x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Claudio Ranieri's resignation as Roma manager is just the first step in what is turning into a saga

When Claudio Ranieri offered his resignation as Roma head coach on Sunday, he did so with an expert's eye. Recognising the symptoms of a club in an irretrievable state of institutional confusion is something Ranieri has become used to.

When Claudio Ranieri offered his resignation as Roma head coach on Sunday, he did so with an expert's eye.

Recognising the symptoms of a club in an irretrievable state of institutional confusion is something Ranieri has become used to.

One day, he should sit down and write a memoir based on his unique position as witness to the seismic changes that are reshaping elite club football.

Ranieri had just seen Roma turn a 3-0 lead away at Genoa into a 4-3 defeat. Ranieri's position at Roma had become very vulnerable, especially at Italy's most intemperate club. Ultras staged demonstrations against players and coach at Trigoria, the practice ground, on Saturday.

What the fans then witnessed the next day had the initial appearance of a classic Roma-of-the-Ranieri-era recovery, the team 3-0 up just after half time.

Yes, Ranieri's stint in charge of the club he supported as a boy will be remembered far more for the valiant never-say-die spirit than for the capitulations of recent weeks.

Above all, it will be remembered for the 23-match unbeaten run Ranieri oversaw after he took over from Luciano Spalletti a month into the 2009/10 season to guide Roma from the relegation places to a challenge for the scudetto that lasted into the final day of the campaign.

In the course of this season, the same spirit would be detectable, but in isolated moments, notably the 3-2 win against Bayern Munich at the Stadio Olimpico that would propel Roma into the last 16 of the Champions League. But there were regular headlines about fractures.

Tensions between the coach and Francesco Totti, the powerful club captain, surfaced almost every time Totti was not in the starting XI - a common event - or when he was substituted.

The temptation in such cases is to link fractures on the training and playing fields to those in the boardroom and executive offices.

Roma are certainly a business in a state of flux, to put it mildly.

Rosella Sensi, the president, oversees a large debt and has been listening to potential buyers ever since she inherited the presidency from her father, Franco Sensi.

The idea of a pending takeover has been both the gold at the end of the rainbow for Roma - with promises of cash injections and the kind of investment that would allow them to compete with the likes of Inter Milan and AC Milan in the transfer market- and a cloud that hovers every day over Trigoria.

The latest potential buyer - the US-based Di Benedetto group - seems serious, so much so that one of the first people to make a statement reacting to Ranieri's departure was Gianni Alemanno, the Rome mayor.

"They [Di Benedetto] are experts and won't be worried by this," Alemanno said.

Ranieri knows better. Boardroom changes, real or expected, spread a jitteriness around clubs.

He felt it at Chelsea, where he was head coach for the first season of Roman Abramovich's ownership.

He knew it at unstable Valencia, where the presidency frequently changes hands, often amid fearful intrigue and a climate of suspicion.

Ranieri's spell at Juventus, which came to an end in 2009, was also part of a trail of events leading to dramatic upheavals in the boardroom.

His resignation, delivered with the dignity that characterises Ranieri, is likely to be just one such episode in wider changes to the way Roma is run.

Hence Sensi appointed an interim coach - Vicenzo Montella, only recently retired as a player - whom prospective new owners will be able to judge among other more experienced men, such as Chelsea's Carlo Ancelotti, whom they might prefer as a figurehead for their new Roma.

In short, the saga still has several chapters to run.

 

sports@thenational.ae