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Saturday November 24 2018
When Roma took the Scudetto

With Roma struggling to find the right balance and build on their potential, Vilizar Yakimov rolls back the years by looking into the remarkable 2001 Scudetto triumph.

“If you do exactly what I’m asking for, we’re going to win the title.” Those were Fabio Capello’s words towards Marco Delvecchio in the summer of 2000, as the tactician was preparing for his second season at the helm of a very talented, but inconsistent Roma side.

That was not a surprise by any means, as Capello inherited the team from the ultra-attacking Zdenek Zeman in 1998, who had Roma leading in goals scored in both of his seasons at the helm of the club. However, the lack of balance and consistency in Zeman’s gameplay lead to many defensive gaps that prevented the team of reaching its full potential.

Luckily for the Giallorossi faithful, club president Franco Sensi realised that and was well aware that his side’s incredibly talented squad needed to be managed by a calmer and a more collected head in order to peak.

Indeed, this is exactly what happened, as Capello, who was sacked after finishing 10th in 1998 during his second spell at Milan, had the tactical awareness and the winning mentality, that Roma so sorely missed under Zeman.

However, it was only logical that Don Fabio needed time to implement his ideas and find the right balance in order to better the foundations built by his Czech predecessor. Actually, the then 53-year-old Italian was almost sacked after his first season at Roma, as he finished sixth in 1999-00 and city rivals Lazio won the title.

Despite banging in 18 goals that season, Vincenzo Montella wasn’t able to fully convince Capello in his ability, as the tactician felt his side lacked a world-class centre forward. President Franco Sensi was not ready to invest much in a striker, as the purchases of Walter Samuel, Emerson and Jonathan Zebina had already cost him well above €50m.

However, Roma’s sporting director Franco Baldini knew about Fiorentina’s increasing financial issues and that La Viola were ready to part with Gabriel Batistuta for the right price. The hard part was convincing Sensi to pay a hefty transfer fee for a 31-year-old, so what both Capello and Baldini did was nothing short of remarkable.

They knew that Sensi was furious about Lazio winning the Scudetto in the previous year, so they invited a journalist form Corriere dello Sport to dinner and told him that Batistuta was very close to Roma. The tifosi went jubilant and in order not to disappoint them, Sensi eventually surrendered and spent €36.2m for Batigol, which made the Argentinian the club’s record signing at the time.

Batistuta proved to be the missing piece in Capello’s puzzle, as Don Fabio’s 3-4-1-2 formation worked to perfection in Serie A, allowing Francesco Totti to prove all of his quality in the trequartista role behind the duo of Batistuta and either Delvecchio or Montella.

The role of Delvecchio was crucial for Roma’s gameplay, as despite scoring just three Serie A goals all season, his smart off the ball runs and selfless approach, created spaces for Totti and Batistuta who were both lethal and scored 39 goals in all competitions.

"The defence of this team starts with Delvecchio". That’s what Capello said during the course of the season, as Delvecchio had cemented his spot in the starting XI in the expense of the increasingly frustrated, but equally efficient Montella.

The Aeroplanino scored 18 goals in all competitions during the season, most of which coming off the bench, as Capello figured that Delvecchio was contributing more to Roma’s build up play and allowed Totti and Batistuta to express themselves better.

However, Montella’s goals made him too important, as his contribution to the eventual triumph in 2001 was crucial. His highlights include a late winner for the 2-1 win against Reggina in Week 6, two late braces for the 3-2 and 3-1 victories against Inter and Brescia in the second half of the season, but most notably a stoppage-time equaliser for the 2-2 draw against Juventus with five games to go.

The game against the Bianconeri was the one that silenced many doubters and made Romanisti really believe in the Scudetto, as it came right after another 2-2 draw against rivals Lazio, who ,alongside the Old Lady, were the closest teams to Roma.

The Giallorossi relied heavily on their world class attack, but Capello managed to gel the other pieces of the team extremely well. In the middle of the pitch he was initially forced to start Cristiano Zanetti alongside Damiano Tommasi, due to Emerson’s injury at the start of the season. This added solidity in front of the Giallorossi’s defensive trio, in which mainly featured Samuel, Brazilian veteran Aldair and Zebina.

