Earlier today we ran through numbers six through ten in our countdown of Roma's best players in 2018. The top half of the list features a Roman, a former Lazio player, the author of a miracle, and a guy who went for a whole heap of cash this summer.
#5: Kostas Manolas
If Kostas Manolas’ 2018 was summed up in one moment, it would be that goal. I don’t have to say who Roma was playing, I don’t even have to attach a link to the video. If you even barely follow Roma, or Champions League football for that matter, you know what I’m talking about. That goal pushed Roma further into the global football conversation; that goal nearly gave me a heart attack (in a good way); that goal ended Andres Iniesta’s Champions League career on a sour note. If Manolas had only contributed that goal to Roma’s cause in 2018, it’d be a banner year for him.
Of course, that’s not all that Manolas has done in 2018. Despite some selfish moments here and there, the Greek God of Rome has been a crucial part of Roma’s defense, and, along with Aleksandar Kolarov, is one of the main reasons Roma has held together a semblance of a defensive identity. There have been rumors of a Manolas move to Manchester United, Real Madrid, and half a dozen other superclubs; for Kostas’ sake and for Roma’s, I hope he stays put. 2019 will be Manolas’ fifth calendar year plying his wares at the Stadio Olimpico, and I’m certainly grateful for that.
#4: Daniele De Rossi
Oh Captain, My Captain! It may have taken longer than expected for Capitano Futuro to become Capitano Presente thanks to Francesco Totti’s prolonged career. However, once De Rossi took over as captain last season, he seemed to find a renewed energy. A couple seasons ago, De Rossi seemed to be showing signs of aging, and it’s true that he has slowed a bit; at 35 years old, DDR is no spring chicken and is admittedly close to the end. However, if the past couple months have shown us anything, De Rossi still plays a vital role for Roma.
De Rossi still provides the leadership, defensive positioning, ability to dictate play in possession, and of course his trademark grinta in the middle of the park makes him so valuable. Like Dzeko and Alisson, De Rossi was vital in Roma’s Cinderella run to the Champions League semis and even scored a vital penalty kick against Barca. De Rossi rarely scores these days, but he does so much more for the team that doesn’t show up in the numbers. Roma will hope he’s healthy for the rest of the 2018-19 campaign because he has been missed in the middle of the park during his long injury lay off. His presence in big matches might be vital to Roma eliminating Porto in the CL and securing fourth in the league.
#3: Alisson Becker
I mean, where to begin? It may be hard to believe, but the sum total of Alisson’s Roma career was a mere 59 appearances spread across two seasons, but he loomed so large in 49 of those (his 2017-2018 total) that his legend sort of exceeded the reality. Between his outrageous charges off the line to his why-the-hell-is-he-even-a-keeper dribbles, and of course his stellar saves, it seemed like Alisson was half man/half amazing, but there was substance, a lot of it, underneath that flash. By some estimates, the Brazilian Don Draper earned and/or saved Roma 13 points last season, which, even if its exaggerated by a couple percentage points, is astounding. Any way you slice it, Alisson’s heroics papered over a lot of cracks in Roma’s backline.
I purposefully limited this exercise to only a couple paragraphs per player, but Alisson’s 2018 almost defied expectations any way, so language limits are useless. Alisson Becker finished his Roma career as arguably the best keeper in the world and Roma’s first true global superstar since Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi were in their primes. And while Robin Olsen has fared well in his place, that level of excitement, that feeling of “how the hell did he do that?” can never be replicated. I also feel this is an appropriate time to tell you how much I hate Liverpool.
#2: Aleksandar Kolarov
If you were a bit skeptical when Roma signed Kolarov during the summer of 2017, you had good reason. Not only was Kolarov a 32-year-old Manchester City cast off, he was a former Lazio player, which never goes over well with Roma’s, shall we say, most ardent supporters. Nevertheless, Roma had literally no better options at left back, so they rolled the dice hoping a return to Serie A would rejuvenate the Serbian defender, and here we are some 70 appearances later and that Maicon-esque bet has paid off.
During his debut season with Roma, Kolarov was a revelation, providing the kind of play at left back we haven’t seen since John Arne Riise’s brief spell in the capital. Kolarov totaled three goals and eleven assists in all competitions last season and has followed that up with four goals and three assists to close out 2018. Point of interest, he's only the second player to score for both Lazio and Roma in the Derby della Capitale.
Roma seem intent on wearing the tread off his tires, and indeed he’s had his share of subsequent peaks and valleys, but he remains an integral part of EDF’s setup and on his best day is still one of the league’s better fullbacks. Luca Pellegrini still needs a bit of seasoning, so don't be surprised if Kolarov extends his stay with Roma.
Roma's Top Player of 2018: Edin Dzeko
If you were to only go off recent memory (the first half of the 2018-19 Serie A campaign) you’d probably think we were crazy choosing Dzeko as Roma’s top player of 2018. However, the big Bosnian more than proved his worth over the course of the calendar year. This was especially true when taking into consideration Roma’s biggest matches in the Champions League. To begin, Dzeko scored five goals in Roma’s six Champions League knockout stage matches last season and has continued that form this season with five goals in four group stage matches. Dzeko was also Roma’s leading goalscorer in Serie A last season with 16, including 8 of them after New Year’s 2018.
Approaching 33 years of age, Dzeko will probably never have another season like 2016-17 when he was Serie A’s capocannoniere with 29 league goals. However, he’s still a very productive striker despite his slow start to the 2018-19 league campaign (2 goals). His 20 goals on the calendar year is nothing to scoff at and his contributions in the Champions League were decisive in helping Roma on its miracle semifinal run. That alone makes it hard to find a better performer for Roma in 2018.
So there you have it, our top ten players of 2018 list is in the books. Who will take the cake in 2019?