AS Roma may not throw money around so readily like a lot of the European powers, but that doesn't mean the club hasn’t made some shocking financial decisions over the years. There’s fascinating tales of mistaken identity, suspensions, ill-disciplined players and endless disappointing Brazilians amongst Roma’s chequered transfer history.
As Serie A awakens from its traditional winter slumber, players begin to start working off all that excess Christmas turkey and clubs begin to plot their January window comings and goings, let’s take a minute or so to reminisce over some of AS Roma’s very own transfer turkeys. Firstly...
When a player doesn’t live up to the initial hype and expectation around their signing, it’s a disappointment. When a manager doesn’t—it’s a disaster.
When Luis Enrique was appointed at AS Roma in the summer of 2011, the hope was that he’d revolutionise Roma. The slick, dark-haired 41-year-old arrived with the promise of bringing Barcelona’s exciting brand of football to the Italian capital.
A legend at the Catalan club, Enrique had followed in his former teammate Pep Guardiola’s footsteps in taking charge of Barcelona B, where he spent three successful seasons. His success meant that by the time he arrived in Italy, great things where expected of him.
It started badly for Enrique at Roma. Defeat in his first competitive game followed by a disappointing draw in his second saw his side crash out of the Europa league to Slovakian side Slovan Bratislava. An opening-day defeat to Cagliari meant Roma started a Serie A season with a loss for only the third time in 18 years.
It didn’t get any better.
The brief Luis Enrique era brought inconsistent performances, even more inconsistent results, ill-disciplined players and expensive flops, all of which ultimately contributed to the club’s worst league finish since 2005. Roma’s disappointing seventh-place finish also meant it was the first time they had failed to qualify for any European tournament since 1997.
Roma's Enrique experiment had failed. After Roma's Serie A campaign tapered off, with just three wins in their last nine matches, a visibly greyed Luis held his hands up, admitted defeat and walked away, halfway through a two-year contract.
There are many examples of signings failing to live to up to expectations. However, in terms of anticipation and excitement that’s only matched by the disappointment of the subsequent failure, AS Roma’s appointment of Luis Enrique must rank pretty high.
The man in the photo next to these words is Pablo Paz; a former Argentinian international, with over twenty caps to his name. It is not Cesar Gomez. You'd be forgiven for mixing the two up. It's an easy mistake to make.
In fact, it's a mistake the AS Roma directors made back in 1997, when they attempted to sign the former of the pair.
A solid defender in his home country, Gomez began his career in the Real Madrid youth team before joining Real Valladolid for a two-year spell, which saw him relegated with the club in his second year.
However, it was his next club, CD Tenerife, where Gomez would make his name.
After signing in 1992, Cesar became instrumental in the Spanish outfit’s rise, finishing fifth in La Liga and qualifying for the UEFA cup in his debut season.
By 1997, Cesar Gomez had notched up over 200 appearances for Tenerife, fully establishing himself as legend at the club. Which is why, when he arrived in Roma, alongside Spanish compatriot and fellow Roma flop Iván Helguera, he did so somewhat reluctantly. It would soon become apparent why.
In four years at Roma, Cesar Gomez only managed three appearances, starting only one game, a catastrophic 3-1 loss to a ten-man Lazio side. A disastrous performance saw Gomez left on the bench, then in the stands, before, ultimately, being forgotten all together.
Gomez refused to leave Roma after the club attempted to cancel the defender’s contract by mutual consent, instead opting to spend the rest of his time at Roma, and rest of his career, without playing a single game. Gomez eventually retired in 2001, but stayed in the Italian capital, where he opened a car garage in the local area.
In the summer of 1998 Roma were desperate for a striker. Their top scorer from the previous season, the aging Argentinian international Abel Balbo, had joined Parma in the opening stages of the 1998/99 campaign. Abel’s departure left Roma short up front, with just Marco Delvecchio and a 22-year-old Italian by the name of Francesco Totti leading the line.
To solve their striker problem, they took to the transfer market. Roma’s then-president, Franco Sensi, had promised big names. Big names including Monaco’s David Trezeguet and Fiorentina’s deadly Gabriel Batistuta.
They got Gustavo Bartelt.
Signed for £4 million, the 23-year-old arrived full of confidence, choosing the No. 9 that had just been vacated by the legendary Balbo. It was confidence that was horrifically misplaced. Nicknamed "El Facha" (The Beautiful), Bartelt’s spell at Roma turned ugly quickly.
He impressed on his debut, a 3-1 win over Salernitana, but that was to be his only start for the Giallorossi. Bartelt slipped down the pecking order as Totti and Delvecchio fired in goals, leaving Gustavo twiddling his thumbs. He ended his first season in Italy having only appeared five times, scoring no goals.
A year after Bartelt joined, Roma brought in Brazilian youngster Fabio Junior. Signed for the same price that secured the signature of Marcelo Salas for capital rivals Lazio, Junior was a hot prospect. However, if this list suggests anything, it’s that Roma should stay away from South Americans. Especially South American hot prospects.
