Roma president James Pallotta gave an extensive interview today with Sirius XM Radio. These are his words:
On the win over Porto.
I think yesterday’s game was interesting. Unfortunately they did get that [away] goal… I thought we played pretty well as a team – actually very well as a team – and we had some other good scoring chances. [Lorenzo] Pellegrini played a great game, [Bryan] Cristante I thought had a really good game, and it was really nice to see. And you are talking about a team, Porto, who I think have been on a 26-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. They might have lost for the last time in October or something like that. So they are a very, very good, strong team. And even in the group stages I think they had 16 out of 18 points.
On VAR, after Pepe was not judged to have handballed in the box.
I don’t know [if it was a penalty]. I mean, I’ve given up on VAR. You know. I don’t understand when it is used sometimes, and I don’t understand some of the calls after it is used sometimes. I think it has been a little frustrating. Certainly before the [winter] break, there were a number of times – including against Fiorentina – where I think we were hurt badly by VAR. I don’t know if it ever evens out, I don’t feel like it does. I am always biased… but I’m not sure it ever does even out. But I’m not really focused on that so much.
On the second leg against Porto.
I’m not sure if I’m going [yet]. I do like our position. I don’t know if they are going to change [the away goals rule] but I do like that if we score a goal over there, or a couple of goals, it is worth [more]. I think, obviously, we can play well against them – and they are a very good team. But I actually like it better this way, than if we played the other way and played in Portugal first.
On having so many young players in the squad now.
We don’t feel like we need to sell these young players. About three years ago we made a concerted effort; Rome should be an attractive place for young players to come and play. We didn’t have a great process that we inherited when we took over the team, and maybe in the first few years we had other priorities too. But if you look at our youth teams right now, from Under-19 to the 10-year-olds, when you look at the aggregate points we are on the top of all of Italy. So we feel like we have some tremendously good young talent that is going to be coming up. We had seven Italian players in the starting line-up last night, which I think the last time that happened was with Juventus about six years ago. So we do think we have a lot of homegrown talent. And in fact today our Under-17 team is playing in this big tournament in Doha and we are in the semi-finals. We beat PSG and Spartak Moscow, and a couple of other wins, so we have some very strong young talent. We made that effort, and I think it is really, really going to pay off in the next two or three years.
Reflecting on the season so far.
Well, I’m not [happy], I’m not actually. Because I feel we should be in second or third, when you really look at it. We gave up an awful lot of points this year, and near the end of games. That’s been pretty frustrating for me. Going 3-0 up against Atalanta and then tieing it…If I look at it – and even if we just take two thirds of the points that I think we messed up on – then we would be pretty close to second place with Napoli. So I’m not happy from that point of view at all.
On how tough Serie A is.
I don’t take anything for granted in this league. I still think Serie A, from 1st to 20th, is the toughest league in Europe. I really believe it is as tough as the Premier League. When you get down to the bottom 10 they are just so strategic and tactical, it is just different. It’s not like we are going for four goals or five goals, they’ve got some strategy and it’s just not that easy. So I don’t take any of them for granted, by any means. We have to, the next bunch of games, just do our job. Hopefully we are healthy and, you know, finish in the top four.
On the stadium approval.
The mayor, and all the others, have come out in the last few weeks and said they want to get it done by the end of the year – not finished and built, of course, but at least breaking ground hopefully by the end of the year. So there has been a lot of positive movement on that side of it. So there’s just ‘nitty-gritty’ things that we have got to finish up with them and hopefully by the end of May we will have everything back and ready to go and approved. One of the issues is we still need to buy the land: there was a letter of intent, and we had an agreement in more than principle, more than two and a half months ago, with Eurnova. And Eurnova Trust has been reasonable, but we are dealing with one unreasonable lawyer that keeps pushing stuff off and asking for unreasonable stuff that we are just not going to agree to. Once we have that done we have control of the entire project, and a lot more flexibility in terms of partners and others coming in to work with us.
On the stadium’s importance.
The stadium is owned by AS Roma holding company, which some people don’t realise, they think it is my boy toy. It is owned by the team, so what happens with the stadium is that all revenues, the incremental revenues that we’re getting, it will only make us have – hopefully – more financial strength to have more flexibility. The stadium is key. It is just 100% key. If Roma is going to compete as a top-five or six team in the world consistently, then it has to have that stadium. It just has to. It’s a matter of economics. When Real Madrid and Barcelona are knocking on the door of billion-dollar revenue numbers, or passing that, then there is no other way to do it. You can try to be as smart as you can in player acquisitions, and that can work for a while – but [to do it with] consistency is going to need some of those finances – it’s just a fact of life.
On Financial Fair Play.
Sometimes, for financial fair play, we just have to sell players. People don’t understand that. That’s the way it works. It’s not like, ‘Oh god, I want to get rid of this guy!’ It’s just that, under financial fair play, you just have to deal with some really stringent conditions – that some other teams have gotten away with! But we haven’t…It is frustrating sometimes, especially when we are having some very constructive conversations, let’s put it that way, with UEFA. You know. When we look at some of the punishments – or lack of punishments – meted out. my view is like, ‘Why am I bothering with financial fair play, shouldn’t I just take a €12m fine and deal with this stuff?’ There is some stuff that needs to be done [with financial fair play]. I just wrote a letter to UEFA actually, and listed a bunch of things out, and just asked for some explanation or some constructive dialogue, versus what we’ve seen on what other teams have done.
On Italian football’s growth.
I think the league has to improve, the federation too. I think we have taken some steps, but I don’t think any of us [club owners] are completely or 100% happy yet. If you look at it, what the Bundesliga has done, what La Liga has done, and clearly what the Premier League has done… Italy should be up there.
On Aleksandar Kolarov.
There’s no question for me he is just the absolute ultimate professional. Every single day he is the first guy in there, he’s pretty much the last guy to leave. He’s just a tough, tough footballer. He doesn’t go on social media, he’s not out drinking, he just plays hard and he trains hard. And sometimes he’s going to make a mistake, like all of us do. I hope the fans realise that, guys like him, you want to have 22 guys like that in your team! You just know the guy is going to go out there and bust his ass. He doesn’t complain, and when he is injured he still wants to go out there.
On some of the emerging players.
All these other kids, like Nicolo and Pellegrini, they are very, very intelligent and thoughtful and mature beyond their ages – like it would surprise you. You are talking about people like Lorenzo, that are clearly in my mind going to be future leaders at Roma. And you have a lot of guys like on the team like Fazio and Kolarov, and you hope they do impart more wisdom, having played for 10-12 years, on some of these young kids.