Winners and Losers from AS Roma's International Champions Cup Campaign

Colin O'BrienContributor IAugust 4, 2014

Winners and Losers from AS Roma's International Champions Cup Campaign

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Before the International Champions Cup, Rudi Garcia and Roma will have hoped for more than just one win and two defeats.

    Even so, the tournament was largely positive for the Serie A hopefuls because it allowed the manager to test plenty of new signings, and on a commercial level, it exposed the Giallorossi to the lucrative North American market alongside some of the biggest clubs in the world. 

    The squad will return to Trigoria knowing that there's still plenty of work to be done, but if the final creases can be ironed out before their opening fixture against Fiorentina, the Lupi can be confident that they're up to the challenge of a push for Scudetto honours. 

Winner: Francesco Totti

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    The more things change at Roma, the more they stay the same. Francesco Totti proved throughout the U.S. tour that he's still a special player—and someone that Roma cannot do without. 

    Totti remains the player that his teammates look to when they're in trouble or in need of inspiration.

    His status at the club coupled with the fact that he arrived at the International Champions Cup in great shape physically, mean that regardless of the increased competition for places at the Olimpico, the captain's place in the starting line-up is all but certain whenever he's able to play. 

    All the talk has been focused on the Giallorossi's new signings, but even at 37, "il Bimbo d'Oro" has shown this summer that he's still capable of upstaging even the best young talent.

    Though he may not be the quickest player on the pitch, there are few footballers in the world capable of rivalling the Roman when it comes to style and technique. 

     

Loser: Alessandro Florenzi

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    Alessandro Florenzi looked dangerous in attack throughout the U.S. tour, and as we've come to expect from the energetic Roman, he never failed to give 100 percent, even when asked to play in an unfamiliar position at right-back. 

    The reason that Florenzi isn't ranked among the winners here is that his greatest asset, his versatility, continues to threaten his development and his place in the starting XI simply because we don't always get to see the 23-year-old get regular football in his preferred position. 

    By fitting him in at full-back, Rudi Garcia showed that he clearly values Florenzi and wants him on the pitch whenever possible. But it also showed that he's willing—and clearly considering—to play the Italian out of position as cover in order to fit other players into the line-up.

    Originally a central midfielder, he's developed into a wide forward more recently, but he has also seen game time in more central attacking roles and can now add full-back to his repertoire. 

    The manager is no doubt delighted to have a player as flexible and hard-working as Florenzi on his books, but you can't help but feel that we'd see more from him if he was allowed to settle into one role. 

Winner: Lukasz Skorupski

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Morgan De Sanctis remains first-choice goalkeeper at Roma, but young Lukasz Skorupski did himself and his reputation plenty of favours in the U.S. 

    For a 23-year-old who's seen little senior team action, the Polish stopper looked comfortable in goal and didn't seem overly bothered by the pressure of playing the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid. And even though he conceded twice against Inter in the final fixture, he put in a fine performance against the Nerazzurri.

Winner: Ashley Cole

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    RICH SCHULTZ/Associated Press

    I've written in the past about why I think Ashley Cole will be a success for Roma, and that belief has only been strengthened by the Englishman's early showings in a Giallorossi shirt. 

    The former Chelsea star can still improve, but the signs are good because he already looks settled with his new teammates and hungry to prove that his move to Italy is more than just a swan song. 

    Switching to Rome from London will be a culture shock to Cole, but if he can adapt and stay fit, he could end up being one of the shrewdest Serie A signings of the summer. 

Loser: Mattia Destro

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    The American tour was an opportunity for Mattia Destro to stake his claim to a starting XI berth, but he wasted it. 

    Last season, the 23-year-old Italian impressed despite injury set-backs, netting 14 times in a stop-start season. For all the hype that's surrounded him since his youth days at Inter, however, more is expected. 

    The influx of new talent at the Olimpico means that players like Destro will have to fight hard for a place in Garcia's squad, and as a striker, cannot afford to be as wasteful as he was against Inter. 

    There's no doubting his potential, but that needs to be turned into effective consistency in front of goal if Destro is to become a leading figure for both Roma and the Italian national team. As of now, the ICC proved that unfortunately, he's still some way off that mark. 

Winner: Miralem Pjanic

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    Everyone at the club—and any fan with even a passing interest in Serie A—knows how talented Miralem Pjanic is, but the stateside games did wonders for the Bosnian's reputation with the wider public. 

