Apologies, the schedule has gotten quite hectic and I haven't had much time and probably won't Friday either. This is one of those posts for just the occasion which I wrote probably 2 months ago with a few tweaks.
See You At The Olimpico
In case you might be new here, the 2009 Champions League final is being held at the Stadio Olimpico. The vintage fans in the crowd probably remember the (second to) last time the final was held in Rome, but some of the young’uns might not. To keep it simple and painless: Roma was there. Roma did not take home the winner’s trophy.
I have a strange feeling this may be fate. This team is primed for a run at some serious hardware on many fronts, and the progress of the children combined with the potential last stands of a few Roman greats - most notably His Francesconess - could mean the stars are aligning for a magical night in a magical city with a magical team. Houdini would be proud.
In honor of this, let’s take a prospective look to the future for a “fantasy”, yet realistic, Roman XI making a run that fateful night (I knocked on wood like 87 times before I posted this, fret not):
Goalkeeper: My take is that one of the biggest discussions for the upcoming summer will be the future between the sticks. Curci is progressing as fast as escargot backing up Doni, and he needs to be loaned if he is indeed the future, unless he somehow acquires 5 years worth of decision making ability, experience and maturity over next summer (possible, but not likely).
If Curci is the future, which I believe he is, there is one other option besides being loaned: He needs to backup a very good, if not world class keeper, who is solid between the sticks and can assist him with the mental aspects of the game, all while getting intermittent starts against mediocre teams. Doni can’t do that for himself, so it’s doubtful he could do it for anyone else. My answer? Carlo Cudicini. Yes, he played for Lazio, but it was all of one game and he’s been in England so long I doubt he cares anymore. He’s also a very good keeper, and the only reason he isn’t starting regularly is because CSKA London also happens to have one of the top 3 keepers in the world ahead of him on the depth chart.
Not only would he be peaches with being a backup once Curci is ready, but he is also a great keeper who would represent little, if any, drop-off from Doni’s performance (I'll say it, he's better). Now, I love Doni, but world class teams need stability and world class decision making from their final defender. He doesn’t give that. To me a guy like Cudicini is ideal. The only problem is Abramovic really doesn’t need the cash, and would probably be hard pressed to sell the best insurance policy in Europe.
RB: Cassetti will probably still be around, and we can probably suspect 36 year young Old Man River will be as well, though his effectiveness will be a mystery (maybe only like 7 goals next year). Cicinho.....I have no idea. 4 games with no starts against some not-so-wonderful teams (relatively) after being very effective, and after sitting for pretty much the first month of the season probably doesn't have him ready to sign a lifelong contract extension with the Giallorossi. I think we need to find out if he gets Spalletti an Xmas card. Somebody in Rome get on that. (I'll say uhhh...uhhh...Panucci with the goal!)
CB: The Mexes and Juan pairing should be downright dreamy after they have a year to gel. Engrave their names in the XI. I think Ferrari is seeing out his final days in the shirt, but only time will tell. Either way, a defender of his capabilities or better will be brought in as a replacement, potentially a Lucio-type (Brazilian), and there will be minimal drop off. Andreolli, though, is another matter. I’m not sure he’ll be around more than this year. Simply: Inter needs him more and they have more money. Love it if he stays and sees out those “next Nesta” comparisons, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it. Or the change in the couch.
LB: Max probably has a solid year left in him, and he’ll still be on la rosa. The backup/platoon-mate probably won’t be Antunes, as he looks like loan-material or return-to-sender-material. The obvious names are Jeremy Mathieu, who, as far as we still know, will be a free agent in the summer, and Modesto, whose name is doing the cha-cha all over the Roman rumor mill again. With both Roma and Jeremy flirting vivaciously and grinding all up on each other for a year, it’s quite probable he ends up in Rome next summer. Or Modesto. I don't fuckin' know. But I'll go as far as to say vice-Tonetto becomes Tonetto.
DM: DDR and King Alberto will be the starters. Non-negotiable. Ahmed Barusso will have a year under his belt, but probably won’t be ready for the big time until 09-10. David too. But you know exactly who will be here. (Unless, of course, KA's groin splits completely from his body and starts walking away by itself - which wouldn't surprise me in the least.)
RW: Taddei is still only - and I had to look this up because I thought my initial number was way off base - 27, and is in his prime, so there’s little reason to think he’ll be moved or overtaken at any point next year, especially since he's a complete goal machine and all. There are a host of potential backups, in Espo, who’s still co-owned and probably ready to swim back to Cagliari to fight Foggia, Lulu Gulu, Aleandro Rosi, and others. However, the one name making the most noise is Alessio Cerci down in Serie B, the guy who just cannot stop scoring and/or creating goals. If he continues pace TGIP may bring him back, but I still think a year in Serie A with someone other than Roma might be do him well. (Then again, Aquilani only had one year in B.)
CM/SS: Simone Perrotta, if he can stay adequately healthy. Brighi is increasingly showing his value and is a more than capable backup, if not future Simone, as well as having the likes of Cerci, Giuly, Vucinic, Okaka and Aquilani who can potentially play this position - not to mention a few others not currently on the team. They want for not.
LW: The tricky one. Mancini’s attitude is leaving much to be desired, and whether or not the extension happens is pretty up in the air at the moment. In any case, I suspect Roma will make a strong push for CSKA Moscow’s Daniel Carvalho, who is on a free, and was born to play in this system (not to mention recently injured, which surely has Rosella all kinds of aroused). If not him, throw Rosinaldo’s name into the mix. Or Andrea Russotto's (though probably not ready yet). Or Mirko. Whatever happens, there will be a world class player at this position, no question.
ST: Francesco, but at this point Mirko has to be in the lineup, right? Right? Right....
My Fantasy and Not-So-Unrealistic XI:
Panucci, Mexes, Juan, Mathesto;
Taddei, Simone, Carvalho;