Without football he is mortally wounded struggling to heal. The former AS Roma sporting director retraces his recent professional career.
Walter Sabatini is a sporting director considered the master of the capital gains, the lord of the loans and redemptions, as well as the man of the transfer market blitz. He is the best in pursuing players at discount and reselling them later on for a premium. He is a magician in amortizing costs and increasing the value of the accounts. He is a trafficker of football players. Even if Walter Sabatini doesn’t like to be referred to in that way, his ability to discover talents – thanks to his incredible web of scouts around the world – gives him the award of being a trafficker of talents.
In a recent article published by the weekly Italian magazine “Il Venerdì“, the former AS Roma sporting Director – Walter Sabatini – released a long interview about his life, his beliefs, and his career. He talked about Roma as well, the beloved team that he had to leave due to the contrasts that he experienced with James Pallotta, the owner of the giallorossi:
“Currently Roma has four centers of thought of which three are very well-functioning. I am talking of those in Boston, London, and Rome. The fourth is allegedly the one in Spain (he is referring to Monchi – we had previously taked about him in this article).
When these four fources will be able to merge toghether Roma will have an opulent future. However, this is something that must happen as soon as possible. Football declines only this time and it seems to me that the current team deserves and requires it.
Sporting directors eventually do good. Families who would not have enough to eat are doing well now thanks to the help that football provides them. Let’s think about Gervinho’s story. Thanks to his job at Roma he was able to sustain his family of 25 people. This is a traditional thing in Africa, if you make money you help those close to you and the community behind you”
“When it comes to football everyone sees dishonesty, intrigue, exploitation, where instead there is only a job opportunity.
Gervinho’s deal was very intricate because I didn’t want to pursue him. When the club signed Rudi Garcia the only request that the French coach had for me was the player from the Ivory Coast. I said no, actually Frederic Massara said no to Garcia on my behalf because I do not speak French. However, I went ahead with Gervinho’s negotiation in London. I was voluntarly lowering the price to convince Arsenal to end the deal. In that moment I was at dinner in a restaurant in London and even an Italian chef who recognized me tried to discourage me from signing the Ivorian winger. Although I didn’t like Gervinho as a player I pursued him and when he performed well at Roma I publicly praised Rudi Garcia for his choice”
“Miralem Pjanic was another great story. We signed him 10 minutes before the end of the transfer market window. We were seriously risking to not close this deal. I remember that I had to send a private airplane to bring the French player to Rome while Tempestilli and Fenucci were trying to find the necessary funds to pay for this deal and – at the same time – the final approval from the American management. This was simply an exciting and trilling negotiation”.
“Radja Nainggolan’s deal was exciting as well. I found an agreement with Cagliari by calling the president Cellino at 4:30 am. That was a very problematic night of negotiation”.
“The first impression that I had of Erik Lamela was that of an exuberant character, a restless guy. He was 18 years old and was able to pass among the opponents like a colt who shakes his head in search of freedom. I noted his weaknesses as well. I deeply analyzed his data sheet but no one can put in writing what your heart reads and what your eyes see”.
“Marquinhos’ deal is attributable to Simone Beccaccioli (AS Roma’s video analyst). He noted a player in Brazil that was able to run after a ball that seemed to be lost and with almost eight meters of disadvantage he retrieved it with a slip and then rejoiced showing his fists to the crowd as if he was playing the final match of the world cup. The very next day an agent called me and guess what? He proposed Marquinhos’ deal to me. I told him that I didn’t know the player and I was a bit skeptical. In reality I was bursting with happiness”.
I resigned from Roma because I cannot cope with the fact that a software can replace the intuitions of a professional. I am not against technology but I admire logical points of view. The artificial intelligence applied to soccer can be useful but – at the same time – it needs mediation. If I have to sign a player I also need to believe in what I see and feel about him.