Luca Chierico won’t make any headlines outside of Rome this week, but he’s second-generation Roman—son of 1983 Scudetto winner Odoacre Chierico—called up to the Europa League squad this week, and that was enough to get us digging into the history books.
Surprisingly, first and still-so-far-only family where all members represented Roma at senior level are the Contis, while Wikipedia also tells us that there have only ever been 510 second (and third)-generation professional footballers to grace the sport in its entire history. Given how much of a bubble football is, that number strikes us as surprisingly low.
So, to make a full course meal of this journey into Roma past, present and future, we included not just the Contis but the nearly, the missed, and the odd connections between Roma generations.
Bruno Conti and Sons: The Only Roma Dynasty So Far
Does Bruno Conti need any introduction? His peak came about before I was born and I never saw him play live, but anyone can stick in a tape of his man-of-the-match performance in the 1982 World Cup final to see the magic Conti brought to the table.
His key role in Italy’s World Cup victory meant Conti became the first ever Roma player to finish in the final 5 runners for the Ballon d’Or; only Francesco Totti has since equaled that feat. In fact, almost everything Totti has achieved with club and country is what Conti achieved first. There’s been speculation over whether Lorenzo Pellegrini should be the heir to Roma’s number 10 shirt, but wearing the number 7 that Conti wore won’t be lost on Lorenzo.
The Roma #7 followed up his brilliant summer of ‘82 with a victorious ‘82-’83 Serie A title for Roma, and then a 1984 European Cup final in Rome. Eventually calling a day on his playing career in 1991, Conti has not left Rome since.
He has served the club as scout, youth coach, director and even caretaker manager of the first team at times. Bruno Conti’s time in Rome amounts to a near thirty years of uninterrupted service to the club in his post-playing days, and nearly sixty years (with only a couple of loan spells at Genoa in between) of his life spent with A.S. Roma. Not to mention, the number of youth players Conti has unearthed for Roma deserves a feature article alone. No pressure on sons Andrea and Daniele, then.
Both younger Contis would wear the Giallorosso shirt in Roma’s 1996-97 campaign, but the weight of Bruno’s legacy seemed too much for elder brother Andrea. The younger Daniele wasn’t ecstatic about his own time in Rome either, and later confessed he supported Roma as a kid more for the colours of their kits than the actual city itself.
Daniele would move to Cagliari before the turn of the millennium, and that was all she wrote. He was asked whether his choice of the number 5 shirt down on the island was a homage to Roberto Falcao, but Daniele said there was no connection and he just wanted to avoid wearing number 7. He forged his own legend over in Sardegna through 15 years of first-team football and captaincy of Cagliari, then eventually becoming a director for the Isolati and watching over his own son, Bruno Conti Jr., wearing the armband and scoring goals for Cagliari Primavera this very season.
If the third-generation Conti continues his trajectory to an eventual Serie A debut for the current high-flying Cagliari, how long will it be before Bruno Conti Jr. is linked with a transfer to the Italian capital?
Odoacre and Luca Chierico: The Next Connection?
If there’s any criticism to be made of Roma’s glory years of the eighties, it’s that Nils Liedholm’s insistence of defending by holding onto the ball was sometimes dead boring. We’re talking early-Guardiola-tiki-taka kind of boring, in the way it was used as a weapon to lull opponents to sleep. For that, Liedholm loved understated players like Odoacre Chierico.
Sure, you’ll find Roma-born Chierico listed as a winger for his hometown club, but he spent most of his Giallorossi career as a relief man off the bench for Bruno Conti. Where Conti was all daring and invention in attack, Chierico was a hard-working defensive winger to shut up shop for Roma. Even in the few games Chierico started off the shoulder of striker Pruzzo, it was Chierico’s hunger to track back that meant he played like more of a defender for large stretches of his time in the capital.
Liedholm insisted Roma sign Chierico from Pisa in 1981 (he was neither a youth player nor a trainee for Roma before being signed professionally to the club), but even Roma’s coach knew he had to gamble more with his attack to push up the table as time went on. And so Chierico’s gametime decreased with each season gone by.
That didn’t discourage Chierico from scoring the early fifth-minute opener in Roma’s 2-1 victory over Juventus during the Scudetto season, nor following that up with a last-gasp assist for Pruzzo in a 2-2 draw to Juventus the following season (video above).
Chierico felt close enough to the club that he would return as a youth coach this decade, though he would take the decision to step aside from his role recently, to sidestep any accusations of nepotism as son Luca comes through the ranks (Alberto De Rossi took a similar decision when son Daniele was coming through the Roma youth system).
What’s in the way of son Luca becoming the next player in the family to represent Roma at senior level? Well, injuries for one. Back-to-back shoulder surgeries have held Chierico back from consistent football, along with a string of other minor injuries.
He belongs to the same class of 2001 as Alessio Riccardi and Daniele Maldini in the current Italy U-19 team, and Chierico has been hailed as the defensive midfielder to balance out Riccardi and Maldini’s attacking instincts further ahead. If Riccardi is to be the Zidane, then Chierico is fancied as the Makelele of this group, but he needs to stay injury-free.
Alberto and Daniele De Rossi: Trigoria Abound
If we’re brief on these two here, it’s only because we’ve written about Alberto and Daniele in more detail recently. Both men’s service to the club is well-known today. Alberto never turned out in a senior shirt for Roma, but he’s covered every blade of glass at Trigoria at either end of his career, with a senior playing career at the lower levels of Italian football sandwiched between.
Daniele De Rossi is a former Roma captain, and the emotional and spiritual fulcrum of the Roma dressing room for 15 years. DDR has now moved on for a brief spell in Argentina with Boca Juniors before (hopefully) returning to Rome for his post-playing career at some point.
Angelo and Lorenzo Di Livio: Trigoria Abound - Part 2
Another father-son connection where only the son got to turn out at Serie A level for Roma, while the father remained a Roma trainee. But you have to ask yourself - like with Angelo Peruzzi in the same era - what were Roma thinking letting Angelo Di Livio go?
When I was a kid watching Serie A for the first time, Di Livio was already playing at Juventus before he later moved to Fiorentina. At both clubs, I remember him being annoyingly good.
He may have earned a reputation for being a wide man that could run the ball up and down the flank all day, but the Di Livio I remember was just as capable of stopping on a dime and cutting inside the field to hit some defence-splitting passes. I had no idea, until this decade listening to Roma radio and Di Livio’s frequent appearances on the airwaves, that he was a Roman-born trainee with the club.
Choosing to keep his Roma ties warm, Di Livio put his son Lorenzo through the youth ranks at Trigoria until LDL made an appearance for Roma under Rudi Garcia in early 2016. But Garcia giving senior debuts to teenagers like Di Livio, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Tumminello, Soleri and Sadiq should have been recognised as the cry for help that it was that January.
Mentally haunted by a mammoth-scoreline defeat to Bayern in the Champions League the season prior, Garcia then led Roma to a further 6-1 drubbing away to Barcelona in the winter of 2015. By the time of Di Livio’s senior debut, Garcia (who remains a Roma legend in my eyes no matter what) clearly felt he was unable to get signs of life out of his senior squad. The French-Spanish coach would be fired in the very same month he fielded Di Livio in Serie A, and Di Livio himself was never seen at senior level for Roma again.
That being said, Lorenzo can lay claim to one thing his father never achieved: he played at top level for the family’s hometown club.
Fabio and Carlo Cudicini: The One That Should Have Been
Back in the fifties, football preferred her wingers to be tall - a polar opposite of today’s game. So 191-cm-tall Fabio Cudicini was a shoe-in to play wide, but soon decided he preferred playing in goal more than anything. The indecision throughout Cudicini’s early years kept him on the bench at Udinese, before being snapped up by Roma as the club’s second keeper. It was a wonder that Cudicini’s football career even started at all, being in love with tennis as a teenager. In Cudicini’s own words: “I tried every single sport except football before I got around to playing it.”
It took a while for Cudicini to earn favour in Rome after his move but, when he finally did wear the number 1 jersey a couple of years into his stay, he never looked back. Cudicini only ever gained motivation and traction through his own playing career, and his achievements with Roma are nothing at which to turn your nose up: Cudicini won a Fairs Cup and Coppa Italia with Roma and even collected Serie A’s Goalkeeper of the Year award in the ‘61/’62 season with Roma.
Nevertheless, Roma’s many gambles on the transfer market came home to roost by the middle of that decade. The capital club took leave of their senses and let Cudicini go to Brescia after 8 seasons and 207 appearances with Roma.
With his career looking like it was winding down in the same stuttering manner which is once began, Cudicini eventually slotted into the Brescia first team in time to save them from relegation. AC Milan saw enough out of Cudicini to bring him up North the following year, with the Rossoneri recognising the Italian keeper was from done and giving him the most successful years of his career.
