on transfer activities, but if people ask him for advice (not just Pallotta but also Sabatini or Spalletti) he will give his opinion. Like an old friend. For now. In the future, who knows.
The story between Franco Baldini and Roma began in the summer of 1997. Franco Sensi came into contact with him during the negotiations to bring Paulo Sergio to Roma and there was an immediate chemistry between them: he liked his vision of the world of football and his transfer ideas, and in the following year, 1998, he appointed him as his confidential advisor. First an advisor, then his right hand man.
His mark is on the 2001 scudetto as well: Lucchesi was the general director (Pradè was his assistant), Baldini was the man who helped Sensi and Capello to make Roma into the champions of Italy, most of all by working with Sensi’s billions to prise Batistuta away from Fiorentina. It was the high point of his Roma adventure.
In the years after the scudetto Baldini increasingly moved towards a place at the centre of the club. The fans loved him (“Baldini presidente, questo vuole la romana gente [Baldini president, that’s what the Roman people want] read one banner at Parma), and he worked tirelessly not just on transfers but also after talks to sell the club to the Russian businessman Kerimov collapsed in 2004 and everything changed.
Capello left that summer (2004) and his relationship with Rosella Sensi completely broke down (it had already begun to crack over the Mexes incident; Roma had a transfer embargo put on them and the player was banned for a month and a half over his controversial transfer). Despite having the admiration of the fans, he decided to leave. The fans’ messages failed to have an impact; they saw him as a strong man who had stood up to the northern clubs and even saw him anticipate calciopoli in a famous interview with “Parla con me”. On 20th March, 2005 he told his version of events to Serena Dandini, 4 days later he resigned.
Things finished very badly with Roma. The club didn’t even allow him the press room at Trigoria for his farewell press conference and in their settlement with him called him simply “transfer market advisor”. He replied as follows: “Today I have irrevocably tendered my resignation, but not before giving my infinite thanks to the club and in particular its cavalier president Franco Sensi, for his faith and the esteem he held me in during all those extraordinary years that we spent together. Furthermore, I can’t also not wish AS Roma, with all my heart, the very best wishes possible for the future.”
Sensi didn’t take this well. “The news of Franco Baldini’s desertion has deeply disheartened me. After years of unconditional confidence and friendship, including in meetings with those who wanted to appoint him as a director in one of the biggest football club’s in the world, he has shown – as he has for some time – that he hasn’t understood the sacrifices, the importance and the seriousness of both our sporting heritage and the business model this is linked to, which will guarantee future success for both Roma and the city of Rome.”
After six years (and his experiences with both Real Madrid and the England national team) Baldini returned to Roma. Di Benedetto (and Pallotta) contacted him at the start of 2011, he hesitated but then accepted, and even though he only officially arrived in October that year it was he who designed the first ‘Roma Americana’: he chose the coach (Luis Enrique), directors (Sabatini and Fenucci), communications director (Lo Monaco) and tried to remove power from Totti and his closest allies.
He called the captain “lazy” in an interview with La Repubblica, and even though the two cleared things up between them via text their relationship was never again what it once was. This was also partly because results weren’t as good as many were hoping, and Baldini’s detached attitude (“I don’t even know why I’m here”) didn’t help.
Baldini didn’t even last two years at Trigoria. Luis Enrique failed, Zeman also, and there’s little to say about Andreazzoli. The players he chose (Stekelenburg, Bojan and Gago, just to name a few) didn’t have any impact and his failure was encapsulated in the Coppa Italia final defeat against Lazio.
Not even a month after that day, 26th May, 2013, Baldini and Roma agreed by mutual consent to part ways. “This relationship has ended, and sporting director Walter Sabatini will assume responsibility for [Baldini’s] football-related duties. We thank him for the work he has done for AS Roma over the course of the last two seasons. Baldini has had an important role at the start of our project. We wish him the best for the future,” the president James Pallotta said.
“I want to thank the owners of AS Roma for the opportunity they gave me,” the departing general director said, “I love being in Rome and I wish the club, the players and the fans all the best.” It was his goodbye. Or maybe, given the news of the last few days, it was just an arrivederci.
This article is a translation – the original was written by Roberta Moli. To read it, click here.