New Roma owners may get briefest honeymoon

ROME - AS Roma's takeover by a group led by United States businessman Thomas DiBenedetto heralds a new era for Serie A, but a host of key boardroom decisions must now be made at the club before sustained on-field success can be hoped for.

The first concerns the coaching job which former player Vincenzo Montella currently holds on a caretaker basis until the end of the season, having succeeded Claudio Ranieri when the Italian resigned in February because of poor performances.

Despite a Champions League last 16 exit, Montella has improved results but a berth in next year's competition looks unlikely with the capital club four points below the fourth and final qualifying spot in Serie A with six games left.

Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti, who played for Roma and has said he would one day love to coach the club, has been linked in the media given his difficult season with the Londoners.

How other Italian club owners will react to having Americans in Serie A, given U.S. and foreign investors had previously snubbed Italy in favour of the more lucrative English Premier League, remains to be seen.

DiBenedetto will immediately be thrown into a bitter league row over TV rights and will soon learn that heavy criticism from all quarters is part of daily life in Serie A.

"From the outside these new U.S. owners don't intrigue me," Zenit St Petersburg and ex-Roma boss Luciano Spalletti told Sky.

"A foreign owner would be a good thing for Italian football but it must be an owner with potential. Roma deserve a patron like Chelsea, Zenit or Manchester City. I don't know this consortium but they don't intrigue me."

Fans will give the new owners more time to prove themselves than Spalletti but not much.


Although previous president Rosella Sensi oversaw a period of fiscal trouble which led creditor bank Unicredit to take over the defacto running of the club and organise the sale, she was a Roman who knew the whims of the supporters.

Whether she will have any role in the new setup is unclear while DiBenedetto's treatment of club captain Francesco Totti also needs to be managed carefully to win over the fans.

The striker is synonymous with Roma and has a contract which allows the 34-year-old to be a club director when he retires.

Roma's side is generally an ageing one and new investment is needed at a time when Serie A is struggling to attract the very best players because of competition from England and Spain.

DiBenedetto will soon have to make a decision about the club's home as they currently share with city rivals Lazio but had unveiled plans to build their own stadium in a move which is rare in Italy but would bring in extra revenue ultimately.

The American has also been a partner of the Fenway Sports Group which owns English side Liverpool and under UEFA rules two teams in the same competition can not have the same owners.

DiBenedetto has said this is not an issue at all but some media outlets have suggested Roma could face sanctions unless the situation is clarified.