Roma coach calls it quits after defeat to Juventus

No one can ever suggest that the 2009-2010 Italian season got off to a quiet start. Within two rounds of matches, Internazionale had already stuffed cousins Milan 4-0 in the first Milanese derby of the season, while consecutive defeats against Genoa and Juventus had prompted Roma coach Luciano Spalletti to resign.

Villain of the piece was the “open draw” used this year by the Football League. There was a time when instructions were fed to the computer drawing up the fixture list to make sure there were no “hot” games, such as city derbies or clashes between title contenders, on the opening days.

Not so this year, with two of the “hottest” games of the year – the Milan derby and the Roma v Juventus clash – coming on Day 2. At this point Luciano Spalletti might wish for the old system.

In truth, Spalletti and Roma were always going to have a hard time, no matter how the fixture list panned out. Reportedly £250million in debt and seemingly forever on the verge
of financial meltdown, Roma’s most significant summer market move was to sell talented midfielder Alberto Aquilani to Liverpool. Put another way, the club already looked headed for a difficult and uncertain time.

A 3-2 defeat away to Genoa on the opening day and a 3-1 home loss to Juventus seem to have convinced Spalletti that the time had come to jump ship. Sources close to Roma suggest that tensions with club owners, the Sensi family, with the club’s biggest star, Francesco Totti, and with sections of the fans all finally became too much for Spalletti.

Whatever his reasons, Spalletti resigned two days after the defeat by Juventus, and in the process walked away from a salary compensation that could have reached £6.4m. Spalletti explained this latter decision by implying that anyone who knew the full economic picture at Roma would not want to hurt the club by looking for such an onerous “out of work” salary.

Spalletti leaves some very good memories behind him. Not only were Roma the only side to seriously chase Inter in recent seasons but, in the process, they also played the most attractive football seen in Italy in the third millennium. Spalletti’s Roma also provided contrasting Champions League moments, going from a 7-1 thrashing by Manchester United at Old Trafford to a 2-1 defeat of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

The Roma fans may soon come to regret his departure as his successor, former Chelsea and Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri, has already made it clear that his team will be a lot more about “pragmatism” and less about “champagne” football. Ranieri faces a difficult task with a squad that lacks a genuine goalscoring centre-forward, which has lost a real talent in Aquilani and often seems hopelessly obsessed with its ageing talisman captain, Totti, who is now 33.

For many, the Roma-Juventus game marked the passing of a very particular baton; the role of the major challenger to reigning champions Inter seeming to have definitively moved from Rome to Turin.

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni, someone who has coached and won with both Juve and Inter, has no doubts and says: “Juve are ready to win the scudetto. They’ve shown that by being able to go and win in Rome.”