The trio complimented each other perfectly, as the left footer and superb man-marker Samuel featured on the left, the very aggressive Zebina was on the right, while the cool head and the supreme technical ability of Aldair allowed him to cover for his teammates and quickly distribute the ball from the back.

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that arguably the most important part of Capello’s tactics were his fullbacks, as Vincent Candella and Cafu were world-beaters at the time and often had to cover the whole flank alone, due to the narrowness of Don Fabio’s formation. Over the years Cafu proved to be one of the best right backs the world has ever seen and this was fully evident during his spell at Roma. It is also no surprise that Roma’s starting goalkeeper at the time Francesco Antonioli said that Candela had “the feet of a No. 10 “ and that technically he was “a phenomenon”.

After Emerson’s return in the team in the second half of the season, the beauty of Capello’s Roma was fully evident, as the Brazilian had the ability to carry the ball out of midfield and was more mobile and attacking-minded than Cristiano Zanetti, who did his defensive duties superbly, but was not efficient offensively. This allowed Capello to give more minutes to Montella, who alongside Totti and Batistuta formed one of the most formidable attacks in Serie A in the last two decades.

However, the winning mentality that Don Fabo inserted into the team, was arguably the most important part of his machine and the reason why Roma won the Scudetto at the end. In the final stages of the season, the Lupi managed to hold both of their title rivals to a draw and after losing points against Milan and Napoli with just one game to go, they finally managed to secure their third Serie A title by demolishing an extremely talented Parma side by 3-1.

All three of Montella, Totti and Batistuta scored on the day in a perfect epilogue to a fairytale, which showcased the winning formula that Capello managed to implement back then.

Sadly for the tifosi of the Giallorossil, Roma has failed to find both the character and the quality simultaneously ever since, and despite showing glimpses of brilliance during the years, the remarkable Scudetto triumph from 2001 remains an isolated occasion, followed by many “what ifs”.

Have your say...
Anonamous Prime,

You were very disrespectful towarda Lui.
Between the two of you, I agree with him way more!

Alisson is younger & better (better at positioning & saving long shots)...
But Olsen this year performs surprisingly well.
Right now, he's a great GK for us.

Don't forget, we are Roma. Not Real, United, Juve...
Olsen + 60 million was a WAY BETTER option for us than Alisson.
(But --see what Gi-Al-Lorossi wrote...)

Maybe you watched games where Mirante played & thought that was Olsen?
on the 28th November, 2018 at 5:00pm
Anonamous Prime,

You were very disrespectful towarda Lui.
Between the two of you, I agree with him way more!

Alisson is younger & better (better at positioning & saving long shots)...
But Olsen this year performs surprisingly well.
Right now, he's a great GK for us.

Don't forget, we are Roma. Not Real, United, Juve...
Olsen + 60 million was a WAY BETTER option for us than Alisson.
(But --see what Gi-Al-Lorossi wrote...)

Maybe you watched games where Mirante played & thought that was Olsen?
on the 28th November, 2018 at 5:00pm
@jason

I disagree whenever roma went for the tittle they always seem to have a key issue they never address in 08 against inter it was doni poor form and aquilani long term injury in recent years against juve is was a lack of quality striker until they dzeko who came in as key midfield players and winger were being shipped out.

I do agree it is a very group of young players they need to keep together at roma considering manolas has 3/4 years left on his contract they might keep him.
on the 27th November, 2018 at 3:41pm
Roma missed chances to win the title in recent times due to a lack of self belief. This current squad isn't bad if they could get properly but keeping them together is going to be a miracle for another season. That has been Roma's issue because they change the squad so often, the players need to readjust all the time. By the time they do get familiar it's too late in the season to mount a challenge just like this season
on the 26th November, 2018 at 8:57pm
Amazing how FT have to trawl back to 2001 to find something successful to write about Roma.
on the 26th November, 2018 at 5:37pm
Sorry wrong article
on the 26th November, 2018 at 1:01pm
Also inter is so lame even football Italia making Christmas jokes about you losers lolol
on the 26th November, 2018 at 12:59pm
Lui / AP - I'd say the truth about Olsen lies in the middle of your polarized opinions. When we sold Alisson and signed him I was worried. Now, he's definitely not as good as Alisson (who is probably in the top 3 keepers in the world after all) but he has played consistently well. I certainly wouldn't swap him for Navas. As for how we re-invested the money we made from those transfers however... don't get me started.
on the 26th November, 2018 at 11:06am
Uh @ Lui do you live in Massachusetts? What are you smokin dude? Olsen better than Alisson ? yea ok.... Olsen MVP ? ...sure buddy.
Quick get back on your meds. Lol.
If Roma brass has half a brain they’d go after Navas now. Let Olsen be understudy.
on the 25th November, 2018 at 11:00pm
Anonamous Prime,

