Over the next days and weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at Spalletti, and what he needs to accomplish with Inter.
To better understand Inter’s new coach, we thought it would be beneficial to get the perspective of someone who’s very familiar with the Italian, a Roma fan. With that in mind we reached out to Bren, who heads up SB Nation’s Roma site, Chiesa Di Totti.
Our Q&A is below. Thanks to Bren for taking the time to answer our questions!
SoM: Over two stints at the club, Luciano Spalletti managed Roma nearly 300 times. You obviously know him well, so what are your thoughts on the Italian?
CdT: Well, I think the simple fact that so many Roma fans were quite upset when he left should tell you what high esteem he's held in among Roma fans. I think his greatest attributes are being able to hold the respect of the players and his level of tactical ingenuity--he's no slave to tactics, he'll shift and change things as situations arise. I suppose the biggest knocks on him are his relatively poor record with youth players, his penchant to make subs too late and, of course, the fact that he hasn't won a Scudetto.
SoM: What should Inter fans expect from Spalletti, tactically speaking?
CdT: Again, he's remarkably flexible. This past season alone, Roma used about seven different formations, including multiple variants of three and four man back-lines, but his bread and butter has always been the 4-2-3-1. I'm not familiar enough with the ins and outs of Inter's depth and rotation, but if he can do with Icardi what he did with Dzeko, watch out!
SoM: Despite managing Roma in seven different seasons, and finishing as runner-ups four times, Spalletti was only able to win a pair of Coppa Italias (2007 and 2008) while in Rome. Is the lack of silverware a valid criticism of Spalletti, or more a product of the dominance of Inter in his first stint, and Juventus in his second?
CdT: You just had to rub those in, didn't you! Truth be told, it's probably more a result of the level of competition and the fact that he's never received significant investment on the pitch from Roma's owners. I mean, this season alone, they were really two, maybe three, hiccups away from defeating Juventus. Roma set or were near records in points and goals scored this year, marks which in any given year would have been good enough to win. So I don't think Roma's lack of trophies were resultant of any shortcomings—he just ran into two juggernauts at the worst possible time.
SoM: Inter have a whole host of young players. How’s Spalletti’s track record of developing younger talent?
CdT: Umm, yeah. Hate to break it to you, but its not good. But in all seriousness, he's like any other manager when it comes to playing youth, he's a mixed bag. This year alone he completely ignored Gerson, Clement Grenier and didn't really give much to Leandro Paredes until the spring, while at the same time Emerson Palmieri became an absolute stud under his watch. So I guess it all depends on if their youth is hand picked or inherited.
SoM: We’ve heard a lot about a potential rift between Spalletti and club legend Francesco Totti this season. What happened, was it overblown, and with Totti retiring, why couldn’t Spalletti stay?
CdT: Well, between Totti, Spalletti and the Roma ownership, there is ample blame to go around. No one escaped from that situation unscathed; it really was the worst possible outcome one could have imagined. Spalletti came back to Roma professing how much he loved being the coach there and citing his family being fans as reasons for his return, so it’s been a pretty acrimonious divorce thus far. At the end of the day, you can't really say Spalletti made the wrong move (in the strictest sense) with Totti since Roma established high-water marks across the board, but the constant questioning of his handling of Totti had to weigh on him—it was a daily debate, one which probably took its toll on him.
I suppose we all assumed that once you removed that stressor, he would have been amped to come back, but that simply wasn't the case, so I'm really at a loss as to why he left. Could be he just wanted a fresh start, or wanted to work with Sabatini again, who knows, but since we're only left to read between the lines, I'd say it was a combination of the Totti stress and some miscommunication/misunderstandings with Roma's management.
SoM: Since we’re taking Spalletti, any chance you’d be able to give us Radja Nainggolan too?
CdT: Fat chance. Not only has Nainggolan repeatedly expressed his hatred of Juventus, something which Inter fans can relate to, he is, after Daniele De Rossi, the unquestioned emotional leader of this club, so he's not going anywhere!
SoM: With Spalletti gone, who might his replacement at Roma be?
CdT: God only knows, any suggestions? Seems like it will be Eusebio Di Francesco, though.
Again, a massive thank you to Bren for answering our questions—especially on a subject that’s understandingly frustrating for Roma fans.