First off, there’s a reason why I used a Star Wars reference in my title. I like the movies of course, but A New Hope, the very first Star Wars movie in 1977, is considered the most important one of all those stories. The key to it all. The vital cog of a machine that clicks. The one that links all previous and future movies. In short: There would be no Star Wars saga without A New Hope. And that title, damn, that’s spot on.
Which leads us to Roma. A Roma that baffled Europe and perhaps the entire world on Tuesday. The Giallorossi eliminated Barcelona from the Champions League and made history. It will be hailed as one of the greatest comebacks in the Champions League ever. Di Francesco’s 3-4-1-2 approach was masterclass as Roma absolutely dominated the game from start to finish. Not against Qarabag or Crotone. No, they did it against Messi’s FC Barcelona.
They didn’t exactly ‘deserve’ the harsh defeat from the first leg, so you can say AS Roma earned it more than Barcelona over the course of two games. Let that sink in for a moment. Roma deservedly advance to the semi-final, not Barcelona. If I told you that in September or even 3 days ago, you would lock me up in a holding cell somewhere far away with only a pair of porn DVDs, a headphone and a CD of Eminem’s Greatest Hits on repeat.
The game itself was nice, but the atmosphere, the parties, celebrations, internet memes and viral videos in and around Rome really prove what we just witnessed: A miracle. A God damn miracle. Fans singing in the middle of the night in the streets, a locker room that went out of its mind, even a president who jumps into a fountain... It sure was a crazy night in the capital.
Yet I feel like I still don’t fully understand or realize what happened. Roma advanced to the semi-final of the Champions League for the first time. It was 34 years ago when they reached this stage in a European competition (they lost the final against Liverpool). But this, this is something else entirely. The Champions League, a club of powerful and rich football teams. Teams who brag with the most expensive players on earth. PSG with Neymar, Barcelona with Messi, City with De Bruyne, Juventus with Buffon, Tottenham with Kane, Chelsea with Hazard, Manchester with Pogba... All have failed.
Instead, Roma, with guys like Florenzi, Jesus and Schick, did the impossible and succeeded. Eusebio and his players deserve every credit they got from the papers and online world. It was a great team effort and everyone was on point, from the keeper to the forwards. So far during this campaign Roma didn’t concede a single goal at home and it beat/eliminated the likes of Chelsea, Barcelona, Atletico and Shaktar. Wow. Just wow.
It’s a bit presumptuous to state this season is already a success. Yes, the CL is a huuuuuge success right now, but Serie A and Coppa Italia have been letdowns so far. And a derby loss next weekend could even see Roma drop to fifth place. Financially 2017-2018 is already hit for Pallotta and co with another 2 extra games coming up in Europe’s biggest and baddest football competition. (Social) media hype, TV rights, stadium attendance, prestige... Dollar signs are everywhere!
Time to get back to my title. A new hope. Because Di Francesco’s change to a 3-4-1-2 and following win against one of Europe’s mightiest teams, did exactly that. It offers us a new hope. Hope that is a turning point in Roma’s history. Hope that we can raise the bar once again with a new formation and style, just like Spalletti did in 2005. Hope that this victory starts a new grand era for Roma. We have been waiting long enough now.
An era in which we can, some day, win the Scudetto. Or Scudetti. Or hell, why not dream even bigger? A Champions League. The first Italian team to do so since Inter in 2010. And why not sooner than celebrating a Scudetto? Real, Bayern or Liverpool are not better or more intimidating than Barcelona. If Manolas, Dzeko, De Rossi and co are capable of doing such a turnaround, then.... You get the picture.
However, the road is still long. All we have is this new hope. But sometimes hope is all we need.