Roma director Tiago Pinto announced he is leaving next month, but reveals how he got Jose Mourinho, Romelu Lukaku and Paulo Dybala with ‘jokes’ that then turned serious.

The Portuguese transfer guru confirmed he will walk away in February, as soon as the January transfer window has closed, even though his contract was meant to run until June 2024.

“I think the cycle is close to the end,” he told The Athletic. ““I’m not speaking about the Roma cycle or the Friedkin cycle, but the mission I had is almost done. Personally, I feel tired.”

Tiago Pinto shot to fame at Benfica and the Friedkin family hoped he would bring the same ability to develop home-grown talent from the youth academy to the senior squad at Roma.

Along with an injury crisis and crippling Financial Fair Play parameters making it difficult to sign anyone, Jose Mourinho has indeed been promoting a lot of players from the Primavera side.

It turns out there was a lot of work behind the scenes to help ease the process too.

“We would select the best players from the academy and work on them as if they were first-team players. They’d get a psychologist, a nutritionist, special coaching. Guys from the communications department provided them with media training. All to reduce the gap from youth team to first team. Nicola Zalewski and Edoardo Bove were part of that group.”

Tiago Pinto was always respected by Roma fans because they pinned the blame for their financial crisis on his predecessor Monchi.

“We had more than 70 players under contract and most of them were non-key players. A lot of players Roma had under contract were heavy on the wage bill and didn’t perform off the pitch.”

His greatest skill has been raising the €30-35m needed by June 30 to balance the books by selling many of the players who were not part of the core group.

“We sold more than €160m in players and if you look at the players we sold, maybe just Roger Ibanez and Nicolò Zaniolo really played in our team. The others were on loan or out of the squad.”

Of course, perhaps the moment that helps Tiago Pinto most stand out in the history of Roma is convincing Mourinho to come with a jokey text message.

“I think between the text and the announcement there were 14 days,” he reveals. “If I think about the ownership and the way we signed Mourinho, it represents them very well. You do it quickly without buzz and surprise everyone.”

Without a strong budget, Roma had to move at the right time when other clubs like Juventus and Inter were distracted by other issues, for example when picking up Paulo Dybala as a free agent by realising “it’s now or never.”

Tiago Pinto did the same work to get Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, after Inter and Juventus had failed to agree terms, but with it abundantly clear the striker wanted to return to Italy. Negotiations for a different player on the agent’s books turned towards the Belgium international.

“And of course every time we talked about the other player, I’d always make jokes. ‘What’s going to happen with Lukaku?’ I never said I wanted Lukaku, but I always knew what was going on and one day — this is a funny story — I was with Ryan Friedkin (Roma’s vice-president). We were watching training and this agent called me and I didn’t even say ‘good morning’ to him. I said something like: ‘No, I don’t want Lukaku, man! I don’t have the money for Lukaku and the guy was laughing and laughing and laughing. He said: ‘No, I’m not calling about Lukaku’.”

It was a different mood when they discussed it again in August and time was running out for Chelsea and Lukaku to find a solution.

“I think three years ago if you were to ask a Roma supporter if it were possible to have in the same team Dybala, Tammy (Abraham), Lukaku and Mourinho, maybe they would say: ‘You are crazy’. And now they have them,” smiled Tiago Pinto.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *