If you've ever sat across the table from a prospective employer and been asked the standard “where do you see yourself in five years?” question, you know how foolhardy it can be to predict where life will take you over the course of five years. Careers, personal lives and even companies themselves can take wild, unpredictable swings over a half decade, so I always found this question patently absurd and utterly pointless.
While I'm sure HR folks the world over can explain the actual rational behind that question—which presumably has something to do with gauging one's ambitions or ability to set goals—imagine for a second how crazy that question would seem if they asked you to look ten years into the future.
Crazy might not even be a strong enough descriptor, but I'm going to do just that—predict the next decade—for our favorite football club.
Presuming we're still here on December 31, 2029, bookmark this and then comeback and see how we did.
So, with no respect to chronology or relative likelihood to occur, here are ten predictions for Roma in the 2020s.
#1: When it Comes to the Scudetto, It's Ladies First
As we close the 2010s, the Roma men and women are at roughly the same spot: comfortably(ish) in the top quarter of their respective leagues. Both squads have some upper tier young talent and each are led by capable coaches, but my prediction for the 2020s is that the Giallorosse will win a Scudetto before the Giallorossi.
While they're only two years old at this point, the strides Roma has made between year one and year two have been remarkable. To their impressive crop of U-23 talent, one that already included Agnese Bonfantini and the newly minted top U-21 female prospect in all of Italy, Giada Greggi, Roma added Manuela Giugliano, the Female Footballer of the Year for 2019.
In addition to those impressive prospects, Roma imported the all-around midfield talents of Andrine Hegerberg and the speed and scoring of Amalie Thestrup and Lindsey Thomas, while making upgrades in goal and full-back.
With the recent announcement that female footballers in Italy will soon be given professional status, opening up the possibility of higher salaries and an increased ability for Roma to recruit players from abroad, the Giallorosse's stock of talent could swell in the coming years.
At the dawn of 2020, women's football in Europe is like the old west—wide open—and with parity still at a premium throughout the continent, teams that spend the most are likely to win the most, meaning a dynasty can be created practically overnight. With the games highest earners (Ada Hegerberg and Sam Kerr) reportedly making €400,000 per year, it wouldn't take a huge investment for any club to field their own galactica squad. (I mean this in the most objective way possible, not as an endorsement for their repressed salaries.)
Imagine for a second that Roma decides to take full advantage of the new financial guidelines for female footballers and builds a title contending squad by scouring the globe and outbidding their competitors for top talent. Even just adding one or two veterans from a top league could, when combined with their embarrassment of U-23 riches, put Roma over the top and set the stages for modern day dynasty.
I won't give you a specific year, but the Roma women are already tantalizingly close to title contention, and with a little more time to gel and a greater ability to augment the squad, they can ride the cresting wave of women's football in Europe to dominance.
At this point in the developmental curve for women's football in Europe, if Roma truly want to dominate women's football over the next decade, they can. They have the right coach, a cadre of young talent and the appeal of the Eternal City.
Now is the time to strike.
#2: Nicolo Zaniolo Will Stay in Rome Longer Than We Think
Let's get one thing out of the way; I'm not suggesting Zaniolo will be a Roma lifer, but he will stick around longer than we think. Through his first 18 months with the club, Zaniolo hasn't flashed one iota of brashness that would indicate he's thirsty for a larger stage. Despite his prolific talent and his meteoric rise to prominence, he's remained exactly what he is: a humble kid who loves playing football with his friends.
To that point, Zaniolo is surrounded by some pretty impressive young talent in the capital. Between Lorenzo Pellegrini, Gianluca Mancini, Pau Lopez, Justin Kluivert, Amadou Diawara and Bryan Cristante, Zaniolo can learn and grow alongside players just as young and nearly as talented as he is, and just imagine if they bring his buddy Moise Kean aboard.
It's a tough thing to quantify, but being happy and content with one's surroundings is sometimes more important than the greater riches offered by a potential new job. And fortunately for Zaniolo, he has perfect examples of this axiom in his own backyard.
None other than Francesco Totti, the living embodiment of Roma, has spoken numerous times about how happiness and a sense of belonging can trump the greener pastures of more storied clubs. And on the flip side, Zaniolo needn't look any further than Antonio Cassano, the last Roma wonderkid to leave for greater glory, to see downside of chasing fame. Cassano, who left for the sparkling halls of Real Madrid, eventually came to the realization his career would have been markedly different had he listened to Totti's advice—to place greater value on the comfort and joy of Rome than the notoriety offered by larger clubs.
In a more immediate and practical sense, Zaniolo has flourished under Paulo Fonseca's watchful eye, and with Fonseca recently expressing his love and admiration for the city, Zaniolo should think twice before potentially abandoning that relationship.
Again, I'm not saying he'll be in Rome come 2029, but he's got a good thing going and he’s only 20-years-old, so sticking in the capital for another three to four years could benefit him tremendously.
#3: The House That Totti Built Will Finally Take Form
The Stadio della Roma, or as I call it “The House That Totti Built” will finally...uh...be built. After years, and years....and years of delays, the SdR will finally rise from the ground in the 2020s, giving Roma their very own, Lazio-free dwelling in which to play football. For reasons aesthetic and financial, Roma have needed this thing badly.
It won't be a panacea for all the club's problems, but owning your own ground is certainly better than sharing and/or renting a facility from a municipality. Then there are the visual benefits. While the SdR's final form will likely look somewhat different that the original mock-ups, by virtue of getting rid of the running track alone, this thing is a massive upgrade.
With Roma potentially changing hands in a matter of days, we can safely presume the path to getting the Stadio della Roma built is free and clear (if indeed the land is being sold to a new developer), meaning Roma will play in their shiny new stadium at some point over the next three to five years.
#4: Double Hegerbergs
We've joked about 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, arguably the best player on the planet, joining up with her older sister Andrine in Roma, but I'm here to tell you—it could happen if all the cards fall right.
We already know that both Hegerbergs were Roma fans growing up, thanks in large part to a serendipitous family trip to Rome and the allure of the Giallrossi's always amazing kits, so they've already got the emotional sales pitch wrapped up. And if Italy's shift to professionalization of female sports goes off without a hitch, and if Roma are willing to pay top dollar for her services, then a Hegerberg reunion doesn't seem that far fetched, does it?
This is a dream scenario, one in which a lot of things are out of Roma's hands (multiple Italian clubs would have to go full tilt financially to make Serie A more appealing than the English, Spanish or French leagues), but the component parts are in place.
Oh, annnddd, Ada recently posted an Instagram story of herself working out in a Roma kit.
The seed has been planted!
#5: Roma Will Make One Mega-Purchase
Under James Pallotta's stewardship, Roma were pretty heavy spenders, bringing in as many as dozen players per summer in some instances. In addition to volume purchasing, Pallotta crossed a threshold we never thought possible during the waning days of the Sensis—he broke the €30 million barrier twice, to horrific results.
Both Juan Iturbe and Patrik Schick set new transfer records with the club and both were tremendous flops, but they were statement purchases nonetheless. The problem was simply that, in today's game, €30 to €40 million doesn't buy you an automatic star.
If the early financial details of the Friedkin takeover are correct, and that the new ownership group will resolve Roma's long standing debt, then that should enable them to break the bank for a true star; a €50 million-type of player.
This will certainly be easier if our third point, the stadium prediction, comes true, but getting Roma a real megawatt star would go a long way to appeasing a somewhat anxious and frustrated fan-base.
#6: Cristian Totti Will Make His Roma Debut
I'm going out on a huge limb here, but at some point in the 2020s, the son of Roma's greatest player will make his senior level debut. Nothing in Cristian Totti's football career will be easy, not with that surname, but he's steadily progressing through Roma's youth levels, spending the 2019-2020 season with the U-15s and could be in line for a senior team debut within the next six to seven years.
Cristian will always have to live up to his father's legacy, and, as is the case with any player at any club in the world, the odds that he becomes a star are extremely remote, but if he truly wants to follow in his father's footsteps and puts in the work, don't be shocked if he debuts with Roma circa 2027.
For any kid, becoming even just a solid rotation player is a monumental achievement, but for Cristian Totti to carry on his father's legacy, in any capacity, would be a tremendous addition to the Roma story.
#7: Daniele De Rossi Takes Up Coaching
Granted, this one is low-hanging fruit, but in my defense I made this list before the rumors of his return to Roma (in some capacity) popped up in the wake of the Friedkin takeover stories.
No matter the sport, legendary players seldom become legendary coaches. No one can quite explain it, but the common refrain is that when a star player becomes a coach/manager they struggle to inject the same passion and sense of urgency into younger players. In other words, no one can live up to their impossibly high standards. The things that drove them to become legends on the pitch/field/court were intrinsic and can't be taught, so inevitably they will be frustrated by coaching those who don't possess that same cut-your-throat-to-be-the-best spirit.
But, there is just something about Daniele De Rossi that always seemed coach-like. Perhaps it's because that's his fathers craft or perhaps its because training and preparation were such a huge part of his success, but De Rossi feels like he'd transition to life on the touchline quite well.
My guess is that DDR returns to Italy sometime in 2020, knocks out those coaching licenses and goes one of two routes, both of which could potentially set him up as Roma's manager before the close of the next decade. Route A: his dad takes the developmental/executive role for Roma's entire youth set-up, leaving Danielino to coach the U-19s, or Route B: Roberto Mancini's rumored offer of an internship of sorts with the Azzurri takes root and De Rossi cuts his coaching teeth with the national team before re-joining Roma.
Paulo Fonseca has hit the ground running in Roma, but, let's be real, he won't be here forever; that's just the nature of the beast. If De Rossi jumps into youth coaching head-first, it's entirely possible he takes the Roma reins sometime in the mid 2020s....and then never leaves. He's our Sir Alex. There, I said it.
#8: Roma Will Sign Another American
I'm still somewhat surprised Roma's previous American owners never made a more serious attempt to sign one of the US's more prominent players. Nothing against Michael Bradley, he was a solid enough player, but for a club looking to make in-roads in the American market in the early 2010s, someone like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey or even Tim Howard surely would have helped more in that regard than Bradley, who was more hustle than star.
Donovan was notoriously averse to life in Europe, while Dempsey took a fat MLS salary after leaving the Premiership, so I'm sure it wasn't as easy as we're making it sound. But we're at the dawn of a new decade and the USMNT is deeper than ever, with several U-23 and U-20 players making their way through Europe as we speak.
Could Roma take a run at up and comers like Sergino Dest (defender-Ajax), Konrad del la Fuente (winger-Barcelona youth) or Tim Weah (forward-Lille), or even make a play for Wolfsburg's John Brooks to replace Juan Jesus or Federico Fazio in the near future?
And what about the Roma women? Could they tempt one of America's aging stars like Christine Press or Tobin Heath to give European football a shot? That would not only improve the product on the pitch, but it would be an immediate PR jolt for the club and league itself. Come to think of it, that makes a ton of sense. This needs to happen. Give me Christine Press in the giallo e rosso next season, please.
The most likely route would see Roma taking a gamble on a young American currently struggling to break ranks at a mega club like de la Fuente, or one who has bounced around a bit already like Tim Weah. We've reached the point where signing a Yank isn't a novelty, and given Roma's penchant for unearthing U-23 gems, this is an extremely plausible scenario.
