Roma’s new sporting director Monchi was presented to the media on Wednesday afternoon, and the ex-Sevilla director touched on a number of key subjects regarding the Giallorossi including the futures of Luciano Spalletti, Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti.
Roma CEO Umberto Gandini: Good afternoon. It’s a great honour to be sat here presenting a man with such calibre to you today. I’d just like to say a couple of things. The first is a deep and profound thank you to president Jim Pallotta, who was the first person to be very keen for this to happen and who made himself personally available at all times in order that Monchi joined Roma. I’d also like to thank Ricky Massara for the professionalism he has shown as sporting director. He’s managed the interim period between Sabatini’s departure and Monchi’s arrival very well: he will remain here with us and will work with Monchi as we work together over the course of the next few seasons.
Why did you choose to come to Roma?
Hello everyone. First of all I apologise to everyone who has written to me over the last 3 or 4 months and who I haven’t been able to reply to yet, at that time I simply had to focus on my club, Sevilla. I don’t think of myself as the best sporting director in the world, but instead as someone who’s had a lot of luck in their career, a career that I’ve dedicated a lot of time and effort to. It’s true that I had other options from clubs that were certainly interesting because of their names and tradition, but once I left Sevilla and learned of Roma’s interest I immediately knew what I wanted to do. I think there are huge margins for growth here, there are strong foundations here. We’re not starting from scratch, because Sabatini and Massara have already done a great job. I think there’s huge potential for growth, which we should all be excited and dreaming about. Another reason is because I spoke to Pallotta, and I’d like to echo Gandini’s thanks to him, and I also talked about it with Mauro [Baldissoni] and Ricky as well. I know that I can be myself, I can be Monchi, while I’m working here at Roma. Roma were interested in me because I’m Monchi, so I’m sure I can be myself while I’m working here.
Both the future and the present are important, what have you said and what will you say to the team? There are still 4 crucial games left…
I completely agree. I won’t have much influence on what’s left of this season because there isn’t much time for me to do so, having joined right at the end, so I’m thinking more about the future than the present. But it’s true that our future depends on the present, and that goes for both the club and the fans. The future is exciting, we’re trying to get second place and automatic qualification into the Champions League. I’ll do as much as I can now, and that’s what I’ve been doing already – I’m 100% at the club’s disposal. I’ve felt part of things ever since I first set foot in this club, and it’s on the foundations of the present that we’ll build our future.
Juventus are about to win their sixth title in a row. Is there a lot Roma need to change to close the gap or are only minor alterations needed to instil a winning mentality?
As I’ve just said, I’m here to concentrate on the future, but wherever I can help right now then I’ll do so. I know how strong Juventus are. I’m ambitious, I’m ambitious by nature and I always have been, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pull the wool over your eyes. We’re here to talk reality, bridging the gap to Juventus won’t be easy but it isn’t impossible either. We’ve got an excellent squad with which we can try to bridge this gap. We’ll have to keep working and working hard. It’s difficult but I don’t think it’s impossible, it’s doable given the foundations that we have today. I believe we have some excellent players for the future in the current squad.
Does this problem of racist chanting exist in Spain as well?
This is something that worries me a lot, as much as it worries you all. In Spain they’re tackling the issue quite well because everyone is contributing: clubs, the FA, the government, players, coaches. Everyone is on the same page and everyone has the same obsession. I think you can do the same in Italy, but everyone needs to help, including those of us who are working in the game and you in the media who need to denounce it. A professional can be angry when he goes off the pitch because he’s lost, but never because they’ve been insulted because of the colour of their skin or beliefs. I’ve spent the last few days with Rudiger, I’ve got to know him and he seems like an extraordinary person. This issue is painful for Toni, so I call upon everyone to both him and every other player in this situation. This is 2017 and we shouldn’t have to keep talking about this issue. As the most recent arrival here, I humbly ask everyone to show strength, support and quick action when denouncing incidents like these.
Are there similarities between Roma and Sevilla? Roma haven’t won much for a long time, like Sevilla before you arrived. Is there a way to change a club’s DNA?
I don’t think there’s a secret to my work, otherwise I would have sold them already. There are no magic formulas, and no two clubs in the world are identical. Every club has its own character, its own history, its own city. I was often asked what my secret was in Spain but my answer was never very original: I worked hard. But working hard isn’t just about buying a player or watching a lot of games, it’s much more than that. I believe Roma fans deserve to see their dreams come true, all of them, so we all have to help the club. It’s hard to achieve our goals if we aren’t all pulling in the same direction. That’s what we did at Sevilla and I’m sure we’ll succeed at Roma as well. My message is this: the fans deserve to see their dreams come true and I’m here to try to make them come true, but we all have to work hard. You’ll get to know me better in time, but my aim is to bring everyone together – from Pallotta to Monchi to every single employee. This is the first step towards achieving success.
What do you think about the Spalletti situation?
