“That was the time everything changed,” he said. He left Naples for Milan, and the hardscrabble world of freelance journalism for a job at Sky Sport Italia. The first story he was sent to cover was, as it happens, Icardi’s physical at Inter. “That story was part of my life.”
Soccer, in general, has long had an insatiable appetite for gossip and rumors and tittle-tattle from the transfer market: In England, the nuggets of news appear in old copies of long-defunct sports newspapers dating to 1930. Nowhere is the obsession quite so deep-rooted, though, as in Italy.
“You have to remember that, for a long time, we had four daily newspapers devoted to sport,” said Enrico Mentana, a television presenter, director and producer who started his career at one of them, Gazzetta dello Sport. His father, Franco, worked there; he had been a celebrated correspondent, specializing in transfers.
For those newspapers, Mentana said, transfer stories were “the only way to sell copies in the summer, when there were not any games.” They were aided and abetted in turning player trading into “a spectacle” by the presidents of the country’s biggest clubs. “The owners were great industrialists, scions of great families,” he said. “For them, attracting a big star from South America, say, was a chance to show their greatness, their power, to give a gift to the people.”
By the time Romano had made it to Sky Sport Italia, the doyen of the genre was Gianluca Di Marzio, the channel’s star reporter, the host of the nightly — and unexpectedly cerebral — show it broadcasts during soccer’s two transfer windows.
Romano helped Di Marzio build, and fill, his personal website. In return, he learned the finer points of his craft, particularly the value of the traditional shoe-leather journalism that had long been deployed to harvest those precious hints and whispers. “For years and years, I would go every day around the city,” Romano said. “Restaurants, hotels, anywhere football people would meet.”