Roma is a team adrift. Francesco Totti is still looking for his first goal of the season, the vultures are circling over manager Claudio Ranieri, and capable new ownership is nowhere to be found.
Why is such a talented and well-regarded team playing without any kind of cohesive vision? The problems may start in the front office, where Rosella Sensi is struggling to guide a club that she has already handed over to its creditors at UniCredit.
Thus far, her most visible action as the club’s Chairperson has been the imposition of a media blackout, a tall order considering that Totti and the Italian press are virtually inseparable. She has also protested the refereeing in the loss to Brescia, but these attempts at asserting some authority have only highlighted how little control she has been able to maintain.
For well over two years now the team has been in search of new ownership, and rumors about potential buyers have come and gone. From Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris to Russian billionaire Leonid Fedun, big names have been linked to the club’s future, but so far AS Roma remains up for sale and confusion reigns.
With Sensi acting in an interim capacity and UniCredit keeping a close eye on Roma’s rising debt, there is no one at the top of the organization who can make the tough lasting changes that the team may need.
There of course have been many calls for Sensi to replace Ranieri, but any new coach would still be walking into an unstable situation. With no guarantees from ownership with regard to the future of the club or its ability to acquire and retain top players, an incoming coach would have to do his job with little support from the top.
Nevertheless, the names of Leonardo, Marcello Lippi, and Frank Rijkaard have all found their way into the papers as potential replacements.
Fans should doubt, however, whether Roma is even in a position to make such a change at this point. It has already had to postpone contract negotiations with key players, including Daniele De Rossi, a seemingly obvious choice for a contract extension. Philippe Mexes, meanwhile, may be on his way to Liverpool, and Mirko Vucinic has been the subject of similar rumors.
There is at least one player who doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, though: Francesco Totti.
Totti has reached a stage in his career where he is as much of a celebrity as he is a soccer player, but while other aging stars like Fabio Cannavaro and David Beckham have made graceful exits by playing against lesser competition in foreign leagues, Totti seems intent on remaining captain of one of Serie A’s biggest clubs.
You can add Totti’s decline to the potential list of headaches for a new manager. He is a legend in Rome (with good reason), but as his playing time decreases, so does his ability to be an effective leader on the pitch.
Now, after eight weeks of Serie A competition, the Giallorossi find themselves ten points behind league leaders and city rivals Lazio. Perhaps they have another 24 game unbeaten streak up their sleeve, but after a week that saw them lose to FC Basel in the Champions League and play to a goalless draw against last place Parma, that seems unlikely.