Not sure if you've been watching Roma games but Olsen has been Roma's MVP this year, without him we'd be at the bottom of the table and out of the champions league already. I would even say that he's been better than Allison this year. I do agree they need some creativity in midfield, the creativity they thought Pastore was going to bring. They are a good team when they have everyone healthy, not having DeRossi and Florenzi and Perroti really hurts them.
on the 25th November, 2018 at 8:26pm
Roma today need to get a top keeper. Olsson trying to fill Alisson boots is ridiculous. Claudio Bravo would be great for Roma.from here they can get confidence in the back.
Berardi, Kessie, or G.Simeone would be huge to spark creativity.
Roma team that won was stacked... had winning coach. Twas peak of Serie A.so many stars spread about. When Lazio Roma Juve Inter Juve Milan could all win league.
Think how close Ranieri and Spaletti came. Since Roma last won, they finished 2nd NINE TIMES !!
on the 25th November, 2018 at 3:43am
It is just absurd that any thinks ancelotti gave lazio or roma the tittle when lazio won the tittle they had a team which still today is one of the best serie a has ever seen a roma team which had batigol someone never stopped scoring even in a broken fiorentina team plus cafu samuel aldair totti emerson to name just a few. It is a disservice to juve as well because they brought the likes of nedved emerson zebina salas for the quality of what they showed during their time at roma or lazio.
on the 25th November, 2018 at 12:16am
Always nice when glory hunting juve supporters make time to talk bad about Roma. -2
on the 24th November, 2018 at 10:43pm
Roma and Lazio need the city to give them permission to build new 50.000 seater stadiums NOW!!!
Then they can progress.
on the 24th November, 2018 at 9:21pm
Roma (and Lazio the previous year) should thank Ancelotti, the league choker for their triumphs.
on the 24th November, 2018 at 3:55pm
To find the right mix for current roma side monchi needs to bring some more ingredients i guess. I think these three can brought much to a bit damage roma side and they are hector herrera, berardi and andersen of sampdoria. Claudio bravo wont be a bad deputy for olsson who is in much pressure to perform...
on the 24th November, 2018 at 3:32pm
Nakata was key to securing that draw against juve which was key to that tittle race he deserves a mention.

What seems also to be forgotten is at the time which is the reason behind any team success is the club ability to hold on a group of talented players for significant period of time. You think of candela or tomassi or delvecchio or aldair or cafu they at least spent 5 years at roma before moving on some even spending up to 10 years or more something which is missing in a modern roma side
on the 24th November, 2018 at 3:30pm
I agree Alexxx. Nakata was fundamental that season. But I ask myself if the writer even saw that season!? Tommasi was the anchor on midfield. Samuel became the mainstay as soon as he was fit enough to be on the pitch. 3-5-2 with wingbacks was great. And Batigol made one last great season, playing MOSTLY with Delvecchio
on the 24th November, 2018 at 2:41pm
With their president & club directors are more concerned about making profits & building their own stadium than winning trophies, Roma must forget to ever win their 4th Scudetto.
Dzeko also said in an interview that Roma may lose to other teams but not Lazio. So, they don't really care about winning a trophy.

Simple, Roma is a feeder club with low self esteem.
on the 24th November, 2018 at 1:23pm
Funny that you missed the most important puzzle in that journey: HIDETOSHI NAKATA. Roma would not win the scudetto if he was not there. The late draw against Juventus? Nakata created one goal and one assist in that match. And he forced that draw even after Juve lead by 2 goals and Roma seemed to surrender.
on the 24th November, 2018 at 12:11pm

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