AS Roma chief: ‘We're hoping to spoil Mohamed Salah’s return in Liverpool showdown’

Roma’s players celebrate after overturning a three-goal defecit in a dramatic second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal match against Barcelona. AFP
Updated 25 April 2018
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AS Roma chief: ‘We're hoping to spoil Mohamed Salah’s return in Liverpool showdown’

  • The Italian club sold Salah for just £36.9 million
  • Roma CEO Umberto Gandini says Salah can be the best, but hopes for Roma progress to the final

London: Had AS Roma waited just two more months, it is likely they would have been able to prise far more than £36.9 million ($55.4 million) from Liverpool for Mohamed Salah.
With his 41 goals in a remarkable debut season at Anfield, the Egyptian has become an absolute bargain given the subsequent fees paid for Neymar, who cost Paris Saint-Germain £200 million, and even Reds playmaker Philippe Coutinho, bought by Barcelona for £142 million.
But AS Roma chief executive Umberto Gandini admits hindsight was a luxury they could not afford at that time with possible Financial Fair Play penalties requiring them to conclude a sale by the end of June — and Salah eager to test himself again in the English Premier League after previous struggles at Chelsea.
And there are no regrets, he says, despite admitting Salah is destined to be a world-beater and now stands between his former club and a place in the Champions League final.
“Momo was fantastic with us, gave us a big help on and off the pitch in many aspects,” reflected Gandini ahead of Roma’s semifinal first-leg tie at Anfield tomorrow.
“Maybe he would have been worth more had we waited, but we were in a situation where we had to do the deal in certain limits and no one could anticipate the market would go crazy as it did.
“But also I think yes, he wanted to prove something in the Premier League again. He’s a very proud person and had a lot of improvements in the two seasons with us.

“But he wanted to have another chance in the Premier League and deserved it. He was an excellent person with us, a dedicated professional and loved by all in the team and the fans. He will get a great reception when we play them.
“He’s in a situation now where he’s having a gifted season — anything he tries goes well. If I have to say he exceeded all the expectations, then yes, he’s overachieving by far.”
But Gandini is convinced Salah, 25, can get even better. During 23 years with AC Milan, where he was a director, he witnessed a trophy-laden period, including three Champions League titles, and worked with legends such as Paolo Maldini, Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka.
And Gandini told Arab News: “Momo can be at that best level. He’s proved it this season, he’s found consistency. This Liverpool team, this system is helping him blossom at the top level.
“He’s very unique. Someone like Kaka was more creative, but Momo is pretty much in the same class, wants to be one of the best in the world and deserves success.” Gandini, though, is hoping Roma can sour Salah’s reunion as the Serie A side bid to avenge a 1984 final defeat, where Liverpool upset them on penalties at their Stadio Olimpico home.
In 2005, Gandini suffered against the Reds with Milan as Liverpool famously came back from 3-0 down at halftime to claim success on spot-kicks in Istanbul.
“It’s part of the book of history,” he said. “With Milan, we had our revenge in 2007 and my account was settled. Now here’s the history of the Rome final in 1984. It’s what the club and city feels and we are now bonded for settling another account.”
Beating Barcelona by overturning a three-goal deficit in a dramatic last-eight second leg tie has certainly given the Giallorossi belief.
With Brazilian keeper Alisson — wanted by Liverpool and Real Madrid — striker Edin Dzeko and inspirational skipper Daniele De Rossi, Gandini said the squad has skill and spirit. “We have a great team of personalities and characters. De Rossi is one of the silent leaders but says the right words at the right time. For him after so long and the club it will be special to get to the final and win this trophy.
“Dzeko is a team player, fantastic. The way he played in Barcelona was a masterpiece.
“Alisson is in a class by himself in my opinion. I think he was born to be No. 1 in the world. With his calmness, quickness, dedication, he reminds me of Nelson Dida, another Brazilian I worked with at Milan. “It’s normal teams are linked, but he’s under contract and the club are not willing to let him go.”
And with plans approved for a new 55,000 stadium to be open by 2020, Roma want to keep their best players to challenge Europe’s elite.
“It’s a statement about what club president Mr.[James] Pallotta is doing with his ownership, it’s coming to fruition,” added Gandini.
“On one side we are on par with these teams, but the big, big difference is in terms of budget, to buy players and investment.
“When you look at the number of global brands in football they are concentrated on teams who are performing on the pitch. Hopefully we can grow more. We cannot be everyone’s favorite team, but can be the second favorite team.”

