The world-renowned AS Roma youth club strikes again. Congrats to the kids, who have won the Italian youth championship this weekend, defeating Sampdoria for the crown. It was their first championship in eight years, since a certain Alberto Aquilani led them to glory. While Roma have been a "big" club for the majority of their history, it hasn't typically been the large financial signings that have brought them their success. From Giuseppe Giannini and Agostino Di Bartolomei all the way to current stars Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Alberto Aquilani, the backbone of AS Roma has birthed from the youth ranks. It has kept the team closer to Rome, unlike teams such as Inter or Juventus, who typically poach their players from the various leagues around the globe. And it has helped to establish the best who pull on the Giallorossi jersey as more than players, but legends inside the walls of Rome. We can only dream that the team that won the championship on Saturday will produce another Giannini or Totti. But here's to hoping.
On a directly related note, the Azzurrini begin their assault on the Netherlands today as they begin their fixtures of the European Under-21 Championship. The boys are the heavy favorites to bring back another trophy to the boot in what is quickly becoming The Year of Italia (Calciopoli my ass). Gianluca Curci and Aquilani are the Roma players in the squad; both are major parts of the Azzurrini's plans and both will play nearly the entire tournament.
There are some familiar names taking part, even for the casual fan: Alessandro Rosina, Domenico Criscito, Giampaolo Pazzini, Raffaele Palladino, Giuseppe Rossi and the man prepared to take the Netherlands by storm, Riccardo Montolivo. The rest will all be big assets to the squad and all will likely play some role for the senior squad, if they already haven't, but Montolivo is the future. His improvement from last year until the end of this year has been nothing short of amazing. I won't get too much into it because I've already spent awhile on it for the Italia blog, but you should just check out the roster and if possible, catch a game or so. I'm not saying this to promote the Italian site, I don't really care how many people read what I write, but these are the kids who will run Serie A a lot sooner than we think. It should be fun to watch.
As for the Roman point of view, a couple of these players could come up on the Giallorossi radar in a very short time. Andrea Mantovani was recently relegated with Chievo but he is a good prospect and will find his way to one of the big boys eventually. The same goes for Udinese's Andrea Coda & Marco Motta and, should attempts to land a Cicinho-type player fail, I would not be surprised if Roma went after Motta as their RB of the future. In fact, for some reason I almost expect it. Rosina we all already know about, but this tournament will have a great impact on his value and Roma will be watching closely. Simone Padoin is a very versatile player who can cover most of the midfield and backline and has to be making his way to Serie A soon, though a club like Udinese or Sampdoria would probably take him on first. But we can never rule out Luciano when it comes to player's with big time versatility. Out of anyone on the squad my first choice is Luca Cigarini, currently at Parma; an Andrea Pirlo clone, he would be able to distribute like Pizarro but with some actual athleticism and defensive accompaniment. Graziano Pelle would also be dreamy, but the frontline is likely set for many years with Stefano Okaka Chuka & Mirko Vucinic. Oh, and that Totti guy.
The News & Gossip:
i) I'm not going to mention any more Juan rumors unless something concrete comes along. Until the 3 sides meet (Voller, Prade and agent) next Monday, I'm going to shut it down. Even though he turned down the Sevilla offer and wants to come to Rome. It's playing with my sanity. At this point I don't care if we sign Juan or Rudi Voller, can we just come to some sort of conclusion?
* - And this is happening regardless of Chivugate. Roma wants either Juan or Chivu to split out left, both of whom have the ability to do so. That would be a massive boost to the defense, which has struggled at points this year especially on the counter-attack. I guess this signals a move for Max Tonetto to the left wing, which I am all in favor of. Mancini is more than adequate on the left wing but he drifts to the right so often he leaves the left side to be patrolled by only Tonetto, and it will be nice to have a natural left-winger on that side.
ii) Apparently the higher ups in Rome got wind of my little wing over here at The Offside and decided to do a sociological and psychological experiment to see how quickly they can drive me to institutionalization. Because according to Nik, they agreed to take Gilberto Martinez on loan for another year. I don't get it. I just don't get it.
But on a brighter and completely related note, I'll be moving to the Netherlands shortly where doctor-assisted suicide is completely legal. Woo! Who wants my stuff?
iii) Roma has offered a contract worth 800,000 euros per annum to Father Time. Excuse me, Cristiano Doni.
I just can't take it anymore.
iv) An official friendly has been announced. Roma will travel to Upton Park to take on West Ham United on August 4th. Would somebody kidnap Carlos Tevez while you're there? Thanks.
v) Eugenio Corini has confirmed Roma has contacted him regarding their interest. One of the only ancient wonders I would be ok with, they supposedly see him as an alternative to David Pizarro. His form has remained phenomenal. I'm becoming more and more convinced that Pizarro may find himself elsewhere next year. People may not agree but I think Spalletti has a man-crush on Ricardo Faty and, while he may not be optimal, he showed a ton of improvement towards the end of the year.
In other news, Roma contracts will now come with a free colostomy bag.
vi) After negotiating a sale with Udinese for Matteo Brighi, apparently Roma pulled the plug and are reconsidering. They now want to keep Matteo around and give him a shot, at least through training camp and likely for the first half of the year. I for one am all for giving Matteo a shot. He has the talent and it really can't hurt to essentially give him a 6 month trial. But he is yet another player who would play the same position of Pizarro. This is really becoming quite ominous for David. Maybe he shouldn't have given Roma that ultimatum. Looks like he may have gotten what he asked for.
vii) In an interview with Cesare Prandelli, the Fiorentina head honcho expressed big regret in not being able to land Mirko Vucinic from Lecce last year. He went on to say that Mirko wasn't in the greatest physical condition last year and after a year of adapting in a new city he should shine. Prandelli said he isn't a champion today, but is predestined to be one. Now that's the kind of talk I want to hear. I wish Mirko was given more of a chance to shine and Spalletti would stick him up top more. Cesare also mentioned there is some interest regarding Matteo Ferrari. At this point, I don't think it's worth much because Roma really cannot afford to lose anymore defenders at the moment.
viii) Daniele Conti, you know - Bruno's kid, said in an interview that besides Suazo there are a couple players interested in moving to la citta eterna. Cristian Del Grosso and Mauro Esposito, and the latter has been linked quite a few times in the past. He would be an ideal replacement for Christian Wilhelmsson on the roster but whether or not he is the caliber of player Roma wants these days is a toss-up. He almost made the Germany squad but he certainly isn't in the class of Fab Quag's, Rosinaldo or even Faubert.
ix) I lied about covering the Ukrainian Premier League with Shakhtar Donetsk, apparently the website I used for my UPL game info hasn't been updated since 2001 or so. Donetsk has one game left in the season so it's likely the Ciprian Marica saga will continue after that.
x) I know Mauro Camoranesi has been linked to the Giallorossi, but I really think he is a very long shot. His ego doesn't eaxctly fit with Spalletti's team concept and his wages are almost definitely out of the Sensi's range. The only factor that points otherwise is that Totti is being consulted regarding the transfer happenings this summer and he has made it clear in the past he would like Camo in Rome. Hopefully, the rest of the hierarchy ignores him in this case.
Ahmed Barusso, the Michael Essien clone, is heading to Rome for a medical tomorrow and will be unveiled if everything goes well. This is HUGE. Somebody get David Pizarro some luggage. More later.