Goal nominates the top three stand-out performers for the Giallorossi in 2013-14. Vote for your winner in our poll.Before the season began, the mood at Roma could not have been any gloomier. A squad still coming to the terms of a Coppa Italia final defeat to city rivals Lazio had been stripped of its most valuable assets, namely Marquinhos, Erik Lamela and Pablo Osvaldo. Another season of underachievement beckoned.
Yet the Giallorossi, under the guidance of new coach Rudi Garcia, emerged as shock Scudetto contenders after opening with a record-breaking 10-game winning streak. The capital club would go on to break their points record for a single Serie A season but had the misfortune to run into a Juventus side set to become the first side to smash through the 100-point barrier.
However, Roma’s disappointment at seeing their title hopes fade during the second half of the season should not detract from what has been a remarkable campaign and though Garcia undeniably deserves most of the credit for this wholly unexpected resurgence, he has been aided by some wonderfully consistent performers.
Below, in alphabetical order, are Goal's three nominees for Roma’s player of the season, based on their club performances in all competitions. Cast your vote in the poll at the bottom of the article.
In announcing the €13.5 million acquisition of Mehdi Benatia from Udinese last summer, Roma's official website described the physically imposing defender as "a lot more than just muscle". They weren't lying.
Over the past season the already highly-rated Morocco international has established himself as one of the finest centre-halves in Europe, exhibiting a wonderful sense of positioning, class and composure on the ball, and an invaluable eye for goal.
Indeed, Benatia has netted five times in Serie A, including a double in the 4-0 Serie A win over Catania in December. However, it was the way in which he seamlessly took command of the Roma defence, forming an instant understanding with Leandro Castan, that really stood out.
With Benatia leading by example, the Giallorossi back four provided the foundation for Roma’s remarkable 10-game winning start to the season, during which they conceded just one goal. Rudi Garcia’s men were unable to maintain their sensational early-season form, of course, but Benatia was rarely anything other than brilliant.
This time last year, Leandro Castan wasn't happy at Roma. And Roma weren't happy with him. The Brazilian had only arrived at the Stadio Olimpico in the summer of 2012 but, after a distinctly underwhelming debut season in Serie A, the Giallorossi were willing to accept half of the €5m they had paid Corinthians for the player.
As one half of the best central defensive pairing in Italy, Castan now represents one of the finest signings Roma have made in recent seasons. The aforementioned Benatia may draw most of the plaudits - not least because of his goalscoring exploits - but Castan was no less deserving of his place in our Serie A team of the season.
Indeed, given how wonderfully well the pair have worked in tandem, it would have been ludicrous to have split them up, just as it would have been unfair to put nominate Benatia for Roma's player of the season without also recognising Castan's contribution.
A tremendous aerial presence with a fine left foot, the 27-year-old has demonstrated impeccable timing in the tackle and a fine ability to read the game all season long. Castan also stepped up to the mark during Benatia's recent stint on the sidelines, turning in fantastically commanding displays in the April victories over Fiorentina and AC Milan, demonstrating that even if Benatia is lured away by Bayern Munich this summer, the Roma defence is in good hands.
During the final season of his disastrous spell at Arsenal, Gervinho felt he had lost the confidence of Gunners boss Arsene Wenger. Consequently, he lost all confidence in himself. Just six months after joining Roma, the forward had a smile on his face again and was boasting, tongue in cheek, that he was quicker than Usain Bolt with a ball at his feet.
The reason for this remarkable transformation? "The coach," Gervinho stated succinctly in February. Rudi Garcia had turned the Ivorian into one of the most feared attackers in Ligue 1 during their time together at Lille. Having been reunited with his former mentor at Roma, Gervinho rediscovered his very best form.
The goals haven’t always flowed, but that was hardly the point. As Francesco Totti acknowledged last October, the forward’s pace and trickery added a whole new dimension to the side's attack. "If he also scored goals," the captain mused, "he would be Cristiano Ronaldo!"
Gervinho did not score prolifically during the 2013-14 season but he still managed nine Serie A goals (and 10 assists) and developing a rather helpful knack of notching at most opportune times, with his 79th-minute back-heeled winner in the Coppa Italia quarter-final win over Juventus the most exhilarating case in point. Gervinho may not be Ronaldo but he has proven this term that he is a damn fine player in his right.