“I know I’m crazy,” the Italian football reporter tells Boardroom. ” I can understand their point. I think they’re absolutely right, 100% right.”
If you’re reading this, chances are Fabrizio Romano is not only working — he’s working harder than you.
You probably know the 28-year-old news-breaker extraordinaire from Twitter, where’s he’s approaching five million followers (plus 4.6 million more on Instagram) as he constantly delivers scoops every transfer window, the latest of which closes Tuesday at 6 p.m. EDT.
Even outside transfer season, you can see the Milan-based Romano as an analyst for Sky Sports Italia, in print in London at The Guardian, or in the United States providing analysis for CBS Sports’ Serie A and UEFA Champions League coverage. Romano is legitimately busy year-round. But his schedule goes into the most absurd, insane kind of overdrive during the winter and summer windows.
After sneaking in some sleep between 5 and 9 or 10 a.m., Romano wakes up and immediately starts calling and contacting his sources across Europe. Critically, while the most American prolific sports insiders like Adam Schefter, Adrian Wojnarowski, and Shams Charania have to keep up no more than 32 teams, keeping up with all the goings-on of European football consists of hundreds of teams and literally thousands players, agents, and sporting directors across dozens of countries.
And once he gets to work, he’s texting, calling, and sending WhatsApp messages all day, sharing news via Twitter, and filing updates for his various collaborators and partners.
But how many calls per day, exactly?
“I don’t know, really,” Romano told Boardroom over Zoom, responding with a laugh. “I have no answer. I think it could be thousands. Messages? Thousands. Calls, maybe 50. It depends on the day. But I spend all day messaging. My time on my iPhone is 16, 17 hours per day. I’m always charging my phone.”
His manic, obsessive schedule lands him many of the biggest scoops in the football world, including last Thursday’s internet-breaking news of Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Juventus back to Manchester United that has more than 200,000 retweets, and counting.
Here we go.
Romano’s rise to media superstardom began at the age of 16 in his native Naples, where he went to high school in the morning and wrote about Italian football in the afternoon, before he had any contacts and sources.
At 18, he moved to Milan, which Romano calls “the city of transfers” — not just in Italy, but across the continent. Many of the top sporting directors in Europe, and top player agents like Mino Raiola, Jorge Mendes, and Jonathan Barnett either live in Milan or often visit the area.
Romano began bouncing around the city’s cafes, restaurants, and bars where European football’s power players had meetings and began growing his now-gigantic Rolodex and writing for football website SOS Fanta, which he founded in 2014.
His focus from an early age was to report all the latest transfer news accurately rather than simply finding a way to be the first to something.
“If you can be first, perfect. But accuracy is the most important thing,” Romano said. “If you can do it in the right moment with the right process in international football, it’s something very good.
His first scoop came in 2011 at the age of 18. when Argentine striker Mauro Icardi, currently at Paris Saint-Germain, transferred from FC Barcelona’s Under-19 team to Serie A side Sampdoria. It was also around this time when Romano had joined Sky Sports Italia on a three-month deal reporting on transfers, a partnership he still keeps.
After breaking the initial Icardi news, Romano had built a strong relationship with the young forward’s agent, maintaining contact via Facebook messenger. So, when Icardi went from Sampdoria to Inter Milan two years later for over $14 million, it was Romano who got the scoop on a major Italian transfer that really made waves.
As an increasingly heavy hitter in the Italian transfer conversation, he then began contacting international football figures, using his growing social following to burnish his bona fides.
“Bringing a big audience on social media was so important to contact people from all over the world,” Romano said, “because if you send a message over the phone, maybe they’re not trusting you. On social media, they can see who you are, how serious you are, who’s following you, who’s trusting you.”
In 2015, The Guardian contacted him as he reported that Montenegrin striker Stevan Jovetic was to join Inter Milan from Manchester City. At the time, the English club denied the developing story.
“I said ‘trust me, he’s going to Inter,’” Romano replied. “After three days it was done to Inter. And so [The Guardian] decided to start the collaboration after this contact they had with me on Twitter.”
Six years later, he and The Guardian are still going strong. But it wasn’t until the winter 2020 transfer window where Romano said he first broke transfer news that was truly global in scale.
The scene was set during the previous summer window in 2019, when it looked to be a certainty that superstar Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes would leave Sporting CP for Manchester United.
