When Cafu announced that he was to leave AS Roma at the end of the 2002/03 season, the club knew they had a huge void to fill. Il Pendolino, as he had become affectionately known, had played a crucial role in their 2001 Serie A conquest, and moreover, replacing a right-back as proficient at surging forward was always going to be an arduous task.

Inevitably, their search for the 2002 FIFA World Cup™-winning captain's successor took them to his homeland, and it was there that the Roma scouts first cast their eyes upon Alessandro Faiolhe Amantino, better known as Mancini, who certainly met the criteria of an attack-conscious fullback. Indeed, during the 2002 Brasileiro, he had scored an impressive 15 goals for Atletico-MG from his right-wingback slot, and weighed in with a number of assists.

It proved enough to convince the Giallorossi, who promptly added the Brazilian to their ranks before immediately loaning him out to then Serie B side Venezia, where he was to gain experience until Cafu made the switch to AC Milan. Returning to the Italian capital for the start of the 2003/04 camapign, Mancini made his Serie A bow away at Udinese, helping Roma to a 2-1 opening day victory, and from then on, the former Portuguesa and Sao Caetano ace became a firm fixture in the side. 

That goal
If the Roma fans had instantly taken to Mancini, then his contribution to their Rome derby success in November 2003 caused his popularity to soar. With the arch-enemies' encounter heading towards a goalless stalemate, he produced an exquisite back-heel - on the volley - to send a right-wing cross into the back of the visitors' net in the 81st minute. Not only was it a goal fit enough to settle one of the country's most famous clashes, but it was one of the finest efforts in the history of match.

Minutes later, he set up his compatriot Emerson to seal a 2-0 success. The Roma faithful had a new soldier to idolise. Roma ended the season in second place behind AC Milan, while Mancini finished up as the league's leading provider of goals.

Over the coming seasons, Mancini was deployed in a variety of roles, from right-back to central midfield to left-wing, but even by his own standards, being asked to operate as a striker during the 2005/06 season came as a surprise. In fact, it was an injury crisis that prompted Luciano Spalletti to deploy the number 30 up front, but the gaffer's decision was certainly vindicated as Mancini turned in a number of man-of-the-match performances to help Roma finish second.

Nonetheless, Mancini has reappeared in a now familiar attacking midfield position this term, providing a threat from wide positions and cutting infield to link-up with the team's lone front runner. 

Seleção aspirations
Despite his brilliance for Roma, however, and the type of versatility that coaches crave for big tournaments, Mancini has been curiously overlooked by the national team selectors since helping Brazil win the Copa America in 2004. It is a circumstance that he would dearly love to change.

"I'd love to return to the Seleção," he said recently. "I played for my country as a right-back before, but I no longer play in this position for Roma. I play for Roma in an attacking role and I would love to return the national team in this position, as a substitute for Ronaldinho, although I would be happy to play anywhere."

With Inter Milan now 14 points clear of second-placed Roma in the battle for the 2006/07 Scudetto, the Giallorossi's best chance of major silverware this campaign may just be in the UEFA Champions League, where they drew 0-0 at home to a formidable Lyon side in their first-leg meeting on Wednesday. Helping Roma progress to the quarters-finals of the competition would see Mancini's message to Brazil coach Dunga go out in a bolder font.