As summer approaches, we should be getting closer to finding out who Roma’s next head coach will be – however, there still doesn’t appear to be an easy front runner.
Maurizio Sarri has reportedly been identified as the top target, but if he can guide Chelsea to a top four finish in the Premier League, or victory in the Europa League, then it could be hard to prise him away from London. Atalanta’s Gian Piero Gasperini and Sampdoria’s Marco Giampaolo are other prime candidates, but doubts remain over their ability to manage top clubs. And, unless a Qatari takeover does happen, Antonio Conte is surely out of Roma’s price range.
Perhaps there is one man who deserves to be in the mix, who hasn’t been suggested yet. A man who is closer to Roma than all the others – current interim boss Claudio Ranieri.
Ranieri is now halfway through his expected 12-game tenure, and he has completely transformed Roma’s season. He took over a side deprived of confidence, having been embarrassed in the Derby Della Capitale and Champions League. It looked doubtful that Roma could even qualify for the Europa League, let alone finish in the top four.
Now, after six games at the helm, Ranieri has guided Roma to fifth place, just one point off the target which seemed impossible just a few weeks ago. He has done so whilst juggling a number of injuries and suspensions to key players. But now, that final goal is within touching distance. Let that sink in.
Everybody knew that Ranieri, in the short term, would bring his immense passion for the club and his demands of high commitment from the squad. His enthusiasm for the role has been evident in abundance. The way he says “noi tifosi” (us fans) in his interviews makes the fans feel connected with him. Ranieri is, and always has been, completely in love with this club. He is reminding the squad what it means to play for Roma, making sure they know not to take their place for granted. That mentality has made Roma competitive again.
The other main hope when the 67-year-old arrived would be that he would bring defensive stability to the team. It seemed a mountainous task, with Roma having conceded more goals than most of the other teams in the top half. But, somehow, Ranieri has changed things. Thanks to a bold decision in replacing Robin Olsen with Antonio Mirante in goal, and the minor rebirth of Federico Fazio, Roma have now kept two consecutive clean sheets for only the third time this season.
Under Ranieri, Roma now look hard to beat again. Earlier in the season, they allowed teams to roll over them, cutting through the backline with ease. Now, that’s not happening anywhere near as often. The Giallorossi have a structure, and their spine is solid.
Admittedly, it hasn’t been perfect, with the loss to SPAL a blip and the heavy defeat to Napoli a major disappointment. But since the latter, Roma have negotiated three tricky fixtures, and have emerged on the other side unbeaten. Ranieri has transmitted to them a resilience that is meaning they are working harder than at any other time this season. Look at the way they bounced back twice to draw with Fiorentina. They showed huge determination to restore parity so quickly both times.
He may not be the headline name that some fans want to see as permanent manager next season, but why doesn’t he deserve a chance? If he does guide Roma to Champions League qualification, he will have performed nothing short of a miracle. That would surely be enough to at least put him in contention – especially when many of the other names touted are unrealistic.
If Roma appointed a manager from elsewhere, it would hit them financially. Sarri, Gasperini and Giampaolo are all currently employed by other clubs and compensation fees would need to be paid, whereas Conte’s wage demands would put a major strain on the club. In contrast, Ranieri is already at Roma. Giving him another season in charge would be a much better scenario in terms of cost.
One of the more unusual outcomes that has been suggested is for Daniele De Rossi to retire and immediately take over as coach. It’s clear that coaching is in De Rossi’s blood, and that is where is future will lie, but isn’t it too soon to throw him straight into the cauldron? If he does decide to retire this season, then he could become Ranieri’s assistant instead. It would be a great combination on the touchline – two men of different generations, both embodying what it means to love Roma. Ranieri could be the tutor that De Rossi needs to give him the grounding in preparation for his future as a head coach.
Obviously, at his age, Ranieri would be a short-term solution, but with there being no guarantees over many of the targeted names, he represents the option with least risk. He has been the father figure that Roma have needed to get them out of a difficult patch, and now the players are returning to form under him. Roma shouldn’t be afraid to let that continue for one more year, until someone younger and more realistic does become available. Until then, Ranieri deserves to be in with a shout.
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