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Roma offer olive branch to unsettled Spalletti

Milan (AFP) – Roma president James Pallotta has called on Luciano Spalletti to stay at the club, amid reports the Serie A giants could plug his eventual departure with Sassuolo coach Eusebio Di Francesco.

“I’d love him to stay, you can see how strategically and tactically well we play with him around,” Pallotta told Italian television following a 3-1 win over Sassuolo on Sunday that left Roma eight points behind leaders Juventus.

“We have so many options and changes and a lot of coaches can’t think like that. I love having him around from that point of view.

“For me it’s great … it’s fun to be around him.” 

Pallotta is set to hold meetings with Spalletti this week as the club lay out plans for the future, including those relating to the construction of an ambitious new stadium that city officials have recently backed.

But while the American businessman looks forward to seeing “shovels in the ground by early next year”, doubts remain over Spalletti’s commitment to the club he steered to Italian Cup wins in 2007 and 2008.

Spalletti began his second spell with Roma in January 2016 after replacing Frenchman Rudi Garcia.

But, after a commendable third-place finish last time out that secured a play-off spot for the Champions League, the Giallorossi are heading for another runners-up spot in Serie A, and another season without a trophy.

After elimination in the Champions League play-offs by Porto, Lyon ended Roma’s Europa League hopes last week and the Italians trail Lazio 2-0 ahead of the second leg of their Italian Cup semi-final on Italian Cup next month. 

Spalletti was recently linked with a possible move to Juventus amid reports Massimiliano Allegri could leave the Turin giants.

In the meantime, Di Francesco, who played the bulk of his professional career with Roma in 1997-2001, is waiting in the wings ready to replace Spalletti, according to reports.

“I read that he has offered his services to Roma,” Spalletti remarked after Sunday’s win.

Di Francesco, named after Portuguese legend Eusebio, is considered one of the brightest coaching talents in Italy’s top flight.

He led Sassuolo into Serie A for the start of the 2013-2014 season and earlier this season steered the Tuscans into their maiden Europa League campaign.

Di Francesco admitted he was “ambitious”, but although “proud” to be linked with the Roma job, he said: “This is not the time to be talking about this. I still have two years on my contract, and any decision will be made in conjunction with the club.”

Amid the uncertainty, Pallotta underlined the importance of regular Champions League appearances, and building an all-purpose stadium that would allow Roma to generate much-needed revenues.

In Serie A, only Juventus and Udinese own their stadiums.

“I think our goal (since becoming president) was consistently to get in the Champions League,” added Pallotta.

“Our goal has always been to get our own stadium and the entertainment district with it, and that gives us the revenues that we can plough back into the team.”

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