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Remembering The Smile: An Ode to Rodrigo Taddei

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Rodrigo Taddei: The man, the myth, the legend

Serie A: Lazio v Roma Photo by New Press/Getty Images

David Bowie once sang “We can be heroes, just like Taddei”—or did I misunderstood the lyrics—boy did I dream about being Rodrigo Taddei. Well, perhaps not for his uh, charming looks, but for his amazing skills with a ball. Taddei was, well unique.

The man with the long face. The inventor of the ‘Aurelio’ (seriously, check YouTube). The hard-working midfielder. Incredibly versatile. The dream of every trainer quoi. And he did this all with his contagious smile. It was hard not to love Rodrigo, a fan favorite of literally every tifoso. Because he did all the right things, had all the right moves, he was a perfect fit for Roma, and the feeling was mutual—a Brazilian who wanted to be a Roman. He nearly succeeded.

For the younger fans might not know Taddei or how he joined Roma, here is a quick recap:

Taddei signed a five-year contract for Roma in June of 2005, the same month in which Spalletti arrived. The Brazilian midfielder was probably one of the demands of Luciano, as he seemed perfect for Spal’s 4-2-3-1 formation on the right wing; Taddei surely delivered the goods afterwards.

Two seasons in Serie A with Siena was all it took for Roma to poach Taddei from the Tuscans. Well, not really ‘poach’, more like shamelessly grab away like a firesale at Wendy’s on a Saturday evening after pay day. He was a free agent and one of Roma’s smartest and best deals in a long time. In his first season he featured in all 38 games in Serie A.

Taddei stayed at Roma for 8 (!) seasons, unthinkable for a non-Roman. Just like Daniele or Totti, he has seen it all. The rise and fall, then rise again. Sensi and Pallotta. Europa League, Champions League, UEFA Cup, Coppa wins and defeats. He survived numerous trainers and fellow team mates. Between 2005 and 2014 Rodrigo won three prizes. Which is nice yes, until I tell you he also finished as a runner-up TWELVE times in all competitions. Seriously, how did that not drive him crazy?

Five times second in Serie A, four times in a Coppa final without a win, and one lost Supercoppa final. Needless to say, his trophy cabinet would have looked a whole lot different with a little more luck (or better team mates next to him). Roma was his only big club, with Palmeiras, Siena and Perugia his only other employers. He celebrated promotion with Siena from B to A but that’s peanuts compared to a Scudetto or even a Coppa Italia.

In Italy, Taddei enjoyed a nice reputation, but made name for himself in Europe as well. Goals against Manchester United, Shaktar and Real Madrid, and also the famous Aurelio against Olympiacos. He wasn’t a star like Ronaldo, Robben or Bale on the wing but the man could play footy. He was far from a diva and that’s quickly becoming a rarity these days.

In Rome The Smile played in every position on the right side and in the middle of the park without a sweat. To top it off, who doesn’t remember his appearances as a makeshift leftback? Can you imagine for example Stephan El Shaarawy or Diego Perotti playing there? Goes to show Taddei was one-of-a-kind. In the current team maybe only Alessandro Florenzi could match his versatility.

In 2010, at the end of his contract and at the age of 30, he prolonged his life in Rome with another four years and at a low price, €2.8 million annually, including a small decline in his last season. Hero, just like Bowie said.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. There were some minor injuries between 2010 and 2012 and troublesome campaigns like 2012-2013 (only 4 appearances in Serie A, as a fullback) were a worrisome sign. 2013-2014 was a bit better, but Taddei’s time in Rome was up. It was a long but magical journey. The management said no more renewal, perhaps understandable as he was 34 by then. And at least we didn’t have to sell him to Inter or Juve.

Another two seasons at low tier Perugia, and The Smile ended his career in professional football. Rumors say he’s now acting as Willem Dafoe’s stunt double in Hollywood...

Joking aside, the reason why I picked Taddei (to mark derby week) was because scored against Lazio in 2006. A Totti-less Roma (God was in the stands) won 2-0 against Di Canio’s Lazio thanks to an Aquilani pile driver and a header, yes a header, from Taddei. Again, go to YouTube, it’s fun. I really wish Taddei would still be around for those kind of games.

I am glad that I have fully witnessed Taddei’s Roman career from start to finish. Football is romanticism. Taddei was romanticism. From the young, long-haired Rodrigo feeding passes to Vucinic, Mancini and Totti to the fullback under Zeman with a short hairstyle. However, one thing always remained his same, his smile.

After every goal. After every win. After every training session. That glorious smile. Every time.

And then I knew for sure: Taddei was a good day.