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Totti Today #42: I love you, Mapou

Of all players, he was the least expected to be the derby hero. One of Roma’s most controversial players this season probably scored Roma’s most important goal in 2014-2015. The king of Rome is not dead, and so is his African prince in crime.

Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Ok, maybe I exaggerated about that whole prince part. Yanga-Mbiwa suddenly isn’t a top defender like Pique, Ivanovic or Thiago Silva. But boy did he had a great timing to score his first for Roma, and his first league goal since 2011 (at Montpellier, too lazy to look up which game exactly against Caen on October 22). A goal worth 50 millions according to some football sites. A goal worth two Iturbes, three Strootmen, nine Castans and a toe nail from Totti. Take a bow people.

Although the stakes were insanely high and this was one of the most important derbies since the new millennium, the display from both Roman teams was actually pretty weak. Stress, stress and even more stress. We expected Iturbe’s goal to decide the game, but Lazio managed to score almost immediately after that 0-1. Classic/vintage/100% AS Roma, yet every time we still react surprised in front of our screens. Stop doing it and embrace Roma’s stupidity will ya?

I didn’t expect Iturbe to score in such a high-profile game (it was after all only his second goal for Roma in Serie A in 25 appearances), but I surely didn’t dare to dream of a last minute Yanga-Mbiwa header from a free kick (!). That’s like winning Euromillions eight times in one week while getting Emma Stone’s phone number on a piece of paper dangling in the wind . No one could have foreseen this. Well, maybe Dhawstradamus…

The second best thing of Monday apart from securing top 2? Leaving Lazio with a do or die situation in Napoli for third place. A Napoli win will see the Laziale drop to fourth spot, joy oh joy. Roma now reached the mark of 70 points, which is still a far cry from last season’s tally but when comparing the quality of play, it’s a miracle they even amassed so many points along the road (especially since December). Believe it or not, Roma are now officially vice-champions although Juve is 16 points ahead so take the word ‘vice-champions’ with a grain of salt if you’d like. The difference between Juve and the rest of Serie A is a gap that looks impossible to bridge after just one Summer. Hell, Juventus even to this day has CL worries and they rarely dropped a point in Italy. Kudos to them but in the end the tifosi in Rome expected a more exciting title race than this.

So say hello to Champions League, say hello to green dollar signs, say hello to that lovely Champions League tune. No qualifiers against some Slovenian or Ukranian team. Walter must love this. More preparation time, more room for manoeuvres during the mercato. One thing’s certain: another mediocre mercato like last season and Roma won’t repeat its trick from 2014-2015. Inter, Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina are all wounded animals waiting to make a Scudetto push sooner or later. But we can worry about financial things later, in June perhaps. For now, let’s celebrate!

And what a better way to celebrate than a home game on matchday 38, against a team that would rather skip this match and fast forward to the Holidays. I’m predicting it now: if Rudi doesn’t use Ucan, Paredes, Sanabria, Pellegrini or Verde against Palermo, then I’m going slightly mad (love Queen). If that’s the case, the suits should really ponder about the Frenchman’s future in Rome, second place or not. The honeymoon period is over and if we’re honest, Rudi has disappointed us more than he surprised us. Where were the smart subs, spot on lineups or memorable press conferences?

Of course Rudi’s heritage in Rome doesn’t look too shabby: two seasons in charge, two second places, quite a lot of fond memories. Only a couple of weeks on third place. Very few trainers can brag with those stats. And yet, 2014-2015 somehow felt like a step down, how strange as it may sound. It was (is) a long, tough and intense season for all of us. Especially for the players and Garcia himself. It definitively made an impact on the team and its entourage, but I reckon James and co will give Rudi one more chance in 2015-2016. After all, Rome wasn’t build in a day.

Next week I’ll do a review of the performances of each and every player but first, one more opportunity to please the crowd on Sunday. And then we can finally wave goodbye to 2014-2015. A season which started bright, then became plain boring, slightly turned into a nightmare but ended with a bang after all.

Who said only fairytales have a happy ending?