    The 24-year-old is a rare talent and exudes class and calm control on and off the ball.

    He's also got an eye for the fantastic, and he seems to enjoy entertaining whenever possible. For evidence of that, look no farther than his incredible goal against Manchester United. 

Loser: Leandro Castan

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Leandro Castan has been integral to Roma's renaissance since arriving in the Italian capital two seasons ago. Picking up a hamstring injury early on against Inter is a disaster for not only the player, but also the club, so close to the start of the Serie A season. 

    It's still not known if the Brazilian will be fit for Roma's opener against Fiorentina at the end of August, but even if he is the loss of precious preparation and training time during pre-season is a blow. Garcia, and Castan's teammates, will be scrambling to cope with the set-back.

Winner: Mehdi Benatia

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    The rumours flying around about Mehdi Benatia's contractual problems earlier in the summer threatened to undo much of the good that came from the Moroccan's stellar debut season at Roma. 

    Thankfully for all concerned, those issues have since been laid to rest, and Benatia looks set to continue at the heart of the Giallorossi defence. 

    In the U.S., the former Udinese centre-back showed that he hadn't let the negative press affect his mentality or his physical preparation, and throughout the ICC he was impressive. So influential was he against Real Madrid, in fact, that Gareth Bale was forced to change sides mid-game in the hope of escaping the 27-year-old's clutches. 

Winner: James Pallotta and the Club

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    James Pallotta took over Roma with the intention of making it one of the world's top clubs. For that to happen, the market in his native USA will be crucial, because there's still plenty of room there for a club like Roma to grow a large, lucrative fan base. 

    Competitions like the ICC might not mean much in terms of the history books, but they do wonders for the balance sheet, and trips like this summer's tour across the Atlantic are hugely beneficial.

    Projects at home, like the club's planned new stadium, are vital to future success, but if the Lupi want to compete with the likes of Barcelona, Real, Bayern Munich and the top English clubs, they need significant international support as well to fill the coffers. 

    Packed stadiums, plenty of TV coverage and top billing with clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid—two clubs that are traditionally far more popular on a global scale than Roma—all put the Giallorossi in a great shop window.

    The fact that Garcia's men were able to show off their usual attractive brand of football should have won them plenty of new fans, too. 

Winner and Loser: Rudi Garcia

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    Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    Roma were unlucky not to beat Manchester United and earned their win over European champions Real Madrid, but equally they deserved to lose against Inter in their final fixture. 

    So in footballing terms, was the competition a success or a failure for Roma? Losing to a Serie A rival, even in a friendly, will worry Garcia because his side were so clearly superior to Inter last year, and he'll be desperate to make sure that they don't regress, or allow the other Italian sides to gain ground. 

    Another worry will be the fact that Francesco Totti remains the most effective player in his attack. 

    Totti started the Inter game on the bench but when called upon was able to test the Nerazzurri defence more than his teammates had, and his clever dummy with four minutes to go—the 18-year-old Antonio Sanabria couldn't convert the chance—was the Giallorossi's brightest moment. 

    Having such an iconic, and talented, player on the teamsheet is, of course, a positive for the manager, but Garcia will still undoubtedly wish that one of his younger charges would step up to shoulder more of the creative burden when Roma are on the back-foot. 

    Speaking to the press after the Inter game (here in English via Goal.com's Dejan Kalinic), Garcia was critical about his side's performance and clearly concerned about the work still needed before the new league campaign. He told reporters: 

    Everyone could've done better today and we should've moved the ball around much faster. We had too many touches, making our play predictable and easy to read.

    We played against a well-organised Inter side and never managed to catch them out of position. This must act as a real warning for the team. It's a friendly, fine, but when we are in a competitive match we cannot play like this.

    There was almost nothing positive. It's a very long road before we can be ready for the start of the season.

    On the plus side, the Frenchman got to see plenty of his new signings and can be positive about how they're settling in and improving his side.

    Youth team products Arturo Calabresi and Michele Somma got game time, and Ashley Cole, Juan Iturbe, Salih Ucan, Leandro Paredes, Urby Emanuelson, Seydou Keita and the aforementioned Sanabria all looked in decent shape, and there's no question that Garcia's squad is a lot stronger ahead of the upcoming campaign than it was this time last year. 

     

    Colin O'Brien lives and works in Rome, covering Italian football. You can contact him on Twitter here: