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The Year Mattia Destro Dominated the Coppa Italia

The 2013 Coppa Italia Final still stings, but Roma wouldn't have even made it that far without Mr. Right.

FC Internazionale Milano v AS Roma - TIM Cup Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi are woven so tightly into everything that makes Roma so special—the pride, the passion and the romanticism—that you really have no choice but to adore, to idolize, and to love them. It's not a decision, it's practically natural law, so you don't question it, you just enjoy it; they are Roma after all. But I'd be willing to be we all have that one player for whom our love is completely irrational; maybe they're erratic on the pitch, combustible off of it, or simply not that good, but you just can't help but defend these guys to the death.

Despite those flaws there was something that drew you in. Perhaps they had one go-to move you tried to emulate in your yard, or maybe they simply made that one play that saved Roma's ass, but whatever it was, they became your guy, and the fact that only you loved them sort of distorted the actual reality.

For me that guy was Mattia Destro. You may even remember the time I said Roma would be foolish to EVER sell him. I'm still not sure why I fell so madly in love with Mr. Right, though the shroud of mystery that enveloped him prior to arriving in Roma during the 2012 season definitely played a role. First he was an Inter youth hotshot, then he was with Siena but sort of with Genoa, so Roma had to navigate a three-way transfer, and the will he or won't he nature of those negotiations gave him this almost mythical status—he was the number nine Totti never had the fortune of playing with, so in a sense, he seemed like the final piece of the puzzle, and the constant delays in that transfer only served to inflate the Destro hype.

And outside of his absolute fire second half of the 2013-2014 season, Destro was, at best, just an average striker, but—and this has nothing to do with the article itself, I just can't help myself—look at his numbers from the spring of 2014 (taken from the piece linked above):

Destro’s 13 goals came in only 1,230 minutes, good for an astounding 0.95 goals per 90 minutes, which tied him with Giuseppe Rossi for the league lead and was fifth across the five major European leagues, putting this duo ahead of titans like Luis Suarez, Zlatan, Diego Costa and Mario Mandzukic, among others, while they trailed only Alvaro Marota, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi...

Destro’s 13 goals came on only 35 shots, for an absurd conversion rate of 37%, while he put 63% of all his shots on target. These are remarkable numbers when you consider how little of the ball he actually saw this past season; he ranked 44th in total shot attempts, some 120 attempts behind Mario Balotelli, who grabbed only one more goal than Destro. With such a low usage rate, his accuracy and efficiency look even more astonishing.

I still have no idea what the hell happened, but I'm not here to talk about the end of Destro's career. With Roma's annual Coppa Italia quest set to kick off in a week, it got me thinking about some of their great Coppa moments in recent memory (an oxymoron, yes, I know), and Destro's incredible run through the 2013 season sprang immediately to mind.

At that point, Mr. Right hadn't yet reached his 2014 peak, but he had a solid enough season in 2012-2013, registering six league goals in roughly 1,100 minutes. It was a promising return for a young player making the leap to a bigger club, but the Coppa Italia gave Destro the chance to truly shine.

In five appearances in the 2013 Coppa Italia, Destro bagged five of Roma's nine goals, including the match winner in the quarterfinals against Fiorentina, while he practically sent Inter Milan home single handedly, scoring three goals in the Giallorossi's 5-3 aggregate victory in the semi-finals. While Roma ultimately lost the final to Lazio that year, it's not a stretch to say they wouldn’t even have been within sniffing distance were it not for Destro. In fact, the only match in which Roma did not score (the final) was the only match Roma didn't win.

The Coppa Italia is essentially a meaningless tournament, but it lit the Destro flame within me that still burns to this day, so each year when Roma starts their Coppa Quest anew, I can't help but get misty eyed thinking of my Mr. Right. Between his run in this tournament and his goal scoring binge the following spring, it seemed like Destro was destined to rewrite Roma history, and while it wasn't meant to be, Destro still brings a smile to my face.

And yes, I'd still take him back.