5 Roma Players Who Will Make a Big Impact in Serie A This Season
Rudi Garcia's second season at the Olimpico looks set to be a big one. Roma have made some interesting acquisitions over the summer and significantly strengthened the squad.
Last term, for periods at least, the Giallorossi seemed unstoppable and were utterly compelling to watch. With the benefit of 12 months' experience, time to settle in and fine-tune his team, the French coach will want his side to not only be in the mix for league glory but to impress in Europe as well.
Here are five players who'll be essential to achieving those goals.
Paying €22 million for a 21-year-old (in Italian) was a gutsy move by Roma's director of football, Walter Sabatini, but Juan Iturbe was one of the most exciting players to watch in Serie A last season and big things are expected.
Iturbe made a name for himself as a teenager, most notably with an incredible dribble from the halfway line to score against Chile while playing for the Argentina U20s.
He had been linked to several other clubs—including Liverpool, per Jamie Anderson of the Express—and it was thought that Juventus were the favourites to sign the wunderkind from Verona, per Charlie Scott of the Daily Mail. That was until Antonio Conte's shock departure, and in the confusion that followed, Sabatini slipped in, did the deal quickly and pulled one over on Roma's old rival up north.
Normally, a young player coming into a side with title-winning aspirations might expect a grace period to allow him to settle in and develop. However, with such a hefty price tag, fans and media alike will be watching the Argentine's every move very closely, so he'll want to hit the ground running.
Fortunately for him, if there's one thing he's good at, it's running. The winger is lightning quick, especially with the ball, and he has an audacious quality to his game that should delight the demanding crowd at the Olimpico.
Miralem Pjanic arrived to Roma from Lyon and has improved year on year, finally becoming one of the most entertaining—and potentially devastating—midfielders in Europe last term.
His incredible goal against Milan back in April has to be seen to be believed, but he's got more tricks up his sleeve than just crafty dribbles. Pjanic is one of the best passers in Serie A right now and has the ability to unlock a defence and change the pace of the game with a single, well-placed ball. He also likes shooting from distance, as Manchester United found out this summer.
Combined with the creativity of Francesco Totti and pace of Gervinho, Alessandro Florenzi and Iturbe, Pjanic's imagination and ability to read the game will be priceless this campaign as the Giallorossi take on Europe and try to win their first league title since 2001. The best part about this is that, at only 24, he'll almost certainly keep getting better.
Daniele De Rossi
Daniele De Rossi is perhaps the most irreplaceable part in the whole Roma team.
Capitan Futuro might not be as elegant as some of his teammates—though he's a better passer than many give him credit for—or score as many goals, but he's relied upon to shield the defence and get the attack moving once they've won the ball. Without him, the Lupi just don't work nearly as well.
The 31-year-old Roman is one of the world's most complete midfielders, who is not only capable of making spectacular contributions both at the back and going forward but also instills a rare kind of confidence in those around him.
When he drops back into the defence, the centre-backs gain important reinforcement because he' is consistently among the best tacklers in Italy. On the ball, his quick thinking and ability to spread the play unlocks attacking teammates and launches them on the counter.
De Rossi is the metronome in the centre, and though the Giallorossi are blessed with several other brilliant midfielders, none can do this particular job quite as well as he can.
Roma were cruelly robbed of Kevin Strootman last season by a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury, and the Dutchman will be keen to get back in action this year.
Strootman was considered a reliable, rather than spectacular, performer while at PSV Eindhoven but improved considerably once he moved to Italy, taking many by surprise and making himself a firm fixture in the Giallorossi's starting XI.
Roma paid €17 million for him last summer—a fee that was quickly revealed to be a bargain. Strootman has become a more nuanced, complete midfielder under Garcia and is no longer just the hard-tackling, physical player he was back in the Eredivisie. His star has risen to such an extent, in fact, that when Manchester United started making noises about bringing him to Old Trafford, the Lupi announced that his price tag was a cool €100 million.
He'll have Radja Nainggolan—and perhaps Seydou Keita— for competition this time around, but on the evidence of 2013-14, the 24-year-old will still see plenty of game time, especially as Roma will be competing in the Champions League.
Why? Well, because he's Francesco Totti, obviously. Roma's evergreen captain is at the heart of almost every positive thing they do, even now in the autumn years of his career.
Last season was interrupted by niggling injuries, but he still managed to make the difference whenever he featured and assuming he's fit, the Roman will remain central to Garcia's plans.
To illustrate how effective he was last term, even with the interruptions, you only need to compare him to Torino's Alessio Cerci who had a stellar campaign and was rightly lauded. Cerci was the only player in Serie A to register double figures in goals and assists, with 13 and 10 respectively. Totti notched up eight goals and 10 assists—but made just 20 starts compared to the 35 of his former teammate.
He can't play forever, but he's by no means finished either. Consistently among the best in Europe when it comes to making key passes and assists, the stats only tell half the story when it comes to Totti because few are better than the Roma No. 10 at creating space, seeing an opportunity or creating a moment of magic. He's also the undisputed leader at the club, and his support and personality will have a huge effect on his younger teammates.
Will he become the first player to win two Scudetti with Roma? It won't be easy, but you wouldn't bet against it either.