Monchi's arrival as director of football from Sevilla established Roma’s future business model. They offload top players if there is significant profit; they trust the scouting and recruitment networks to source economic replacements and they recognise the need to nurture young talent — again with one eye on profit.
It sounds easy but getting it right requires a high level of talent and experience from top to bottom. The team Monchi has in place in the Italian capital and around the world has both.
Last summer, the club sold Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger and Leandro Paredes for a combined €100 million and made a €25 million profit during the window while also fulfilling their Financial Fair Play obligations. They made another €30 million profit in January yet still reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. Yes, they dropped one place in the league, but their European exertions contributed to that.
This summer, they let go of two of their top stars and recouped more than €120 million in transfer fees, all reinvested in the squad — much on young talent to develop and sell on for a profit and some on players to strengthen the squad immediately.
The nature of their workings makes it difficult to assess their squad strength, but there is a consensus they are no worse off heading into the new season.
2017/18 Season Review
The first season with Monchi holding the purse strings and the first in 25 years without Francesco Totti. It should have been tough. It should have been a year of transition. But it was one of the best in the club’s history.
A third-place finish in the league was acceptable considering Roma enjoyed a remarkable run to the Champions League semi-finals. The triumphant comeback against Barcelona and the valiant fightback against Liverpool will live long in the memory, not just among Romans but among football fans everywhere.
Along with cachet, the Champions League brought more funds into the club. And more should follow as Roma’s drive towards creating a successful global brand continues.
Attacking midfielder Javier Pastore arrived on a permanent transfer from Paris Saint-Germain for a €25 million fee. The 29-year-old signed a five-year deal and will wear the number 27 shirt.
The Argentine international’s creative flair, close control and range of passing will be a big asset to coach Eusebio Di Francesco, who favours a flexible 4-3-3 formation.
The club boosted their central area further with the purchase of former Stoke City and Sevilla defensive midfielder Steven N'Zonzi. Monchi brought the player to Sevilla for €9 million in 2015 where he made 120 appearances and picked up a Europa League winners' medal in 2016.
The 29-year-old also bagged a World cup winner’s medal this summer after making five appearances for France during their successful campaign.
Other arrivals include winger Justin Kluivert from Ajax, forwards Patrick and Gregoire Defrel Schick from Sampdoria and Sassoulo respectively, and goalkeeper Robin Olsen from FC Copenhagen.
Radja Nainggolan's transfer to Inter angered some Roma fans and the club's transfer policy bemuses many more. Why sell your best players after such a successful season?
That they achieved success following the sale of some big names last summer suggests there is a method in the strategy. Roma are building a team of components rather than relying on individual stars. A collection of players who can slot into the system effortlessly.
Alisson also departed with Champions League adversaries Liverpool breaking the world transfer record for a goalkeeper to lure him to England. All eyes will now be on Robin Olsen who will hope to prove his worth as a replacement.
With so many new arrivals, Di Francesco will have plenty options available to him. This means more rotation as the club seeks to compete on multiple fronts. New signings Pastore and N’Zonzi should feature immediately while others wait for their chance.
The Key Question: Can Roma’s strategy bring sustained success?
Look beyond the high profile departures and Roma are building a squad of under-stated depth. A squad that can compete on several fronts without being impacted by injuries or suspension.
Every player has a role to play and they will use the full depth of the squad. This gives the coach the tactical freedom to implement his ideas without technical limitations.
Behind all of this is a need to grow the club commercially and financially, and both aspects must work in harmony to achieve this.
For Roma, having a solid core off the field is more important than having one on it and they appear to have the right personnel in place.
Second place in Serie A is a realistic target.
Fifth. Some of their rivals have been more aggressive in the transfer market so it could get tight in the top four. If Milan can squeeze back in, someone will have to make way.
Shrewd business does not always pay off in the short-term, but Roma are looking at the bigger picture. That's why they should not use last year’s success as a benchmark — they are still a work in progress. Cementing their top four status should be the priority this year, anything else will be a bonus.