Walter Sabatini was quick to sign Internacional talent Alisson and bring him over to Europe, for the next year allowing him to quietly improve under the Giallorossi’s renowned goalkeeping staff. The 2017-18 season was the strongest of a ‘keeper in Roma’s history. His positioning, control, and overall demeanour led Roma to the Champions League semi-final, where they were eliminated by Alisson’s future employers, Liverpool. Dubbed the “Messi of ‘keepers” by an ex-coach, his success since leaving the Capital has further contributed to his once-in-a-generation reputation.
RB: Marcos Cafu
It’s easy to pick the side’s top right-back when they had probably the best one who ever played the game. Marcos Evangalista de Morais, aka Cafu, invented the wing back position and is Brazil’s most capped player of all time. Cafu entered into a Giallorossi squad that was building a foundation for success, and Il Pendolino eventually starred as they went on to win the 2001 Serie A title under Fabio Capello. He earned the nickname Pendolino after the commuter train that goes up and down the country, replicated by his constant running on the right flank. Cafu is an honorary member of the legends that are often celebrated within Roma’s Curva Sud.
Aldair is the modern defender’s dream, who happened to enjoy his prime 20 years ago. He could play the long ball forward, the short and simple pass between the lines, and recover against the fastest attackers. If he were not so incredibly talented in defence, he could just as well have been one of the most elegant centre-midfielders to have touched the ball. Aldair remains the only player to have his number retired by the club - the legendary No. 6. In 1998, he famously saw the future of Roma and refused the captain’s armband, handing it over to local lad Francesco Totti.
In 2007, Roma signed an underappreciated defender from Bayer Leverkusen. Juan quickly became the leader of the Lupi’s defensive line, partnering the storied Philippe Mexes. Together, they added a ruggedness, paired with Juan’s class on the ball and ability to co-ordinate from deep within his lines. In his first year, Roma won the Coppa Italia, and then repeated it the following season. It was the last domestic trophy the club has won.
LB: Vincent Candela
Only a Frenchman could break up the harmony of Roma’s all-Brazilian defence. Candela may as well have been Roman though, for he is another member of the club’s last Serie A winning side. The battle between him and Aleksandar Kolarov came down to the trophy cabinet. Candela’s game was similar to Cafu’s in the sense that both players were ahead of their time in surging forward, but the former added stability when the latter pressed the opposition. Still a fan favourite, his quick thinking and even faster feet made him one of the most well-rounded players in any Roma side.
CM: Agostino Di Bartolomei
The story of his death mustn’t overshadow the fact that Ago was an incredible player. Born and bred in Rome, he scored 63 goals for his hometown club over eight years, and epitomized the extreme mentality and fervor of the city. He could act as an offensive playmaker, pure central midfielder, or in a more defensive role. In contrast to his passion for the club, he was calm, yet stern on the pitch. He could play the perfect pass, connect and combine in the centre of the pitch, or go for goal. After becoming captain, he led Roma to the 1980 and 1981 Coppa Italia trophies. Due to the talent overload in midfield, his strength was best served as a defensive midfielder, where he was instrumental in their 1983 Scudetto success. He lived on with the guilt of losing to Liverpool in the 1984 Champions League Final, even though he converted his penalty kick. His suicide in 1994, 10 years to the day since that defeat, will always be a wound on Roma’s soul.
CM: Daniele De Rossi
For so many years, De Rossi was ‘Capitan Futuro’ – the future captain – but when Totti finally retired, the heir didn’t last long before he too was pushed out. Danielino was just as much a fan as he was a player, recently donning a disguise to experience the Derby della Capitale from inside the Curva Sud. It is impossible for a Roma fan to pick just one favorite moment to a player who dedicated a lifetime to the club, but one sticks out as a glimmer of light in one of the club’s darkest moments. When Roma were being ripped apart by Manchester United at Old Trafford in the 2006-07 Champions League quarter finals, it was only De Rossi who picked his head up, spurring his team on with a sublime flick for their only goal. There was nothing left to play for in the match at that point, but pride. Some may see him as the tragic hero who fell on his sword, but he was also a lifeline of the club for almost two decades.
CM: Paulo Roberto Falcao
He moved with music in his feet. The eighth king of Rome will very well be remembered as Roma’s best midfielder of all time. His technique was some of the greatest to have played the game, and he had just about every other quality one could ask for - and imagine - in a central midfielder. A sorcerer over the ball, his wish would command it through a flick-on, lob, reverse through ball, simple one-touch, and any other conceivable play to beat his opponent. Romulus and Remus would have been proud.
CM: Giuseppe Giannini
The author’s favourite player pre-Totti Roma. To watch Il Principe on the ball was to witness royalty. One of Roma’s - and Italy’s - classiest players of all time, Giannini commanded the ball with seemingly effortless skill. Making 318 appearances for the Giallorossi and scoring 49 goals, his creativity and composure as a trequartista was fundamental as he followed Falcao’s footsteps, becoming captain and wearing the prized No 10 shirt. Yet another born and raised Roma fan, he is remembered for his key goals, elegance in every manner of the word, and responsibility as a leader.
CF: Francesco Totti
To quantify Er Pupone is to try and value Michelangelo’s David. One can note his goals and assists, but really, that is missing the essence of the greatest one-club icon in world football. There are at least three major avenues one could discuss when approaching the topic of Totti: his rise to superstardom in 2001’s Scudetto success, battling back from a broken leg to dominate in the 2006 World Cup, or innovation to become a False 9 under Luciano Spalletti. Totti bleeds red and yellow, resisting calls from Real Madrid to play all 785 club games of his career for Roma. For a man who self-mockingly refers to his reputation for being a bit dim, he had the most extraordinary football brain. He could place the ball precisely where he wanted and often that was not where the opponents expected. There never was or will be another Totti.
CF: Roberto Pruzzo
Pruzzo spent a decade in the Capital, scoring 106 goals in 240 games and setting numerous records. He won three Capocannoniere titles in 1981, 82 and 86, won the Scudetto in 1983 and four editions of the Coppa Italia. His goals weren’t just about quantity, but also quality, as he was a man for the big occasion, whether it was securing the title against Genoa, a last-gasp overhead kick to hold Juventus in Turin or his crucial strikes in the European Cup semi-final and Final. Inevitably, Pruzzo was among the first 11 players inducted into Roma’s Hall of Fame.
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