Late President Franco Sensi splashed out to challenge the big guns of Italian football and restore the Giallorossi to their former glory, but it all came at a price. A big one. After years of reckless spending, the bill has come due.
Luciano Spalletti worked wonders to push Inter all the way last year, but unless a ‘sugar daddy’ comes along soon, the next decade is going to be a painful voyage into the unknown.
Francesco Antonioli (1999-2003)
No one really stood out between the sticks during the decade, but Francesco Antonioli certainly deserves recognition. Current England manager Fabio Capello strongly wanted him in 1999 after Sebastiano Rossi had usurped his place at Milan and he repaid his faith. Despite a few blunders, he was one of the main protagonists of the Scudetto the in 2000-01 season, but never really managed to enter the Giallorossi fans’ hearts, perhaps because of his rather introvert character. At the age of 39 he has now embarked on a new adventure at Cesena in Serie B.
“Wipe that smile off your face,” referee Stefano Farina told Cafu during his last match in Italy against Udinese and he replied: “I’m sorry, from now on I will cry.” That perfectly sums up one of the most likeable players to have graced Serie A over the past ten years. The ‘Pendolino’ (The Express Train) was the heart and soul of the side that wrested the Scudetto from local rivals Lazio and his barnstorming runs down the flanks are the stuff of legend in the Eternal City. He left Milan and Italy last year. With a smile on his face…
Possibly one of the best central defenders of all time, Aldair Nascimento do Santos, simply known as Aldair, is still one of the most loved players among the Giallorossi faithful: “Aldair, a true Roman,” read a banner in the Curva Sud. Late patron Dino Viola snapped him up from Portuguese club Benfica in 1990 and he soon became a pillar of strength for the Lupi rearguard. And after 11 years in Rome and just an Italian Cup in his trophy cabinet, he finally managed to get his hands on the coveted Scudetto. His No 6 jersey was retired when he left the club in 2003.
Walter Samuel (2000-2004)
The Giallorossi beat Inter and Juventus to the punch in 2000 to secure the services of Walter Samuel from Boca Juniors in a €20m deal. Capello put the Argentine at the heart of his three-man defensive line and he earned himself the nickname ‘The Wall’. After an understandable settling-in period in Italy, Samuel soon became an irreplaceable piece in Capello’s jigsaw puzzle and despite his tender age commanded the back-line with all the experience of a veteran. After four years in the capital, he moved to Real Madrid in 2004.
Vincent Candela (1997-2005)
Candela arrived at Roma from Guingamp in January 1997 and spent nine successful seasons in the Eternal City before returning to the Olimpico last month for his testimonial. After winning the World Cup with France in 2008, he claimed his first and only league title of his career in 2001 under Capello, who pushed him into a more advanced role in midfield after constantly patrolling the left flank during the Zdenek Zeman reign. That same year, Roma beat Fiorentina 3-0 to lift the Italian Super Cup, with Candela opening the score with a stunning screamer from 30 yards.
Daniele De Rossi (2001- )
A product of the youth academy, De Rossi gets his first glimpse of the senior team in the campaign that culminated in the league title, but only made his debut the following season when Capello threw him into the fray in a Champions League match against Anderlecht. He has come on leaps and bounds since then and has become the reference point in the middle of the park, both for the Giallorossi and Italy. The fans have dubbed him ‘Captain Future’, because none other than him can take over the armband from Francesco Totti.
Emerson joined Roma from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen in a €20m deal in the summer of 2000. But his new adventure started off on the wrong foot, as he sustained a knee ligament injury in training which kept him sidelined for six months. All Roma fans remember him sobbing during the team’s first friendly of the season at the Olimpico, when the entire stadium chanted his name. He returned to action in February and his contribution proved valuable in the final months of the campaign to help Roma fend off Juventus and Lazio and lift the Scudetto. But the ‘Puma’ turned his back on the Lupi in 2004 to join bitter rivals Juve after a prolonged transfer saga.
Damiano Tommasi (1996-2006)
The good-natured midfielder spent a decade at Roma from 1996 to 2006 and became a household name at the Stadio Olimpico. The 2000-01 season was by far the best of his career and he went on to earn a starring role for Italy at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. He showed his love for the Giallorossi colours when he suffered a career-threatening injury in 2004 and accepted a minimum wage until he returned to action. He is renowned for his charity work and has recently joined Chinese club Tianjin Teda after spells in Spain and England.
Francesco Totti (1992- )
After being tipped as the ‘chosen one’ while in the youth team, Totti made his senior bow aged 16 in March 1993 and just five years later he received the captain’s armband from Aldair. ‘Er Pupone’ hit 13 goals on his way to lifting the Scudetto in 2001 and was the one who got the party started on the final day of the season, when Roma brushed aside Parma at the Olimpico. In January 2008, he reached the 200-goal milestone, but he has been struggling with fitness problems over the past two seasons after a serious knee injury almost cost him his Italy place at the 2006 World Cup.
Gabriel Batistuta (2000-2003)
Many raised eyebrows when Roma shelled out around €35m for the 31-year-old ‘Batigol’. The Argentine, who had attained cult status at Fiorentina by scoring 168 goals in 269 games, became the highest paid footballer at the time and he was really worth his weight in gold. 20 goals were not enough to claim the Capocannoniere crown again, but he sure provided the x-factor that propelled Roma to the league title after an almost 20-year drought. After a brief sojourn at Inter, he ended his career at Qatar-based club Al-Arabi.
Vincenzo Montella (1999-2009)
The Neapolitan striker moved to Roma from Sampdoria in 1999 and, despite developing a fractious rapport with Capello, he went on to play a crucial role in the 2000-01 Scudetto race: he bagged 13 goals and his last-minute equalizer at Juventus was probably the turning point of the season. After stints at Fulham and Samp, the ‘Aeroplanino’ has touched down and will coach one of Roma’s youth sides next season.
Cafu Aldair Samuel Candela
De Rossi Emerson Tommasi
Totti Batistuta Montella
Vince Masiello, Goal.com