Roma prepare to celebrate Francesco Totti’s retirement as trophy wait goes on

La Repubblica (Matteo Pinci) On 24th May, 2008, Barack Obama hadn’t yet been elected President of the United States, Rome was about to elect Alemanno as mayor, and the following month Spain would win their second European Championships. 3275 days have passed since then, and Obama is now a tourist in Milan, Alemanno is the opposition and Spain have won everything; but the Coppa Italia that Roma lifted on that day 9 years ago, beating Inter 2-1 at the Olimpico, was the last trophy the club have been able to celebrate. The football world has radically changed since Spalletti first took charge, but the team that bears the capital’s name seems to have been paralysed. The coach – after his successful ‘exile’ in Russia – is the only survivor along with De Rossi and Totti, but despite all the talk and the investment from the club’s owners, nothing has been won – although their league record is excellent: if they finish ahead of Napoli, they will have finished 2nd for the 4th time in 9 seasons, practically once every 2 years. But there’s no trophy for that.

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No other top club has had to wait to lift a trophy for this long: rivals Lazio lifted the same trophy 4 years ago and are hoping to win it again on Wednesday, Inter won a trophy in 2011, Napoli won 2 in 2014, even Milan won the Supercoppa last December. And Juventus are about to secure their 6th consecutive scudetto, and could even do it in Totti and Spalletti’s back yard. If they win the title on Sunday and the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, they will have won as many trophies inside the Stadio Olimpico as Roma. Curious, for a team who play 520 kilometres away from the capital.

Not even the €514 million spent in the transfer market has been enough for the Giallorossi in these past years: €46 million under the Sensi and Unicredit ownership, the rest under Pallotta and co. An enormous amount that hasn’t led to a single trophy. It has led to revolving doors being installed at Trigoria: 262 players have gone in and out, and that’s only counting those who have played for the first team: 102 in and 160 out. On average that is almost 30 a season, as if it’s necessary to completely demolish the team before rebuilding it again. The most expensive signing, Iturbe (€22.5 million), was a flop. But the strategy itself has worked, because otherwise Roma’s accounts wouldn’t show that they have the 2nd highest revenue stream in Italy – €219 million last season. The job of looking after the team’s ‘player trading’, the buying and selling of players that is so dear to Mr Pallotta, has been handed over to the transfer specialist Monchi, formerly of Sevilla, who has been instructed to continue in the same vein.

There is still a lot of work to be done on the club’s finances though. In 9 years the club’s debt has risen from €20 million in 2009 to €170 million today (not entirely as the result of the American ownership), and commercial revenues have been slowing down. There has been no shirt sponsor for 1412 days, with the odd exception for special occasions, such as – controversially – for the last derby when the initialism SPQR was printed on the shirt, which was then sold for €5 extra in Roma Stores before it sold out: the city council, according to Federsupporter lawyer Massimo Rossetti, could theoretically take action against anyone who uses SQPR without being given due authorisation and due consent so to do, as stated in the legislative decree of 18th August 2000, n. 267. There have even been 3 commercial directors since the Americans took over the club, and a few months ago the entire marketing team was relocated to Mayfair in London.

However, while there won’t be any trophies to celebrate this May, preparations for other celebrations are being made at Trigoria: for the retirement of the club’s captain. The Roma-Genoa game on 28th May was sold out within just a few hours: there will be 60,000 people at the Olimpico for Totti’s final game as a player, an attendance that hasn’t been seen at the ground since 21st October, 2014 for the game against Bayern. It is a sign of the city’s passion for their idol, of course. But also of an unsatisfied desire to have at least one day worthy of remembrance.

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