“Tycoon Takeovers”: Can AS Roma Join the Elite?

John Solano

At the end of the 1999/2000 football season, Manchester City players celebrated promotion to the Premier League after a handful of years out of the top-flight, including a season in the third-tier. Another relegation would come about the next season, followed by a quick return to the Premier League. The club spent a lot of money in the following years, but not enough to get anywhere near fierce rivals Manchester United, nor Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal or Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

Things, of course, changed for the club in September 2008 when the Abu Dhabi United Group took over. The club was 10 years from its lowest in Division 2, and 32 years without a trophy. The promise of untold spending on players sent the fans into deliriousness as if they had won the Lotto, the Magic Slot Jackpot and the Grand National on the same day. Today, Manchester City is more than a club; it’s a global enterprise, with feeder clubs, a university campus and even an eSports team.


Roma fans sense change in the air

Recent history lesson of English football aside, it would be interesting to compare the thoughts of Manchester City fans in 2008 to the Roma fans today in the light of the (still proposed at the time of writing) takeover by The Friedkin Group. Yes, there are many differences, and nobody expects the kind of investment overseen by Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City, but the sense of excitement when a takeover is mooted can more than exceed that of a new manager or star signing. The words of the new owners could prove to be hollow, but it makes fans dream that they could join teams like  Barcelona, PSG, Real Madrid and, yes, Juventus in the first-class lounge of world club football.

Of course, it does not always work out that way. We can cite examples of teams like Monaco, Malaga CF and Leeds United where the promised golden era never arrived, and the subsequent debt and over-extension caused greater problems than the club had before. None of that intends to suggest that The Friedkin Group will lead Roma down such a path, but there have been just as many cautionary tales as success stories.

New owners can be transformative

Obviously, Roma has not fallen that far behind the elite, and things are certainly ticking over nicely this season in Serie A, but nine managerial changes in the past decade and no major trophies since 2008 tells its own story. Details have been scant about Dan Friedkin’s intentions with the club. Will it kick-start the development of the new stadium? Will it lead to intense transfer activity? What does it mean for Paulo Fonseca?

Stadio della roma

The truth is that nobody is truly sure yet, and clarity might only come long after the purchase of the club has gone through. But it’s important to note that astute management at the top of a club can have a transformative impact on the pitch in a very short time, even without the quick-fix transfer splurges that most fans desire.

Indeed, we drew parallels with the Manchester City takeover earlier, but it’s perhaps another English club’s takeover from which Roma fans should draw hope and inspiration – Liverpool. The Fenway Sports Group took over the club in 2010, and have patiently built a team now widely regarded as the best club side on the planet. No galactico signings to appease fans, nor interference from the executive level on coaching decisions. Patience, forward-thinking and the savviness to make big signings only when truly needed have transformed Liverpool in a relatively short space of time. Roma fans could get on board with that.