The children of the Wolf
Not only are they the only Italian side left in the UEFA Champions League, but Roma are also one of the few members of Europe's footballing aristocracy to line up with four homegrown players. Three of them - Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alberto Aquilani - have also gone on to represent their country, a handsome return for the club's longstanding policy of nurturing young talents hailing from the Eternal City.
And as the case of Totti shows, that commitment to youth development is usually rewarded with the undying loyalty of the players themselves. This is reciprocated by the Giallorossi's most fervent supporters on the Curva Sud of the Stadio Olimpico, whose motto underlines their devotion to the club: 'La Roma non si discute, si ama' (You don't question Roma, you love it).
Roma was founded on 7 June 1927 following the merge of three of the city's older clubs: Alba Audace, Roman and Fortitudo Pro Roma. The newly created entity chose the golden yellow and maroon red of the standards of the Roman Empire as their colours, in representation of all the areas of the city. The distinctive colour scheme also distinguished it from arch-rivals Lazio, named after the region where the Italian capital is situated.
Although a relatively young institution, Roma players have always been acutely aware of the history behind the club, and new recruits are quick to show their wholehearted commitment to the cause. The passion the team arouses and the charms of Rome go a long way to explaining their fierce loyalty to the Giallorossi. Yet, despite their allegiance over their years, and Roma's unquestioned status as one of the leading lights in Italian football, only three Serie A titles have ever come their way.
Perhaps no player better encapsulates this devotion to the red and yellow half of the city than their iconic skipper and favourite son Totti. A player who can do no wrong in the eyes of the adoring tifosi, Totti has chosen to stay with his beloved hometown club and seek eternal glory under Roman skies rather than head elsewhere in search of a steadier supply of silverware.
The European Golden Boot recipient in the 2006/07 season with 26 goals, he played his 500th match for Roma in all competitions on 9 March. And with the business end of the campaign approaching fast, the talismanic playmaker is carrying the fans' hopes on his shoulders. First up is Wednesday's derby with Lazio, quickly followed by a revenge mission against Manchester United - 7-1 victors over Luciano Spalletti's side last year - and a championship run-in that could yet see them pip Inter Milan to the Scudetto.
Totti is not the only Roma legend to have emerged from I Lupi's prolific academy over the years, however. Giacomo Losi, a commanding defender nicknamed The Heart of Rome, also spent his entire career in the famous maroon jersey, making 386 appearances between 1954 and 1969, some 299 of them as captain.
Shining even more brightly in the Roma firmament is the stylish attacking midfielder Giuseppe Giannini. Born in 1964 in the Roman suburb of Tomba di Nerone, Il Principe made his debut for the club in 1982 and remained faithful to them for the next 15 seasons, winning 47 caps for Italy in the process and spurning several lucrative offers from the country's northern powerhouses. A missed penalty in a particularly heated Rome derby late on in his career ultimately led to him leaving for pastures new.
The 1982 FIFA World Cup™ champion Bruno Conti is another Giallorossi hero, turning out in the maroon and gold for 16 seasons, during which time he scored 35 goals, and picked up one league title and four Italian Cups. After becoming a youth-team coach at the club, he also took charge of the first XI for a short spell and is now technical director with the Roman giants. And no less an authority than Sir Bobby Charlton once remarked: "If I'd ever been made a national team coach, I would have wanted to take Bruno Conti with me, no matter where it was."
Figuring high among the other servants who devoted body and soul to the club are Franco Tancredi, the rock-solid goalkeeper who racked up 228 matches between 1979 and 1990, and Francesco Rocca, also known as Kawasaki, an incombustible full-back who was perpetual motion for 90 minutes.
A special place in Roma hearts is also devoted to Agostino Di Bartolomei, the combative defensive midfielder who emerged from one of the city's poorer neighbourhoods to represent the club with distinction between 1972 and 1984. As well as marshalling the defence with aplomb, he was a level-headed captain who exerted a calming influence on his more excitable team-mates. Sadly, Di Bartolomei died on 30 May 1994 after struggling to adapt to life outside football, but so influential was he that one of the Italian capital's streets is now named after him.
As well as born and bred Romans, many a foreign player has also succumbed to the charms and magnetic appeal of the club. None more so than the cultured Brazilian defender Aldair, who spent 13 seasons in the Roma jersey. The Brazilian international was held in such high esteem that the club retired the No6 shirt when he retired.
These legendary figures' legacy is being kept alive by the latest generation of Roma idols, among them 23-year-old international midfielder Alberto Aquilani, who rejected a move to Chelsea as a callow teenager on the advice of current England coach Fabio Capello. "The most beautiful day of my life was when I scored against Lazio in front of the Curva Sud," commented Aquilani recently, confirming that the new breed's ties to all things maroon and gold are as strong as those of their imperious predecessors.