Here’s What Roma New Owner Dan Friedkin Will Have To Deal With

On Monday afternoon at 3.30 PM, the curtain fell on James Pallotta’s age as Roma president as Dan Friedkin of The Friedkin Group officially closed the deal to take ownership of the Giallorossi.

The agreement was closed in a videoconference featuring the Friedkin, Pallotta, and Roma’s legal staff with people connecting from Houston (where the Friedkin Group is based), London (the current location of Dan Friedkin’s son Ryan) and Rome, and saw the Texas businessman acquiring the Giallorossi for a reported fee of 591M euro.

A new executive committee was also formed, featuring Dan Friedkin and his son Ryan, his right-arms Marc Watts and Eric Williamson, and current Roma CEO Guido Fienga, who was confirmed in his role.

Friedkin’s first message, which he delivered via a press release was: “We are delighted to join the AS Roma family. As one fan wrote recently, ‘Take our iconic club and make it one of the greatest names in world football (…) Our commitment to Roma is total. We will be very present in Rome, a city that holds a special place in our hearts, as we embark on this exciting journey.

Pallotta’s eight-year tenure thus ended, much to the relief of most Roma supporters – who never came to like a president who was always perceived as distant and not in touch with the passionate Giallorossi fan base. The age of Pallotta didn’t bring any trophy on the Tiber river banks and – what’s worse – resulted in the departure from the club of such local legends as Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi.

Winning no silverware in eight years surely isn’t nice, but what Roma supporters will never forgive departing President James Pallotta for is “parting ways” with such legendary figures as Francesco Totti – though one could argue that Totti left Roma on his own will…

The Friedkins have a tough job ahead with regard to reconnecting Roma with their disillusioned supporters, who are just out of yet another disappointing season. To their advantage, they have the fact that things can’t go much worse for Roma. But, on the other hand, the Italian capital city’s environment is not exactly known for being a patient one. Friedkin and his staff will have little time to show that things are really changing.

The Roma new owners will need to start from the basics and build a better connection with the tifosi as well as be closer to the operations. Pallotta didn’t show his face around Rome for almost two years despite promising to his fans in a famous letter in May 2019 that that was going to change. The Romans need somebody visible to talk to. Somebody to hail, to debate with, and – why not – to fight with.

The Friedkins, at least, don’t seem to be set to make the same mistake as rumors have it that Dan’s son Ryan will be the man in charge and be based directly in Rome. The 30-year-old, who made himself a name as a film producer, has reportedly been the one to sell his father on the idea of getting involved in football – and no, not American football.

In the short term, Ryan Friedkin is expected to oversee the next transfer market operations alongside CEO Guido Fienga while he looks for a new sporting director – which is going to be the next hot topic in the Friedkin’s agenda.

The Giallorossi indeed need a new sporting director after the turbulent dismissal of Gianluca Petrachi. The names of Walter Sabatini – who already covered the role for five years from 2011 to 2016 and managed to bring to Roma the likes of Edin Dzeko, Mohammed Salah, and Alisson Becker – and Nicolas Burdisso have circulated these past few weeks. Whether the new owners will go for a seasoned comeback or opt for betting on a young, relatively-inexperienced figure will already say much about the new owners’ vision.

Walter Sabatini was Roma's sporting director for five years and left some good memories in the Italian capital. As Ryan Friedkin is on the lookout for somebody to fill the role, could a shocking comeback perhaps be in the pipeline?
Walter Sabatini was Roma’s sporting director for five years and left some good memories in the Italian capital. As Ryan Friedkin is on the lookout for somebody to fill the role, could a shocking comeback perhaps be in the pipeline?

The next question is related to the coach. Paulo Fonseca joined Roma from Shakhtar Donetsk last summer and has not fully convinced so far. Roma ended a disappointing fifth in the Serie A table and their recent elimination from the Europa League – with the Giallorossi totally outclassed by Sevilla – sparked some more doubts about his project. There’s not much time to make a decision as the new season starts on September 19 already. That could play in Fonseca’s favor.

There are, however, some intriguing solutions available on the market – including Maurizio Sarri, who just got the ax from Juventus and seem to have what it takes to thrive in Rome, and Daniele De Rossi, who would abide perfectly by the eternal unwritten law La Roma ai Romanisti, according to which the Giallorossi should be led – both on and off the pitch – by people born and raised in the capital city.

On that note, there’s the larger-than-life presence of Francesco Totti always looming in the background. A figure any Roma president would somehow need to come to terms with. After retiring in 2017, Totti had joined the Roma managerial ranks as the club director, only to slam the door and leave two years later over divergences with Pallotta’s entourage.

In a theatrical press conference held at the Italian Olympic Committee headquarters, Totti had announced he would not be considering a comeback until the Roma management changed. That moment has come, so what happens now? Should the Friedkins consider reintegrating somebody whose only name is enough to elicit the Giallorossi fan base enthusiasm?

And then, there’s the new stadium project – a matter that will likely take more time to unravel. Roma currently share with cross-town rivals Lazio the Stadio Olimpico, which is owned by the city council. That is not expected to change anytime soon.

The project for what is provisionally called “Stadio della Roma” (Roma’s Stadium) is massive and should bring the whole Tor di Valle area to new life. Will the Friedkins manage to pull it to completion?

But Pallotta had the merit of kicking-off the endeavor of building a new home for the Giallorossi in the Tor di Valle area. He came up with a gargantuan project also featuring additional venues for music, entertainment, and shopping in the area. He had to wrestle back and forth with the Comune of Roma, which rejected multiple versions of the project before giving its green light and saw the process to find a constructor marred by speculations of corruption.

The Friedkins will inherit this hot potato as well, hoping to bring to completion what would be a huge step forward in a city where things traditionally move slowly.

Since its very beginning, the history of Rome has been one of some periodical cycles of decadence and renaissance. Its football clubs seem to share the same fate. And so, after eight years of pretty much nothing – except for, it needs to be remembered, an historical Champions League comeback against Barcelona – Dan Friedkin and his entourage have much work to do but at least some good omens on their side.

But that won’t be enough, we promise you, so welcome to the Serie A and good luck with your job!