I’ll tell you a story, or rather a secret. The first time I got a call about potentially coming to Roma, I spent the night thinking about the pros and cons. Among the cons was leaving Sevilla because it was my home, it’s where I spent the last 29 years. One of the pros was Luciano Spalletti, I was excited about him and wanted to work with him, because I think he’s a very important coach. I’ll try to make this happen, but right now we don’t have a second to lose because what matters to everyone now is Milan, Chievo, Juventus and Genoa. I’m still hoping that Spalletti will stay with us because he was one of the reasons that made me decide to come here, and we’ll see if I succeed in persuading him.
What will it be like to work in a club that you don’t have an emotional connection to like Sevilla? Was there a moment when you no longer felt like yourself at Sevilla?
It’s true, this the first time I’ve left Sevilla in every sense. I first joined the club when I was 19, I was a player before sporting director. It’s the first time I’ve left the city and and first it’s frightening, because it’s always easy to be scared of the unknown. But I have to say that I couldn’t have imagined a better welcome in my wildest dreams than the one I received here from everyone, the club, the fans and colleagues at other clubs. This all made my move easier, and I’d like to thank everybody who has helped me so far at Roma including Gandini, Massara, Baldissoni and the guys in the media department, they made everything so much easier. It’s as if we’ve started 1-0 up as far as I’m concerned. I had the best working conditions at Sevilla, they were 20 out of 10. It’s impossilbe to find better conditions, so when the time came to take this new step in my career I knew I had to find similar conditions elsewhere, and I’m sure I’ll find them here at Roma.
What will you do if Totti wants to keep playing? What’s the situation with De Rossi’s contract?
I’ll with De Rossi. The desire and reciprocal interest is the same from both sides, we all want to carry on together. We’ll have to be really stupid if we don’t come to an agreement. I’ve met Daniele and apart from being a top player he’s a fantastic guy, so we’ll try to reach our common goal. As for Francesco, when I arrived here a week ago I already knew that there was an agreement between him and the club that this would be his final year as a player before he became a director next season. I want to look ahead now and I will ask Francesco to be right by my side so I can truly understand what Roma are, because he is Roma. I’ll ask him to stay close to me, if he wants to, and I’ll consider myself lucky if I learn just 1% of what he knows about Roma.
How much of an effect did Franco Baldini have on your decision to come to Roma?
I don’t know how much influence he had, it was Roma that had an effect on me. Baldini was the person I spoke to and the person who was asked by Pallotta to get in contact with me, but I didn’t fall in love with Baldini, I fell in love with Roma.
Are there two transfer strategies based on whether the club finishes second or third?
At the moment I’m doing three intensive courses: one is in Italian, another is to get to know the names of everyone at the club, and the last one is in ambition. Roma are an ambitious club from top to bottom. It’s obvious that we’ll receive a lot of money by qualifying for the Champions League, but it isn’t everything, it helps but it isn’t everything. We need to stay focused and try to achieve this very important objective of direct qualifiction because of the prestige it brings, because of how it will help to grow the Roma brand and attract top players. My biggest concern isn’t about money, because this can be added to hard work, but is about the prestige. We’ll try to achieve our goal and we’ll roll up our sleeves and work hard until we succeed.
Will you need to adopt the same strategy of selling players for financial reasons that you had at Sevilla here at Roma?
We had to do that at Sevilla to try and achieve the ambitious targets that we were setting ourselves. It can be a dangerous strategy, fortunately we were able to meet our financial targets at Sevilla, which was the most delicate target we had, and even make profits on players. This is only a partial analysis of the situation though, apart from the fact we were financially successful, what made our management of Sevilla a success was the sporting success. We will develop a strategy here at Roma to achieve sporting success. I’m sorry if I’ve not quite answered your question but it seemed to me you wanted to know if Roma would be selling players out of fear or necessity. What I would say is that the biggest problem in our job isn’t selling but buying badly, not just at Roma but at any club. So we’ll work together to come up with the ideal strategy to achieve similar success. I’ll finish with a question: do you think I’ve left Sevilla, my home, to come here and not win?
Is ‘unsellable’ a word that exists for you? Can you tell us about how you identify players? What the ‘Monchi’ method is, in short…
To answer the first question, the typical response is that you do get players who are unsellable. But I’ve already said that I’m not here to pull the wool over your eyes, so let me tell you that I don’t believe there are players who are unsellable. Obviously some are more important than others. I hope I’m being clear, I don’t want to say that Roma have to sell players, but we’ll analyse and evaluate all the offers we receive both in financial and sporting terms. There isn’t a sign up outside Roma that says ‘For Sale’, but instead there’s one that says, ‘We win here’. No one’s up for sale, and no one’s unsellable. As for your second question, you’d have to have a one-on-one interview with me to go over all that.
Will you try to sign players for Roma who aren’t yet great players like you did with Dani Alves and Sergio Ramos, or are you hoping to sign a Higuain? Might Kessie be the first signing?
Just to clarify, we didn’t sign Sergio Ramos, he came up through the Sevilla youth teams. Dani Alves was, we bought him when he was very young. I like working with young players, but it’s not an obsession of mine. Our objective is to buy players who have two qualities: ability and a will to win. Desire and enthusiasm is the same whether you’re 19 or 28. That’s what we need to aim for. Kessie is an excellent player who Roma are following, and who we’ve had some great reports on. I already knew about the deal, it’s a possibility and we’ll see what happens. This is only the beginning, anything is possible.