There was an air of mystery surrounding Junior’s arrival. The 21-year-old was touted as a potential successor to Ronaldo. By the time his spell at Roma was over, the only mystery was how he ever gained that reputation.
Big and powerful, Fabio didn’t really possess the typical assets that many may have come to expect from a Brazilian centre forward. But then Fabio Junior wasn’t your typical Brazilian centre forward. His lack of pace and poor ball control meant the youngster struggled to fit in and deal with the pressure of expectation in an unfamiliar environment.
By 2000, Roma supporters finally got the man they were promised two years earlier. Gabriel Batistuta signed. Gustavo Bartelt was shipped out to English side Aston Villa on loan, while Fabio Junior returned home to Cruzeiro on a free transfer.
It would later transpire that the pair were at the centre of a passport scandal that saw a number of players accused of using forging documents to gain Italian citizenship. Bartelt and Junior were found guilty of providing false papers to obtain a European Union passport. Bartelt was banned by the Italian Soccer Federation for 12 months in 2001 and wouldn’t play again for Roma until he was eventually released in 2003. He was later acquitted in 2006
With a total transfer cost of £16 million and with only 4 goals, all from Fabio Junior, in just over 30 games between them, Gustavo Bartelt and Fabio Junior must go down as two of Roma’s most costly mistakes.
Jorge Luís Andrade arrived at Roma in 1988, alongside fellow Brazilian international Renato Gaúcho, a man whose name could easily have been considered for this list, to a ripple of enthusiasm. Another technically gifted Brazilian would surely bring some much needed flair and help shore up a Roma side that had gone off the boil somewhat since the departure of the legendary Falcao two years earlier.
The 31-year-old defensive midfielder came highly rated. During his ten-year spell in Brazil, Andrade had contributed to Flamengo’s most successful period—helping notch up, amongst other honours, four Brazilian Championships.
In the summer ahead of his move to Roma, he’d earned a silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics as part of the Brazilian side that finished runners up to the Soviet Union.
However, it quickly became apparent that Jorge Luís was not the signing Roma had hoped for. Andrade lasted just nine games.
Yet, the memory of his time in a Roma shirt will live on. For all the wrong reasons.
Andrade’s nine games all came in his one solitary season in the Italian capital. Although technically sound, as you’d expect from a Brazilian international, he was weak, and slow. Painfully so. This chronic lack of pace led to the Roma support dubbing him ‘Er Moviola’ (Mr. Slow Motion).
His absence of strength and inability to react in situations meant he would get lost in midfield, whilst his lack of pace meant matches would simply pass him by.
Of the eight games Andrade started, Roma notched only two victories, with Andrade booked in one and substituted in the other. His final appearance came in the closing moments of a 1-0 victory over Sampdoria in April 1989. Shortly after that game, "Er Moviola" headed back home to Brazil, quicker than he ever moved during his spell at Roma.
Throughout the early noughties, Adriano was the shining beacon and future star of Brazilian football. By the time he departed Roma at the start of the following decade, his stock had plummeted so far that the picture accompanying this slide symbolises the greatest thing Roma supporters saw during the Brazilian international’s time in the Italian capital; the back of Adriano.
Adriano began his career in his native Brazil with Flamengo, where his impressive performances for the youth team saw him earn promotion to the senior squad in just one year. His superb form meant his name was soon touted around Europe. Italy was the chosen destination for his big-money move, where he arrived at Inter in 2000.
Life in Italy began well for Adriano. His debut season saw him impress during a loan spell at Fiorentina, before excelling in two years at Parma, in a two-year co-ownership deal. His great form continued on his return to Inter in 2004, earning him a new contract that would extend his Inter stay until 2010.
It was all downhill from there.
The tragic loss of his father in 2004 affected him greatly. Terrified at the thought of becoming the man of the family, and with his motivations to play football, making his father happy and to make money, gone, Adriano lost his way. Questions over his commitment were raised, as he battled personal demons.
After two spells on unpaid leave to his native Brazil, where he attended Sao Paulo's training center due to his poor physical condition and a past battle with alcoholism, Adriano eventually re-joined Flamengo in 2009, where he began putting back together the pieces of his career.
After a positive spell in Brazil, Claudio Ranieri took a gamble in attempting to revive the former Brazilian star’s career when he brought him to Roma on a free transfer back in 2010. It was a gamble that would backfire spectacularly.
Controversy had followed Adriano throughout his career and that was no different during his brief, but tumultuous spell at Roma. Numerous injuries, discipline breaches, including failing to turn up for training as scheduled after spending weeks in Brazil recovering from a broken arm, and a clear lack of interest, saw Adriano’s career falter once again
Seven months, and a measly five games, into his lucrative three-year deal, Adriano and Roma parted ways, after an agreement to terminate his €5M a year contract was reached. With barely any matches, no goals to his name, and little effort, for Roma, Adriano was a very, very expensive error.
Adriano’s failure at AS Roma can be summed up most succinctly with the following fact; in 2010, Adriano become the first player to win the Bidone d'oro three times. No other player has won the award more than once.