The appointment of Aurelio Andreazzoli to replace Zdenek Zeman on the Roma bench has taken many by surprise, particularly because his name was absent from all of the media speculation surrounding Zeman’s likely successor when his departure became inevitable after the 4:2 home defeat by Cagliari at the beginning of February.
There are some instructive and – for Romanisti – worrying conclusions to be drawn from Andreazzoli’s appointment which club chief executive Italo Zanzi’s statement indicates is envisaged to be until the end of the season. Firstly, it seems clear that the club do not want to appoint a permanent successor to Zeman until the end of the season when there will be more candidates available both in Italy where a coach is not allowed to coach two different clubs in the same season and abroad where clubs thinking of changing coach usually do so before the end of the winter transfer market in January in order to ensure new players they register are part of their coach’s plans and where coaches enjoying a period of success who might be attractive to Roma – such as Porto’s Vitor Perera – are unlikely to change club before the end of the season. Waiting until the end of the season also provides more time to make a more considered decision from a wider choice of candidates, especially those coaching in Italy.
Secondly, the decision to hire an interim coach involved overlooking candidates who had Serie A experience and were immediately available such as Marco Giampaolo, considered one of the rising stars of Italian coaching a few years ago but whose reputation has fallen somewhat after disappointing spells at a handful of clubs in recent seasons, in favour of an internal appointment, with director general Franco Baldini stating Andreazzoli was chosen because the players already knew and respected him, several of whom have worked with him under previous coaches Luciano Spalletti, Vincenzo Montella, Luis Enrique and Zeman.
However, 59 year-old Andreazzoli has not coached in Serie A or B before, which raises doubts about his ability to lead the team to its by now more modest but nonetheless important objective of qualifying for next season’s Europa League by finishing in the top 6 positions in Serie A or winning the Coppa Italia (or losing the final should the other finalist, Lazio, qualify for next season’s Champions League). Failure to achieve that objective could have significant consequences at the end of the season with renewed attempts – which the club was able to resist last summer – by other clubs to buy its best players, including De Rossi, Pjanic and Lamela. Losing such players would probably mean the development of a competitive Roma squad would be at least delayed and possibly undermined by having to buy new players of similar quality who would probably have to be from the younger age range in order for the club to be able to afford them, as sporting director Walter Sabatini has successfully done over the last couple of years. Absence from European club competition for another season would further lower Roma’s ranking position and seeding in future draws and hamper its ability to increase its brand value and generate which are crucial in helping the club to continue and increase investment in the squad, which would enable it to improve the contracts of several younger players as they develop into stars and their contracts become more expensive. Consequently significant doubts are appearing about the ability to fund the development of a competitive squad in the context of era of Financial Fair Play across European football and – in Roma’s particular case – investment being required for the club’s new stadium at Tor di Valle.
While the decision not to hire a permanent coach immediately seems to be a sound one given the available options, entrusting Andreazzoli rather than a coach with previous experience of coaching in Serie A with the task of leading improving performances and results for the remainder of the season and achieving what was the minimum objective at the start of the season seems an excessively risky decision and one which – looking at the current predicament of the squad and the career of its new coach – appears unlikely to be successful. The probable outcome is yet another interim coach before the end of the current season, potential changes among the club’s management at the end of the season after failing to appoint a successful coach despite making several attempts, and a significant delay in the squad becoming a consistently competitive force at home and abroad with doubts emerging whether the current owners will be able to achieve that objective in the foreseeable future.
Written by: James Vass