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A Mutual Friend

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JonAS delves deep into Roma’s past, with a transfer file from exactly ten years ago

Parma FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Throughout the years Roma has been linked to dozens of players. Some of them sadly joined Roma (Adriano, Wilhelmsson, Goicoechea, Doumbia), some of them luckily joined Roma (Radja, Toni, Salah, Marquinhos to name a few). Then there’s the third category: The players who never joined the Giallorossi but were hot prospects back in the day or just a pipe dream.

On top of my head I can remember stories/rumors that AS Roma once was close to the likes of Lewandowski and Chiellini, while only last summer Roma missed out on Ajax starlet Ziyech and Brazilian wonder kid Malcolm, and 2017 will always be the year in which Leicester wizard Mahrez was a hot topic every week from July until August.

Let me wind back the clock exactly ten years. At Fiorentina a certain Romanian prodigy wearing no. 10 was on fire. Alongside Jovetic and Gilardino and under the guidance of Prandelli, he was one of Serie A’s finest footballers. I’m talking about Adrian Mutu.

While he had already more than decent spells at Parma, Chelsea and Juve, it was in Fiorentina where he excelled. Striker, trequartista, winger,.. Adrian could literally play anywhere up front and still deliver the goods. He was quick, could dribble and take set pieces and penalties. You name it, Adrian did it, with style.

Ten years ago, Roma made an offer in the Summer for the then 29-year-old Romanian. But unfortunately for Roma, Adrian decided to stay at Florence. It was close however. After Totti retired, Mutu shared a story in which he said Francesco personally called him back in 2008 to convince him to join AS Roma. According to Mutu, Totti wanted to take a pay cut of € 1m so Roma could fund Mutu’s transfer. It was a win-win situation. Totti wanted Mutu at Roma to form a formidable partnership up front, while Mutu always wanted to play alongside his idol Totti. A match made in heaven.

Or maybe not… Eventually Mutu’s love for Fiorentina, the city and its fanbase and his coach Prandelli was stronger thus he stayed, prolonging his contract until 2012.

Perhaps that was one of the most sad days as a Roma fan. It could have been a key moment for the club. Back then Roma had an amazing team ready to fight for the Scudetto. After three second place finishes in a row, it was finally time for a serious Scudetto push. Panucci, Riise, Mexes, Juan, Pizarro, Taddei, Vucinic, Brighi, Perrotta, Menez, Montella, a peak DDR and last but not least Totti himself. Almost a dream team.

Almost.

Totti knew there was one key part missing. A vital cog for Spalletti’s war machine. Mutu was the answer. That’s why France was ready to donate his own salary to fund Mutu’s transfer. Because he damn knew Mutu was needed to beat Mourinho’s Inter. We’ll never know for sure if Francesco was right, but I’m fairly positive that was the case. Francesco knew what he was doing.

Alas, Mutu didn’t join Roma while Spalletti guided Roma to a disappointing sixth place in Serie A. From title contender to narrowly reaching a European ticket. Or how one transfer file doomed Roma for an entire season. Mutu’s Fiorentina ended fourth, five points ahead of Roma and playing the CL qualifiers.

Mutu scored 13 Serie A goals in just 19 games that season while Totti was Roma’s top scorer with… 13 goals. Roma had a lot of different goal scorers but we were missing a true striker like Batistuta, Montella in his prime or Toni. Baptista had nine goals, Perrotta five. Not bad numbers but not enough to scare Inter. Montella even ended his season without a single goal.

Image if Adrian said yes. Imagine a 4-2-3-1 formation with Perrotta, Totti, Vucinic and Mutu all switching positions up front, causing mayhem to all teams in Italy and Europe. Taddei, Baptista and Menez ready to come off the bench. It could have led to a fourth Scudetto. Perhaps it was just to beautiful to be true, this was even out of Totti’s league.

Of all transfer rumors and legends, maybe this one has hurt Roma the most. It’s scar still visible, his name still as notorious as Voldemort, especially for the older fans.

Adrian and Roma. Never a marriage, but they did had one ‘Mutual’ friend: Francesco.