Perhaps that’s why son Carlo would eventually enter Milan’s youth ranks and never wind up signing for Roma, despite firm interest from the club at several different points in Carlo Cudicini’s own career. Carlo wasn’t born in time to see his father’s greatest years up North, but he would have been well aware that Milan were the club where father Fabio conquered an Italian league title, Intercontinental cup and European Cup. Fabio had won it all, and all Carlo wanted to do was break into the senior Rossoneri ranks like his dad.
That never happened. The closest Carlo got to playing in Rome was one solitary Serie A outing under Zdenek Zeman at Lazio against Cagliari. In that game, the younger Cudicini subbed in for red-carded Luca Marchegiani. Then Cudicini himself picked up an Achilles’ heel injury when Zeman had already spent his three substitutions. Cudicini simply had to grin and bear the pain on the way to a hard-fought Lazio victory on the evening.
“To this day Lazio fans still stop me at the airport and remember that game,” said Cudicini years later.
Cudicini recovered from that injury to play in the Italian lower leagues, until Marchegiani himself did Carlo a solid and recommended him to then-Chelsea coach Gianluca Vialli. Cudicini’s move to London followed and the rest was history.
During his spell at two London clubs, Roma showed interest in signing the younger Cudicini on occasion. The closest it came to happening was in 2002 when Fabio Capello sought to use their shared Milan history to bring Cudicini to Rome; Capello had already done similar when bringing former Milan trainee goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli to share in Roma’s 2001 title success. But Cudicini openly stated his preference was to remain with Chelsea at the time.
Years later, Cudicini’s spell at Chelsea was clearly at an end thanks to Petr Cech, and Roma had just sent Doni packing to Liverpool. That was the moment the Cudicini reunion really should have happened on the right side of Rome. It’s not as if Roma have a history of swimming in solid goalkeepers, and Cudicini was a more than solid transfer option by that time.
His family history counts a Roma double-centurion among its ranks, but Italian football history will remember Carlo Cudicini as a Lazio cult hero instead.
Roberto and Christian Vieri: Another That Should Have Been
Before Bobo, there was Bob.
Both Vieris were journeymen, and the elder Bob Vieri joined Roma at a time when the club’s livelihood was looking like backs-to-the-wall stuff. We mentioned the overspending Roma had done in the previous decade, and by the turn of the seventies the Giallorossi were shipping out their best youth prospects to Juventus just to stop Roma from folding.
In return, Roma’s squad took on board neither-here-nor-there players like Roberto Vieri. Vieri’s time in a Roma shirt did collect silverware, so we can’t be flippant about him. But he didn’t tear up the same kind of scoring records that son Christian would go onto claim. Neither man has a particularly emotional tie to Roma, but I still can’t believe Christian Vieri never wound up counting Roma among the many clubs Bobo did play for.
The younger Vieri even played for Lazio, in a mega-move on one fine August day where the Biancocelesti completely upstaged Roma’s opening day presentation for the 1998/99 season. We previously covered how Roma fans were livid at Franco Sensi’s failure to sign Vieri, while Sensi himself tried to pass on the blame to then-Roma coach Zdenek Zeman:
“If Vieri was on the market, he’d be a Roma player by now,” retorted Sensi whenever the press asked him if Roma was the club to bring the Italian striker back to the peninsula from Madrid. But Sensi was forced to eat his words when Vieri joined Cragnotti’s party in August 1998, on the very same day Roma unveiled their 1998/99 squad at the Olimpico. There was arguably no bigger way to publicly gloat over your neighbours than what Cragnotti pulled off on that August day, save for the Lazio title win just two years later.
Sensi’s response was to try and throw his own coach - at the time Zdenek Zeman (in his first Roma spell in charge) - under the bus: “Zeman told me Vieri wasn’t the striker for his kind of football.”
Zeman, firmly unimpressed and never one willing to take the fall for the team over his own principles, simply fired back in public: “I would have taken Vieri on my team anyday. He’s one of the best players in the world.”
Bobo was like the hot and fast chick that let every one of your friends get to third base except you. And you never found out or even thought to ask why, until it was too late and no longer mattered.
