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Totti Today #25: A story about Astori

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Recent blunders against Lazio and Palermo have raised some eyebrows among tifosi about our defender Davide Astori. Yet he remains a decent Italian defender who most of the time gets the job done. But at 28 years of age, people don’t expect much improvement anymore. What you see is what you get. Should Roma and the fans be satisfied about that?

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On July 24 2014, Cagliari defender Astori signed a contract for AS Roma. Well, a one year loan basically, Sabatini’s famous prestito con diritto di riscatto. 7 million is set as his price tag. Is the former Milan youth product worth it? Good CB’s are hard to find these days, let alone great CB’s. Plus, they are pricy. Since the Summer of 2013 Roma let go off Burdisso, Marquinhos and Benatia. Three defenders of whom the fans were very content. All due respect to Yanga and Astori, they’re both not in the same category.

Not even Manolas is, but he has one advantage: his age. He’ll only get better and what we already saw from Konstantinos makes me happy. Talented and well on his way to become a fan favorite. A couple of minor slip-ups, but for a 23-year-old on his first ever foreign adventure outside of Greece, he’s doing just fine. He’ll get there and Roma will definitely make a profit out of him if he ever leaves the city, like the suits did with Marquinhos and Big Ben. History is doomed to repeat itself.

Gone are the days of a tried and trusted duo like Samuel-Aldair. Years and years of chemistry at the back. Samuel from 2000 until 2004, Aldair from 1990 until 2003. You could even file Panucci, Mexes, Burdisso and Juan in that list of long-serving CB’s. Aldair and Samuel won the Scudetto, Juan a Coppa Italia, Mexes and Panucci even two Coppe and a Supercoppa. That all paired with some fine results in the Champions League. Burdisso joined us and Roma narrowly lost out on the Scudetto in 2009-2010. Benatia-Castan was the main reason Roma was a title contender for so long in 2013-2014. Attackers win you games, defences win you championships. Imagine the partnership Benatia-Castan was still intact and injury-free this season, what would the difference be in the standings?

How things have changed. Too many sales happened and too many replacements were thrown into the arena. One good season and they’re gone to bigger and better sides (Marcos-PSG and Benatia-Bayern). No room for continuity. Roma always had to have a plan B in case a centreback is tempted by a big club. Thank God there’s still someone like Castan around. But he’s been injured since August and has only made one appearance this season. Somehow, Castan’s performances were strangely enough always overshadowed by Marcos and Benatia’s. The question remains: is Leandro able to regain his 2013-2014 form after his brain surgery?

A new can of centrebacks was opened during the Summer of 2014: Yanga-Mbiwa, Manolas and Astori. And they all played quite a lot, over 11 games each. My first thoughts about Astori? ‘Finally a decent Italian centreback since Panucci left.’ I deliberately omitted Romagnoli because he never was consistently in our first team and he was often used as a LB as well. Astori would make us forget about a guy named Loria or the sight of Cassetti slotted in a CB role. The tall Astori (188cm) brought with him years of Serie A experience: in the past five seasons, he was an unquestionably certitude in Cagliari’s defence and featured in 160+ games.

In 11 Serie A games for Roma so far, Davide scored one goal: an über important three-pointer in Udine. He exchanges decent games with some nervous passing or bad anticipations. He doesn’t really look self-assured compared to Castan or Benatia. Davide’s luck? Castan’s absence and the fact that his two main competitors (Yanga and Manolas) right now aren’t the finished products either.

There doesn’t seem to be a hierarchy in Roma anymore. Aldair-Samuel, Benatia-Castan, Mexes-Juan, Juan-Burdisso were the obvious no1 choice on everyone’s paper. Now there is no leader who stands out. Any combination is a possibility: Yanga-Astori, Yanga-Manolas, Manolas-Astori. It’s a toss-up, a matter of subjectivity, while in the past the CB duo was the first one to be written on the chalkboard. And there might be one more CB in the waiting room this month: Vlad Chichires from Tottenham. Yep, another prestito con diritto di riscatto. Who will end up as the fourth or even fifth choice when Castan comes back?

Whatever happens, Davide’s destiny will be settled by June when his loan ends. Will Roma keep him? Will Roma opt for Vlad instead? How much time does Castan need to regain his old form? What about Mapou? And a possible return of Romagnoli? Davide has to take matters in his own hands and learn from Radja, another Cagliari monument who is currently thriving in Rome. Until June he must give 100% every game and ooze more confidence. He must dare to pull the strings of the defence alongside Morgan. Conquer his inner Goliath as a true Davide is supposed to do.

Quite simply: he needs to turn into our next Panucci. After all, Davide joined Roma when he was almost the same age (27) as Panucci (28). Like I said: history is doomed to repeat itself once more.