x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The Roma regime hopes for patience

With new owners, new players and a new inexperienced coach the team in the Italian capital will need time.

Trying to copy Barcelona has become the most fashionable strategy in elite football.

Pep Guardiola has made the young, novice coach modish and predatory raids on the Barca youth academy are frequent.

In Serie A, Roma look like they are borrowing so heavily from the manual of the European champions they might as well replace Romulus and Remus on the club's emblem and put there instead something with blue and ruby stripes.

To report that Roma are at a crossroads at the beginning of the season is nothing new. A volatile Roma is part of the great fresco of Serie A. In the 10 years since their last scudetto, the identity of the head coach has changed eight times. The instinct among the fans is inevitably to cling to the constants: Francesco Totti, the captain, has become the most recognisable. And he knows it.

So do the new owners, the US-based DiBenedetto group, who have followed their purchase of a majority shareholding with a major squad refit. Gone are the goalkeeper, Doni, the defenders Philippe Mexes and John Arne Riise, and the strikers Jeremy Menez and Mirko Vucinic.

In their place are replacements with many levels of experience, and, except for Maarten Stekelenburg, the Dutch international goalkeeper hired from Ajax, and a common tongue: Spanish.

Erik Lamela, a 19-year old Argentine, may need to prove his potential before being entrusted to stimulate Roma's attacks, but Gabriel Heinze, once of Manchester United and Real Madrid, would expect to start when fit, and so would the two young imports from Spain, Bojan Krkic in attack and Jose Angel at full-back.

Both were recommended by Luis Enrique, the new head coach, who has been hoisted directly from Barcelona's youth system into Serie A.

It is quite a promotion. Luis Enrique has never coached a team in a senior, top-flight league match before. But nor had Guardiola when he went from Barca B to managing Barca's first XI.

Luis Enrique's job last season? Head coach of Barca B. His playing-career credentials? Like Guardiola, a long career at Camp Nou, often as captain.

Bojan is Barcalona born and bred, too, and only 21. Jose Angel was close to joining Barca until Roma intervened. Interest in the striker, Osvaldo, also showed a recruitment policy built around local knowledge. Osvaldo, a forward, impressed for Barcelona-based club Espanyol last season.

A novice coach has a right to demand patience from his appointers and from fans. So does an outsider - Luis Enrique played all his career within Spain - but Roma's curvas are not known for an acquiescent culture. A setback in the Europa League qualifying round has put nerves on edge, and revealed tension between Luis Enrique and Totti. The club captain responded to being left out of the starting line-up in the first-leg defeat against Slovan Bratislava by turning up at Trigoria in a T-shirt that said "Basta". In Italian, that means, simply "Enough!".

It translates the same in Spanish, just so everyone in the Roma hierarchy could get the message.