“Manchester United fans were desperate and attacking me, saying, ‘how was it possible when in Portugal they were saying it was done and [in] England, too? Why are you saying no?’’ Romano recalled. “It was a no because he was not joining United [at the time]. And then in January when he joined United and they said, ‘now it’s done,’ I said ‘here we go’ with the pic of Bruno Fernandes with his agent on the plane ready to fly to Manchester. That was the key one.”
It was ultimately the end of a different long-term transfer saga when “here we go” officially became Romano’s go-to catch-phrase for signifying a done deal, he said. People almost immediately started texting and tweeting the phrase at him, urging him to continue using it.
He decided to keep giving the fans what they wanted, codifying soccer’s officially unofficial analogue to the Woj Bomb.
Romano doesn’t get to “here we go” without high-level work ethic and determination, in addition to constantly cultivating the trust of football’s lead power brokers. That’s what’s led him to the prominent position he occupies today.
So, looking back at his earliest days covering calcio a dozen years ago, what’s been his guiding principle?
“If you spend your whole day at this and you are respectful to people,” he said, “to agents, directors, players, and fans, people who are following the transfer market, they know that I am not selling anything.”
Romano doesn’t have to sensationalize news for a splashy tabloid back page or to lead an hour-long TV studio show. On social media, it’s all about showing your followers what you have, and if they trust you, they’ll continue to stick with you, he said. But it’s also about striking the right balance between giving your followers the news they crave and keeping the respect and trust of players, clubs, and agents.
Keeping this personal rule in place means that sometimes, you lose out on a scoop because you’re told to wait a day or two and other journalists end up confirming a news item (or successfully risk going out on a limb) sooner. That’s just part of the game, he said.
He may be just a bit over a decade into his media career, but the landscape has changed significantly all the same. Relying mainly on social media has brought something new and fresh to the journalistic marketplace, Romano said; users want 24-hour coverage of real, non-sensationalized news rather than one big headline to open a show or splash upon a newspaper cover.
“Because of social media, [fans] want to live the transfer market minute by minute,” he said. “That’s why I always try to give all my best on all platforms, because it was the key to showing people they can trust me.”
And the trust keeps paying off. In another key milestone, Romano made his US debut last year after joining CBS Sports’ Champions League coverage. This year, he’ll enjoy an expanded role now that the network owns the American TV rights to Serie A.
“They’re now entering in a new era with football, and this is why I like this challenge,” Romano said. “Now, they’re feeling it with many young talents with a good project around American football, so I try to bring them the secrets of the transfer market, and I get to show them how Serie A is such a beautiful league.”
All three outlets Romano works with knows he’s not giving them a constant stream of exclusives. But if it’s a major news story like the Ronaldo transfer, he can work with Sky Sports on the Italian angle and The Guardian on what it means to Man United while CBS gets video hits for CBS Sports HQ and an article on its website.
“If it’s the same news, I’ll do it from a different point of view, or [feature] different details,” he said. “But I always try to give my best to all the outlets that work with me. If I’m not able to do my best, I’m not working with this channel.”
Being the world’s top soccer news-breaker before the age of 30 definitely comes with more than its share of sacrifices. While plenty of journalists would prefer to enjoy a bit of free time and the occasional summer vacation, that’s when Romano works his hardest. Even after Messi and Ronaldo changed teams, major deals remain possible at Real Madrid for PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe and at Chelsea for Sevilla defender Joules Koundé and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saúl Ñíguez.
And to be fair, he knows how odd it all is.
“I can understand their point. I think they’re absolutely right, 100% right. I know I’m crazy,” Romano said. “So they’re normal and I’m crazy. I know this point, but this is my mentality. I try to do the things I’m the best at, if I can. If not, I’ll do something different.”
Fortunately, once this transfer window concludes, Romano will go back to his “normal” hours, maintaining regular communication with his contacts and sources rather than calling them up only when he’s chasing the next piece of game-changing news. He’ll be able to concentrate on covering Serie A and the Champions League again.
And during an international break, who knows? He may even get to go on holiday.
But as long as he continues to work in the breaking news business, that’s what Fabrizio Romano will pour 100% of everything he’s got into.
“I don’t feel like a celebrity or this kind of thing. I just feel like a journalist,” he said. “I wake up and I spend my whole day on transfer news. So this is what I’m doing. And if people like it, I’m really happy. But my mission is always about the news. I wake up in the morning and I say I have to get my news and be accurate today.”