Rome (AFP) - Speculation linking Roma coach Luciano Spalletti with a shock move to Serie A giants Juventus intensified Saturday after the Italian was slammed by club president James Pallotta.
Roma's hopes of ending their 16-year wait for the Italian league title appear slim after champions Juventus opened up an 11-point lead at the top of the table thanks to a controversial 2-1 win over AC Milan on Friday.
Although Roma can reduce arrears to eight points with a win at struggling Palermo on Sunday, it appears Spalletti's second spell with Roma could be about to end.
With Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri reportedly edging closer to replacing Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, Italian daily Corriere della Sera said Spalletti has given a "commitment" to the Turin giants to take over from next season.
If confirmed, it could help explain Pallotta's surprising outburst at Spalletti for "making mistakes" regarding summer recruitment, youth players and his decision to keep Egypt winger Mohamed Salah on the bench for 52 minutes of a damaging 1-2 league defeat at home to Napoli last week.
"We have players who are playing a lot because of injuries, and because of the mistakes that were made last summer concerning who should come to the club and who should leave," Pallotta told radio broadcaster Sirius XM.
"We could have and should have changed strategy concerning youth players. Other teams use their younger players to give the regulars a rest.
"Before our game against Napoli, I didn't feel comfortable seeing the line-up. We only introduced Salah 35 minutes (sic) from the end of the game, but when he came on we created a lot of chances and hit the woodwork twice.
"Maybe he (Salah) should have been on from the start. I think even Luciano admitted as much after the game."
Roma's defeat last week was, for many fans, the final nail in the coffin in terms of challenging for a title they last won in 2001. Since then, Roma have finished runners-up no less than eight times.
But Pallotta's public criticism of Spalletti could spell the end, especially as reports elsewhere suggested the former Zenit Saint Petersburg coach could secure the most prestigious job in Italian league football.
In a report entitled 'Sleeping with the enemy', Corriere della Sera claimed on Saturday Juventus have "sounded out" Spalletti and obtained a "kind of commitment" that he will succeed Allegri should the current Bianconeri manager quit the club in June, a year before his contract expires.