#9: Paulo Fonseca Will Leave Roma as a Legend
At this point, we're less than six months into our Fonseca Football experience, but the early returns have been incredibly impressive. After another summer of upheaval, Paulo Fonseca was plucked from Shakhtar Donetsk and given and oddly shaped roster of young players (Mancini, Zaniolo, Pellegrini et al), Serie A retreads (Spinazzola, Kalinic), Premiership castoffs (Zappacosta, Smalling, Mkhitaryan) and talented but declining club veterans (Dzeko, Fazio).
Fonseca had that full complement of players for, like, three days. Beset by injuries, Fonseca's personnel management skills have been put to the test this season, and he's passed with flying colors. By mixing and matching parts, pushing the limits of positional flexibility and shifting his tactics on the fly, Fonseca has Roma in the thick of the Champions League hunt and has made stars out players supposedly on the decline, most notably Chris Smalling, while also turning Lorenzo Pellegrini into a play-making machine.
He wasn't the hire many of us expected, but he was absolutely the correct call. And with his recent confession that he wants to stay in Rome a long time, the stage seems set for a storied career in the capital.
Roma has every chance to win the Europa League this season and have the basis of a Serie A title contending squad, particularly if the new ownership group can improve upon the foundation left by James Pallotta.
In the modern era, staying with one club for even five seasons is an eternity, and I'm here to tell you that, given what we've seen so far, Paulo Fonseca will walk away a multi-trophy winning manager when he hands the reins over to Daniele De Rossi circa 2025.
#10: Marquinhos Will Return
In some ways, the story of Marcos Aoas Correa, better known as Marquinhos, is down-right Disney-esque. While he wasn't exactly plucked from obscurity (he'd been in the Corinthians setup since he was eight-years-old), his European career was jump started thanks in part to a simple suggestion from Leandro Castan in the summer of 2012, who strongly advised Roma to check out this 18-year-old kid from Sao Paulo.
The stars continued to align as Marquinhos was lucky enough to fall into the good graces of Zdenek Zeman, a manager who made a living defying contention and had no qualms about throwing a teenager into the center of his always-at-risk defense.
Marquinhos seized the starting role in Roma, eventually making 26 appearances for the club. So impressive was his lone season in the capital that the newly minted petro giants in Paris, PSG, threw down a cool €31 million for him in the summer of 2013.
Hos has gone on to win a litany of trophies with PSG, has been a lock for 2,200 league minutes per season and has steadily increased his cap count with the Brazilian national team, but one gets the feeling he's a bit of an afterthought on a team full of global stars.
Still just 25-years-old, Marquinhos has the chance to become a club legend, but what PSG has in finances they lack in history. The club is only 50 years old and has, in their post-takeover existence, cycled through star players pretty regularly (Javier Pastore, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and soon enough Edinson Cavani and Neymar) so there isn't really an established tradition or lineage of players becoming legends or icons within the broader PSG narrative. There isn't even really a PSG narrative yet.
Roma cannot boast the same trophy count as the Parisians, but the pride and passion that comes along with playing for a club steeped in history and romance has a certain appeal. Marquinhos left Roma on a good note, reaching an almost legendary status after only one season, so the doors will likely always remain open for a return.
Pencil the return of Plural in for the summer of 2026.
I have no idea where I, SB Nation, Vox Media or CdT will be at the end of 2029, but I hope we're still all here so we can come back and either laugh or marvel at these predictions. I do believe the Roma women are a threat to win the Scudetto as early as next season, and I do think Cristian Totti will, at the very least, get a cup of coffee with Roma. I am not, however, as optimistic that the stadium will be built without a hitch—it's almost as if the local politicians are conspiring against it—but the hard parts seem like they're in the past.
All ten of these predictions are entirely plausible, some simply require Roma to take the initiative while others will need outside help, but none of them are outlandish.
So, bookmark this, take a screen shot, or tattoo it on your back—do whatever you gotta do—and I'll meet you back here on December 31, 2029.
In the meantime, feel free to share some of your own Roma predictions for the 2020s.