Decline and fall of the Roma empire

Much like the dear old Eternal City, AS Roma have seen better days. Both are in need of a major makeover.

The 4-1 thumping at Fiorentina on Saturday all but ended any hopes of grabbing fourth place and unless there is a miracle of biblical proportions, UEFA's showpiece final at the end of May will be the last Champions League football at the Stadio Olimpico for some time.

That unthinkable state of affairs has left the future of everyone – from president Rosella Sensi to the kitman – very much up in the air.

The feeling is that Luciano Spalletti is already looking for an escape route and in the Machiavellian world of Italian football, the whispers along the corridors are of the shaven-headed coach defecting to AC Milan when Carlo Ancelotti decamps to either Chelsea or Real Madrid.

"I couldn't possibly comment"

Nice work if you can get it, but what of the mess Spalletti leaves behind on the banks of the Tiber?

Of course, he can't shoulder all the blame – having had little or no say in last summer’s transfer campaign – but his handling of the team in the most delicate moments has left a lot to be desired.

The 50-year-old may or may not have snubbed Chelsea last summer, publicly committing his future to Roma through thick or thin. But for most of the season he has been a distant figure compared to his usual chirpy self.

To those outside the club that lack of real belief has transferred itself to the players and Florence was typical of recent Giallorossi performances.

La Viola broke the deadlock with their first shot, and despite dominating the first half – when chances couldn't be turned into goals – it all went pear-shaped for the visitors.

Attacks broke down, players lost their positions and there was no use in looking to the bench for help as Spalletti was either staring at the ground or shaking his head in resignation.

With no one or nothing to prop up their fragile egos, those on the pitch switched to default mode: whining and whingeing before losing all semblance of discipline.

The diminutive but very uptight David Pizarro lost his rag over nothing and squared up to France Semioli, receiving a second yellow card and his marching orders.

Pizarro gets first go with the soap

That's now a dirty dozen red cards this season, most of them for dissent. It's back to the bad habits from before Fabio Capello's reign (1999-2004) briefly brought everyone into line – when there was never a week that passed without someone or other getting sent off.

Sifting through the ruins of the season, the only similarity now with Don Fabio’s reign is that the club are still in the depths of financial woes.

Sensi has admitted that interested parties have been in touch about a possible sale, with a consortium fronted by disgustingly rich industrialists the Flick family ready to acquire a major stake in the club.

The billionaire financer George Soros could have taken over last year for a snip, but having apparently predicted the current worldwide financial crisis, he decided to keep his readies closer to home.

Where too now for the failing Romans? Well, the players have been banished to the dreaded ritiro for a week, which smacks of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

As for the rest, the Sensi family need to step away and allow the German-Swiss axis to come in and clean up the mess – ending the handouts of jumbo contracts (and that includes Francesco Totti’s hopes for one last mega-payday), selling off some of the assets (Philippe Mexes and Alberto Aquilani) then jettisoning the deadwood and starting from scratch again.

As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it hasn’t taken long for the club to crumble.

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