FASTFACTS

AS Roma in Europe

- Roma have only ever won one European trophy, the Inter Cities Fairs Cup in 1961. - Roma's heaviest defeats in Europe were both 7-1 - at home to Bayern Munich in 2014 and away to Manchester United in 2007. - Roma's nickname is the 'Giallorossi' - the 'Yellow and Reds'.


Warriors down Rockets, force Game 7 in NBA West finals

Updated 27 May 2018
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Warriors down Rockets, force Game 7 in NBA West finals

OAKLAND, California: Klay Thompson hit nine 3-pointers and scored 35 points, the Warriors held James Harden down in the second half, and Golden State rallied from an early 17-point deficit to stave off elimination with a 115-86 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night to force a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference finals.
Stephen Curry added 29 points and five 3s on a night Harden dazzled for long stretches with 32 points, nine assists and seven rebounds while backcourt mate Chris Paul sat out sidelined by a strained right hamstring.
Kevin Durant struggled with his stroke at 6 for 17 but still scored 23 points as the defending champions kept their repeat quest alive by thoroughly outplaying Houston in the second half. The Warriors outscored the Rockets 55-20 in the second half before both coaches subbed their key players with 4:28 left.
A dynamic, star-studded series projected to be as captivating and compelling as the actual NBA Finals is going the distance. Game 7 is Monday night back in Houston.
Golden State stymied Harden on consecutive possessions early in the fourth with smothering defense led by Nick Young and several helpers, then Thompson hit a 3-pointer from the left wing at 9:40 for an 89-77 lead. And roaring Oracle Arena went crazy with hopes of even more home games to come if Golden State can get to a fourth straight finals.
Thompson came through with his best performance of these playoffs with the season on the line, just as he did in a 2016 Game 6 of the Western Conference finals at Oklahoma City when he went off for 41 points against Durant and the Thunder to force Game 7.
He was a combined 20 of 32 from 3-point range in those two games.
“I don’t want to go home,” Thompson said. “We worked too hard this season to go home. And this is what we play for.”
The Warriors used another of their signature third quarters to take an 84-77 advantage going into the final 12 minutes, then maintained that dominant level this time down the stretch, unlike their last home game at roaring Oracle Arena when they blew it in Game 4 on Tuesday.
Both teams let it fly from every corner of the court — Golden State hitting 16 3-pointers and Houston 15.
The Warriors outscored Houston 93-47 over the final three quarters.
Thompson’s baseline 3 in transition with 3:35 left in the third put the Warriors up 76-74, then Curry hit from way back the next time down over Gerald Green. Curry did it again moments later from deep.
The Warriors opened the third with an 11-0 burst to go ahead 62-61 on Curry’s 3 at 9:17, also getting a pair of 3s from Thompson and a dunk by Durant. Houston committed four quick turnovers.
Yellow-clad Oracle came alive, too.
Golden State did it playing again without forward Andre Iguodala, who missed his third straight game of the series with a bone bruise in his left knee sustained in Game 3.

TIP-INS
Rockets: The Rockets made 8 of 12 3-pointers in the first and topped the Warriors 19-4 in fast-break points. ... Houston committed 11 first-half turnovers, five early. ... Harden shot 4 for 12 on 3s.
Warriors: Golden State’s 33-point third quarter was its first 30-point period since the third in Game 4. ... The Warriors shot 4 for 18 in the first half from long range. ... Golden State is 4-1 when facing elimination dating to the 2015 championship. ... The Warriors are 16-8 all-time in Game 6 of postseason series. ... Second-year G Patrick McCaw, who had been out since a scary back injury at Sacramento on March 31 when undercut by Vince Carter, received a roaring ovation when he entered the game late. He quickly grabbed a rebound. ... Kerr listed Iguodala as day to day because there’s still pain in the knee when running.

PAUL’S PRESENCE
Paul is receiving treatment “around the clock,” according to coach Mike D’Antoni.
Having him on hand still meant so much.
“He’s devastated. He has to be. We’re all devastated for him. At the same time, we’ll rally and do what’s right,” D’Antoni said. “He’s so integral in what we do and the spirit of the team. And him being here is a big deal, and him being on the bench is a big deal. He’ll will us through, if he can.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr felt terribly for Paul — and others who have gone down.
“More than anything, I feel bad for Chris. The guy is a phenomenal player and competitor, and pretty much willed his team the last two games. He’s just been haunted by these types of injuries in his career, and it’s a shame,” Kerr said.
“I hate when anybody gets hurt. I hate when Andre got hurt. I hate to see Kevin Love last night, Kyrie (Irving). These guys train so hard and they’re here and they’re competing, and you want everybody to be healthy, but just the reality is it usually doesn’t work out that way. So you’ve just got to keep playing with whoever’s there and keep going.”