The emotional plot that holds football is usually made of aspirations and desires. But there is a minor category, a subsidiary of that universe, based primarily on dreams. The calciummercate, One of the main addictions of the fans when the stands are empty in summer arises from that gap between the end of the season and the beginning of the next. A blurred border between imagination and reality where clubs ask questions, make offers, try to rearm themselves with new players and end up signing what they can afford. The amazing thing is that at that time fans are willing to believe whatever it takes, as if they were children. Journalism in those periods was always a classification of hearsay that filled the inner void of so many during vacation breaks. But some time ago, a well-connected Neapolitan decided to tidy up by becoming the world reference for this phenomenon. If he says so, it’s true.
Roman Fabrizio (Naples, 29 years old) has more than 8 million followers on Twitter and 7.2 million on Instagram, figures only within the reach of superstars. She speaks five languages and her voice has become the final sentence in the vaporous world of signings, a journalistic genre with more and more followers. “In Italy it is the daily bread. They stop you on the street. And they no longer ask you for a result, for a forecast. People want to know how much a club will pay a certain player. They are in love with calcium mercato Because they know that anything can happen. They go to sleep thinking that a player is going to the rival team and when they get up he has signed for theirs. It is all linked to the dimension of dreams. Before, fans would go to the newsstand hoping to find the player they wanted on the front page of the newspaper. Now it has passed to the obsession of obtaining daily news of that player, that clause, the salary… They want to know everything, even matters that are not interesting. In the end, they are elements that help you believe in something you want to happen, ”he explains in a telephone conversation from his home in Milan.
Romano, who retains a certain Neapolitan accent, was a child prodigy when this profession was capable of providing few certainties. At the age of 17, he wrote on a small website and an aspiring agent who survived as a waiter in a bar near the Masía del Barça called him one afternoon. The guy wanted me to publish a story about two pearls from the Barça quarry that he intended to represent: Mauro Icardi and Gerard Deulofeu. Romano complied and made his first friend in this world. A guy who would later give him his first big exclusive: the transfer of Icardi to Sampdoria and then to Inter. Here he began his legend and a style of work that has since been imitated by dozens of specialists in the football market. A world so addictive that, for many, the season becomes that filler that clubs insist on placing between one market and another. “Yes, it is a problem. The situation has gone crazy. The tifosi have gone from living it as a dream to an obsession. Many people send me messages to find out how much the clause of a certain player will be in three years. They have begun to live football as if they were part of the board. Sometimes, when they ask me about the final price of a sale, I tell them: ‘Enjoy the player as a fan, don’t lose sleep if it cost one or two million more. We would have to go back to some traditional aspects of football”. However, the spectacle around the transfers has grown so much – see the media circus around the alleged signing of Mbappé by Real Madrid – that what happens on the pitch sometimes goes into the background.
The mercato is emotion and also adrenaline, it is played until the last second. Diego Milito’s agent — today Lukaku’s — tossed his contract with Inter Milan over the office door in 2008 with two seconds to go. In Spain, the fax of goalkeeper David de Gea also happened and his frustrated signing for Real Madrid when the bell was already ringing. Or Rivaldo with Barça, in the last breath of August 31.
The phenomenon was born in the fifties. Footballers like Gigi Riva, who never left Cagliari despite interest from the big Italian clubs, were the subject of speculation every summer. Maradona’s negotiation, years later, was already broadcast by the press, and Roberto Baggio’s move to Juve in 1990 caused riots in Florence. But formally it could be said that this show was invented by a man who really liked ladies and fast cars. His name was Raimondo Lanza di Trabia, he was a noble bastard and president of Palermo. He used to meet at the luxurious Gallia hotel in Milan with other managers. And the lobby became the venue for all kinds of player transactions and established the tradition of closing these operations in the lobbies of the Lombard capital. Always close to the central station, Place de la République or the Monte Napoleone area. Six or seven hotels where it is still easy to find sporting directors having coffee with an agent. Sign and catch the next train. And in that place he also forged his Roman legend.
Naples, of course, was not the best place to develop his profession. So at the age of 18 he had to move alone to the capital of Lombardy to tour the bars, cocktail bars and lobbies where agents distribute football fish with club managers. It happens from June 1 to August 31, when the main market is cooked. He was then almost a child, so everyone noticed him. “In the calciomercato everything is linked to personal relationships with agents, players, intermediaries and managers. I try to have a very human relationship with those people. That it is not just a relationship to ask for things. When the market closes, he travels to the Champions League matches. On December 23, he spent the afternoon calling everyone to congratulate Christmas. It is important to have a relationship of trust.”
Balance and promiscuity with fonts are always tricky. Because so many signings depend, precisely, on the secrecy in which the negotiation takes place. Romano has managed to become one more element of the process and not be seen as a foreign body that could send a transfer of tens of millions of euros adrift. Because, beyond the idea of dreams, behind each hiring there is a sports planning that can compromise the success of the club. There are this year the signings of Haaland for Manchester City or the renewal of Mbappé with PSG. “They know that with me they will be respected. I’d rather not get to a story first than ruin a relationship with a source or lose the respect of a club or an agent. And they all understood. And that helps a lot, because they trust you and tell you things in advance”.
Romano, however, also defends the business, which has grown in recent years in the heat of the huge commissions that are turning football into a self-destructive bubble for clubs (the figures for Haaland or Mbappé contracts speak for themselves). The power that agents like the late Mino Raiola or Jorge Mendes have acquired is tremendous. But more worrying seems the irruption of commission agents of all stripes. “It is easy to say that the agents are the devil and that the fans attack them because they are third parties in the game. And yes, there may be a regulatory problem, that they have a lot of power. But many times these stories come from the clubs, which hide that they are almost always the ones who need the agents and pay them those extremely high commissions because they want to bring a player at all costs and they don’t know how to do it.
Fabrizio Romano’s world is a mixture of traditional media and social networks. At the age of 19, he began working for the Sky network and writes for international newspapers such as The Guardian. He then began to exploit his magnetism on networks to give his news and monetize the publicity of his broadcasts. Every time he under a post he writes “Here we go” [allá vamos], means that the shift agreement is closed. The money? “I keep the news free. For me it is sacred. Even if you have 300 million followers. When you pay for something, you must have 100% guarantees that it is good, even if it is a coffee. And in the Calciomercato you can’t have it. A player can change his mind in a second. And making people pay for it will always be wrong.” Seen this way, your information may be the only free thing in the calcium mercate.
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