Roma’s new American owner reveals ambitious plans
Roma’s new American owner revealed ambitious plans to make the
squad a player in Europe again and known the world over through new
Speaking to an elite group of Roman industrialists late
Thursday, Boston executive Thomas DiBenedetto said he wants to open
Roma youth academies all over the globe – starting in the United
States – and make matches more enjoyable for fans.
”I see tremendous potential for our organization and our
team,” DiBenedetto said. ”We want to make AS Roma a place where
families, diplomats and students come and watch and feel
DiBenedetto leads a four-man American group that became the
first foreign majority owners of a Serie A club when they closed
the deal for Roma in August. He said Roma has already reached a
deal with a Boston-based academy with 8,000 youth players spread
over five American states.
”We want everyone at these academies wearing Roma jerseys, so
they, their friends and their relatives become Roma fans,”
DiBenedetto said. ”This is how we hope to spread the Roma brand
around the world.”
DiBenedetto is also one of approximately 13 limited partners in
the Boston Red Sox baseball team ownership group. The other members
of the group that bought Roma are James Pallotta – a minority owner
of the Boston Celtics basketball team – Michael Ruane and Richard
Roma currently plays at the 72,000-seat Stadio Olimpico, which
features a running track and poor sight lines for football. The
Americans would like to build a new stadium.
”We have had meetings with the mayor and met with some
developers,” DiBenedetto said. ”We’re studying sites, financial
analysis and feasibility.”
The Americans have also been pushing to develop new avenues for
ticket sales, since fans buying tickets for Italian games usually
need to go in person to a sales center and show an ID – with no
tickets available more than a week or two before matches.
And they have caused a bit of a stir by indicating they want to
eliminate the huge VIP section at Stadio Olimpico – where seats are
given away – and sell the best tickets instead.
”Rome is known for its culture, history and food and that
brings a lot of people here,” DiBenedetto said. ”We want those
people to also enjoy football. And we want them to become fans of
our team, so that when they go back to their own countries they
will be followers and supporters.”
As for the squad, the Americans lured former England assistant
Franco Baldini back to Roma with the position of general director
and Baldini has put into action a youth movement rarely seen at the
upper levels of Italian football.
While it’s clearly a long-term project, the new Roma has so far
had mixed results. Entering Sunday’s game with Lecce, Roma sits
seventh in the 20-team Serie A with four wins, two draws and four
Roma last won the Serie A in 2001, and missed the title by just
two points in 2010.
Roma spent more money – ?58.4 million ($78.7 million) – on new
players in the offseason than any other club in Serie A.
The youth movement is modeled on European champion Barcelona,
and so it was no coincidence that former Barcelona youth coach Luis
Enrique was hired to coach Roma.
Like Barcelona, Roma has put a premium on Spanish and Argentine
players, signing the likes of Pablo Osvaldo, Erik Lamela, Fernando
Gago and Bojan Krkic – plus shifty Bosnia playmaker Miralem
Osvaldo, a 25-year-old forward, was born in Argentina but also
holds Italian citizenship and recently joined Italy. Another
forward from Argentina, the 19-year-old Lamela, scored in his first
match as a starter last month and may be the most talented of the
The 25-year-old Gago, an Argentine midfielder, was cast aside by
Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.
The 21-year-old Bojan, a Spanish forward with a Serbian father
and a Spanish mother was signed from Barcelona. It was then
discovered that he is a distant relative of Barcelona standout
Lionel Messi, the two-time world player of the year.
One of the few veterans Roma signed was 29-year-old goalkeeper
Maarten Stekelenburg, who helped the Netherlands to the World Cup
final last year.
While he has been injured for several weeks now, Luis Enrique
struggled to integrate Roma’s 35-year-old captain Francesco Totti
into the squad at the start of the season, drawing fans’ ire, and
Roma still hasn’t renewed the contract of its popular midfielder
Daniele De Rossi, who was born and raised a Roma fan like Totti and
is considered the club’s future captain.
”I’m confident that Baldini will work it out with De Rossi’s
agent,” DiBenedetto said. ”And I can guarantee you that nobody
wants to win more than Luis Enrique. And that’s also what we want
to do with Roma.”