Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis suggested on Friday that the owners of Roma and Liverpool are secretly the same, prompting Roma chairman James Pallotta to joke that he “also owns Barca and Bayern.”
In an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday, De Laurentiis said “a little bird has told me a few years ago” that Pallotta is in some form of partnership with Liverpool’s owner John Henry.
“I always had a suspicion that the real owner of Roma is the same as Liverpool and if this were the case, the two clubs should not be allowed to play in the Champions League,” De Laurentiis said.
UEFA’s Champions League rules prohibit two clubs with a common ownership from both playing for Europe’s biggest trophy. Liverpool beat Roma in the UCL semifinals last season.
In response to De Laurentiis, Pallotta tweeted a message via his club’s official Twitter account, saying: “What do you think De Laurentiis is smoking over there in Naples? If he finds that little bird again, he’ll find out we also own Barca and Bayern.”
The source of De Laurentiis’ suggestion was Roma’s sale of goalkeeper Alisson Becker to Liverpool this summer, as the executive said Napoli had made a €60 million bid for the Brazilian that the Giallorossi had turned down.
“I really cannot decipher it,” De Laurentiis said. “For example, I would never have sold Alisson even for €100 million.”
Liverpool ultimately paid an initial €62.5m for Alisson, one year after signing Mohamed Salah for €42 million in what turned out to be a major bargain after the Egyptian scored 41 goals in 46 appearances in all competition.
Pallotta told ESPN in April that he and Henry, who are both based in Boston, had worked together on the Salah deal but revealed that the Liverpool chairman was concerned he had overpaid.
Henry’s Fenway Sports Group bought Liverpool in 2010, while Pallotta bought Roma in 2011 as part of an American investment group led by Thomas DiBenedetto, who is a partner in FSG. A year later, Pallotta became the biggest shareholder and replaced DiBenedetto as chairman.
Roma’s general manager Mauro Baldissoni also chipped in on De Laurentiis’ claims on Friday.
“He said that this was all suggested to him by a little bird,” Baldisonni said on Roma’s website. “I don’t know who: I can only think that perhaps Aurelio is listening to the wrong birds!
“Perhaps we could suggest to him that he should speak a bit with songbirds, who deliver nice melodies rather than speaking nonsense. For our part, we send our best wishes to president De Laurentiis and to Carlo Ancelotti, their coach who remains in the hearts of all Roma fans, along with everyone else at Napoli.”