Roma ready to build new empire


Over the last decade or so Roma have cemented their place in the Italian hierarchy, more than holding their own against the country's northern giants. Fabio Capello's 1999-2004 reign saw the club lift their third Scudetto, and although the departure of Il Professore was followed by a season of chaos, Luciano Spalletti has brought stability and sustained success back to the club.

Among the main factors in this latest golden era is the near-telepathic understanding of a well-drilled group of players and the second coming of talismanic skipper Francesco Totti, who retired from international football after Germany 2006 to devote all his energies to his beloved club.

This season has seen Totti and his team-mates give dogged pursuit to frontrunners Inter Milan, and the pressure could well be telling on the Nerazzuri. While they were losing 2-1 in the Milan derby last weekend, their closest challengers picked up three vital points with a clinical 3-0 defeat of Sampdoria. Boasting the best goalscoring record in the championship, having chalked up 69 goals so far, Spalletti's slick outfit are harbouring high hopes of stealing the title, especially with a home game against Atalanta and a trip to Catania to come. That said, Inter's run-in looks far from daunting itself, the reigning champions facing Siena at the San Siro before travelling to Parma in their final game.

*UEFA Champions League revisited * After winning the first leg of last season's quarter-final tie with Manchester United 2-1, Roma were on the wrong end of a 7-1 drubbing in the return at Old Trafford, a humiliation the Italians were determined to avenge this time around. The group phase proved simple enough but it was in the first knockout stage that Spalletti's men come into their own, pulling off the performance of the round by beating Real Madrid 2-1 home and away to check into the last eight, the only Italian side to do so.

And waiting for them there, in a repeat of last season's pairing, were none other than their executioners of 12 months before. Deprived the services of the injured Francesco Totti, the Italians were unable to exact the revenge they were looking for. There was no disgrace in a 3-0 aggregate defeat, however, and having already booked their place in the group phase next season, Roma's determination to get the better of the English giants remains undimmed.

*Three finals, one cup * In all the Giallorossi have contested three European finals, their only success coming in the 1961 Fairs Cup (the predecessor of the UEFA Cup) when they downed Birmingham City of England 4-2 on aggregate.

The more painful of their two defeats came in the 1984 European Cup final, when they lost on 4-2 on penalties to Liverpool at their home ground, the Stadio Olimpico. The result came as something of a shock for a side that had just pipped Juventus to the second title in their history, containing as it did legendary names such as the Brazilian duo of Falcao and Toninho Cerezo, and Italian stars Bruno Conti and Roberto Pruzzo.

Pruzzo it was who got his side back on track after Phil Neal's early opener. But as the clock ticked down, so the pressure from the stands grew and with it the anxiety of the local heroes. And when it came down to the inevitable penalty shootout, Liverpool's irrepressible Bruce Grobbelaar won the war of nerves against club idol Bruno Conti and fellow international Francesco Graziani, both of whom missed from the spot.

Seven years later Roma missed out in another bid for European silverware, going down 3-0 over two legs against Inter Milan in the UEFA Cup, the first time two teams from the same nation had faced off in a European final. Since then, their quest for a European title to crown the career of their inspirational Totti has met with failure. Will next season bring them the success they have been yearning for?

Roma today
A regular in European competitions for the last ten seasons, five of them in the UEFA Champions league, Roma are enjoying one of their most successful periods ever, thanks in small part to captain Totti, who has long since secured his place in the history of the club and calcio in general.

With 204 goals in 504 matches in the distinctive yellow and red jersey, not to mention nine strikes in 58 international matches, the inimitable Totti is a playmaker, goalscorer and a Roman idol rolled into one.

After Capello had led them to their third scudetto, over the last three seasons the Giallorossi have become a familiar sight in the upper echelons of the Serie A under the watchful direction of Luciano Spalletti. A coach-cum-philosopher, Spalletti has handled the sometimes-temperamental Totti with aplomb and was named best Italian coach of the season in 2006. Such is the stability at the club these days that Roma's directors are determined to maintain the core of a side reaching the peak of its powers and whose seamless ability to retain possession has become its trademark.

*The stadium * Situated in the Foro Italico, a unique sports complex, Rome's Stadio Olimpico is home to the city's two clubs, Roma and Lazio. Owned by the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI), the fully roofed stadium has a seated capacity of 81,903 and complies with the strictest safety regulations. The original stadium was built in the 1930s but was extensively refurbished in 1952 in preparation for the 1960 Olympic Games, its capacity being increased to 54,000 seats. Roofing of the venue was completed in 1989, in time for the start of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™.

Explore this topic

Recommended Stories


Loyalty to AS Roma

18 Mar 2008