The black panther. The black gazelle. The cheetah. Or if you don't like animal nicknames: "Predator". Although that last one isn't really a compliment, is it? Judging from the 1987's action movie, starring the Austrian Oak, Ahnold Schwarzenegger. Yet Predator is perhaps the most fitting nickname for Yao since his arrival. Fast, agile, a force of nature, an athlete pur sang. A quick move here and there, blink and he's gone. Unfortunately for Gervinho, football isn't exactly the Olympic Games...
You see, when sprinting for a medal you only have to go from point A to point B as fast as you can. A piece of cake for someone like Yao. But, a very big but, in football, it doesn't work that way. What matters more is timing, direction and most of all brains. In a league like Serie A you usually don't get a lot of space. You need to move smart, time your actions and interceptions. Too bad Yao is (was) a one-dimensional player, too one-dimensional for Italy.
He took Serie A by storm in his first season. 9 goals in 33 games and a lot of praise from the public and press. Rudi's 4-3-3 was made for a player with his style. Serie A had never seen such a player before, that's why his first season was branded a succes. But after 13-14, it all collapsed like a house of cards. Defences in Italy had outsmarted Rudi, Yao and their tricks. Simply put, Yao was the ideal one-trick pony. Very fun to watch when he was unleashed but it quickly became boring after that.
He was lucky he had Garcia at the helm, so his stay in the Eternal City lasted a lot longer than some of us expected back when he signed for the Giallorossi. Two and a half seasons in total, over 70 games. Gervinho has played more games for Roma than for Lille, Arsenal or Beveren. Still, the pressure on him got too big near the end of his Roman career. People started to focus more and more on his shortcomings. 'Frustration' was the key word here. Too gready, poor decision-making, not a great shot, inconsistent,... And then there was the firing of his one and only fan in Rome, Rudi Garcia. Surely that was the nail on the coffin. Figuratively speaking of course.
Ironically, even the most controversial or criticized players in Rome still left their mark. For example, yes we laughed at Pit and his transfer. But who doesn't remember his brilliant assist to Okaka in that vital 2-1 win against Siena? Or Loria. He was considered a flop, a big one. But do not forget he scored 3 goals in 15 games for us, including one against Juventus of all teams. Cassano became a poison in the locker room, an unwanted presence yet we all remember the beautiful interaction with Totti and some of those wonder goals from Peter Pan. Alexander Doni wasn't exactly a world beater, far from it. Yet he won 2 Coppe and a Supercoppa. JSB was perhaps an as big one-trick pony than Yao. Who could forget that magical 09-10 season under Spalletti and his penalty save against Lazio?
Adriano became the laughing stock of Rome. For instance, remember him playing LW for one moment? Or the hair of Abel Xavier? Still, the fact that I'm here right now, many years after they left, still talking and writing about them... That means they all left a message to the fans. And there are more names that I'm omitting here. Simplicio (heavily built), Curci (the eternal talent), Cicinho (his goal against Genoa), Osvaldo, Lobont (plays very little yet is very popular in Church, who knows why), Goicoechea (the blooper against Cagliari that resulted in the firing of Zeman),... The list goes on.
They all tell the same story over and over again: 'We're special'. God damn indeed, they were a special bunch of people. Loved one day, hated and despised the very next day. Recently, Roma saluted perhaps the most controversial of them all: Gervinho. And although Stephan, his replacement, immediatly scored on his debut, we won't forget the Predator that easily.
Goodbye Yao, the best damn sprinter this club has ever witnessed.