Flavio and Mattia Destro: Olimpico Memories
Together at Ascoli, but never together at Roma, the Destros came alive in the Olimpico penalty box in very different ways. Father Flavio has no professional connection to Roma throughout his career, but he was a constant thorn in the Giallorossi sides of the mid-to-late 1980s. Because if there’s one thing Roma love doing throughout their club history, it’s throwing away costly points against the underdog.
The 1980s Ascoli sides proved to be a real bogey-team for Roma, with Flavio Destro consistently at the heart of the Ascoli defence. Countless 1-1 draws were handed out between these two clubs. Even when Ascoli’s Serie A run of that decade finally came to an end, with a rock-bottom finish and relegation in 1990, Roma were one of only three clubs (along with Verona and Bari) that failed to defeat Ascoli in that 1989-90 season.
That is classic Roma, who must have been glad to see the back of the Bianconeri by then. One of the few blips in little sequence of results was a lobsided 3-0 win by Roma at home, hosting Ascoli at the Olimpico in the 1987/88 season.
In that game, Destro had a nightmare as his handball gifted Roma their penalty opener, while his slide tackle (even though not the original foul that the referee blew for at the time) guaranteed Roma their second penalty and goal of the day. Well over 20 years later, Mattia Destro would live out his own highs and lows at the Stadio Olimpico.
Near-impossible hopes and expectations came with the high sum Roma had promised to pay Siena for Mattia Destro at the time. Except for one brief spell in the spring of 2014, Destro junior never managed to light up the scene at Roma for very long. He left this place as a lot of people’s fan-favourite, but that was more for the flag celebrations than anything footballing-wise.
His refusal to attack the near post for what would have been easy tap-in goals always got on my last nerve, and the many pies he ate off the field eventually caught up with him. In fact, his most memorable celebration of a 50-yard half-volley goal for Roma looked like Mattia was threatening to eat Rudi Garcia if he didn’t start playing Destro more often. Garcia never did.
Patrick and Justin Kluivert: New Ground
In his solitary season of Italian football at Milan, we know that Patrick Kluivert didn’t do great. Though, as a Newcastle fan myself, I can tell you that Milan spell was not the moment you had to see Patrick Kluivert play like a shell of himself.
Before Milan, Patrick had already achieved a ton in the game before he was even done being a teenager. Still only turning 21 years old by the time he moved to Italy, people thought Kluivert’s Milan troubles were a sign success had gotten to Patrick too young, but he moved onto Barcelona and put those notions firmly to bed.
Today, his son Justin has only just called time on his own teenage years while plying his trade for Roma. Unlike Patrick, Justin has been given time to settle in. He’s now looking more and more like he owns Roma’s left wing berth through a combination of surreal defensive work-rate and rediscovered confidence for deadly finishes in the box.
While Patrick himself never played for Roma, we include this connection because Sky Italia claimed this is the first foreign father-son combination to have both played in Serie A. I didn’t have time to fact-check that claim, and it still seems unbelievable to me.
But if true, then be proud of it as a Roma fan.
Bartolomeo and Massimo Tarantino: Silent Hands
Near the end of our list now, and here’s one that never was... on either end.
Bartolomeo Tarantino was a non-descript full-back signed out of nowhere by Roma in the sixties; think of it in the same vein as Sabatini signing Spolli or Gyomber. It was straight out of left field, and Tarantino would never know what it was like to play for Roma on the field; he never made a single appearance.
And yet his son Massimo Tarantino - also never having played (or even signed) for Roma - still left a huge mark on the club’s grassroots in this decade. Tarantino was reponsible for putting together Roma Women’s blockbuster summer 2019 transfer campaign. That would be service enough in itself, but the body of Tarantino’s work - alongside Bruno Conti for the last six years - was done building Roma’s entire youth sector to the best shape the club has ever seen.
Tarantino has since resigned from the club this past September.
Francesco and Cristian Totti: A Sure Bet?
God may have left Rome in a bit of a huff this past summer, but that doesn’t mean his family ties with the club stop dead in their tracks.
Francesco Totti has remained lukewarm on his son’s chances of making it as a professional footballer and his only public advice for Cristian has been not to force it, and to see his path as separate from that of his father’s own career, which is naturally healthy and sane advice from any parent to their child.
But that hasn’t stopped Cristian Totti from captaining the Roma U-15 side against Crotone earlier this season, and you could have gotten 3/1 odds with the bookies as early as back in May 2017 on Cristian making his senior Roma debut by the end of the 2022/23 season. No one’s banking on Cristian becoming a polo player or a dentist anytime soon.