Patience, and Shuffle the Cards

Since leaving Roma six and a half years ago, Franco Baldini has been the epitome of debonaire. He's worked in South Africa, rubbed elbows with royals in Madrid and settled down for a while in London. Then the Americans called, and his old world seemed to open its gates yet again. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, let's go back to the emptiness and gloom outlook before that call from Boston.

The sense that in a more perfect world, Franco Baldini would be the heir to Franco Sensi's project has been hard to dispense with. Baldini was the natural successor, perhaps the only possible, to continue the work Franco Sensi had been doing over the better part of a decade. He had stood by Sensi's side in many of the battles, and they alternated between leading and following. Yet that era was lost as Franco Sensi grew ill and retreated from the daily life in AS Roma. It may never have been Franco Sensi's intentions to hand the club over to Baldini, and it matters little. Intentions are one thing, realpolitik and family relations another. Ultimately the inevitable happened and control was kept within the family as Rosella replaced her father in duties, if not in name (among her peculiarities is her absolute determination to constantly honor her father, refusing to be called presidente, "the president is forever my father", yet she often took decisions directly contradictory to Franco's).

The flag, having been flown by Franco Sensi and Baldini for years in hard wind and rain, and only the occasional sun-drenched day, was taken down and replaced with a plain white one. Rosella was not only an unwilling participant to the cause her father and Baldini had lent themselves to, she had already begun to actively oppose it. She started by negotiating a peace treaty with the same people in Juventus and Milan her father and Baldini had fought not only because of bias but also because of a moral opposition to their manners. Yesterday Tonino Cagnucci recounted the last 24 hours of Baldini's employment with Roma, worthy of an Aaron Sorkin-penned screenplay: Baldini's resigned on a late Thursday afternoon, having seen Adriano Galliani be voted the new president of Lega Calcio with the backing of Rosella Sensi on the day prior. Later that Thursday night, after calling Franco Sensi for a last goodbye but getting no response, he went to dinner at a restaurant in San Lorenzo, where the walls are still to this day marked by graffiti from the day Roma won.

I've never been able to escape playing around with that unquenchable thought; what if Baldini had never left. The wheels of time never turn backward, and perhaps fortunately so. Instead of ruminating on what might have been, we are now left with the far more agreeable task of imagining tomorrow. He's back now, and although he's been working for Roma behind the scenes for months his return to Trigoria marks a circle completed. He steps into a calcio landscape which looks perhaps not as vastly different as one would imagine after calciopoli, but do so representing a Roma with far more possibilities of influencing it than Roma anno 2005 ever did. As he returns to his old world, his old nemesis extradited from it, he does so far more powerful than before. When asked what literary character Baldini thinks he resembles most he once retorted Sancho Panza, ever the right arm of Franco Sensi's Don Quixote. Far be it from me to remark with anything but respect on his literary references (sublime and put to devastating use), but I'd suggest that when he now returns he does so not as Sancho Panza but as a modern day Count of Monte Cristo. 

Can we ever have too much of a good thing? asked Cervantes in Don Quixote. With not only Baldini back in our midst, but also many more faces handpicked by him (Sabatini as sporting director, Luis Enrique as coach, Lo Monaco as press officer, etc), we can answer Cervantes with conviction: