Michael Bradley is now a member of Roma and with the move comes added pressure for the most American of Serie A clubs. As Clemente Lisi explained in an article earlier this year, Roma is owned by American Thomas DiBenedetto. An American owner, a US National Team player, and a fight for respectability in 2012-13... the makings for an interesting season in Rome.
Why Are We Here?
After a standout season with Chievo Verona, Michael Bradley is making the move to a bigger club in Serie A. The standings at the end of last season don't reflect the difference in scale. Roma finished 7th to Chievo's 10th, but Chievo is normally thought of as the second team in their own city and lacks the massive following associated with one of the biggest clubs in Italian soccer. It also lacks the pressure and the willingness to spend on players to solve problems. The stakes are higher at a club like Roma.
And Where Are We?
That would be Rome, the capital of Italy even if it's not the capital of Italian soccer. Juventus, based in Turin, is Italy's favorite team. Italy's favorite derby is between the two Milan teams. That leaves Roma and their derby rival Lazio, looking up at other clubs. Both would very much like to change that. As for the city itself, Rome is Rome. To try do it justice takes centuries worth of books, so we're moving onto demographics. It's the biggest city in Italy with just under 2.8 million people. That's certainly enough to support two elite soccer clubs.
And The Club?
Roma is the bigger of the two Rome clubs, but both have the reputation of not quite doing enough to really compete for titles. There always seems to be someone better. In a league where a team adds a star to their club crest when they've won ten titles, Roma doesn't qualify. Three Serie A championships, eighth on the all-time list but three spots ahead of Lazio. It would take decades of titles to catch Juventus. Di Benedetto is working to change the reputation of Roma from massive clubs to massive club that wins trophies. The Bradley signing is part of that.
How Tough Is Serie A?
Very, especially if you're not Juventus or the Milan clubs. The last time one of those three teams didn't win the title was 2001. The winner that season? Roma, with their old pals Lazio as the defending champions. That brief glimpse of Roman dominance broke up eight years of Juventus and the Milans hogging the trophy. They're currently on an 11-year run with no reasonable end in sight.
Roma and Lazio share the Stadio Olimpico, technically opened in 1928 but redone, rebuilt, and reconfigured to become a modern stadium. How modern is an open question, with Roma's ownership talking about building their own place. The Olimpico holds 72,698 fans. Roma averaged nowhere near that last season, drawing around 36k per game. It's worth remembering that even though Juventus is the biggest club in Italy, that doesn't necessarily translate to full stadiums every time they play. That simply isn't the expectation in Serie A.