I didn't realize it until recently, but I think part of the reason I became so obsessed with Roma's women's team so quickly was simply because I had no preconceived notions about the club or it's players. There was no “she's a bum” or “why the hell is she starting?” or "they paid how much for a 29-year-old midfielder!?” In a strange way, my ignorance was not only bliss, but a blessing. Viewing the team for what it was, a brand new venture with which I was totally unfamiliar, afforded me an opportunity I never had with the men's team: watching Roma completely devoid of bias and free from judgement.
However, by virtue of being human, it was only natural for bonds to form and opinions to take shape, and it didn't take long for me to become enamored with one player in particular: Agnese Bonfantini, one of two #22s Roma spared the fate of suiting up for Inter Milan this season.
Although she had no topflight experience coming into the season, it didn't take long for Bonfantini to assert herself with her new club. Starting with the season's very first match against Sassuolo, Bonfantini became an indispensable part of Betty Bavagnoli's attacking set up, eventually tallying nearly 1,800 minutes before all was said and done.
While earning time on the pitch is an accomplishment in and of itself for a young player, it was the quality of those minutes that was so impressive.
Bonfantini lists Alex Morgan as one of her footballing idols, and outside of actually kinda, sort of looking like her, with her blazing speed, agility and creativity, she actually plays a bit like the American icon, too. And thanks to that bag of traits, Bonfantini finished with four goals and three assists, each top three on the squad.
And while she didn't quite equal her scoring record with Inter Milan in Serie B, where she scored nearly 40 goals over three seasons, Bonfantini's rookie season (as it were) was an unqualified success, the height of which may have been her masterstroke against Sassuolo in January, where her two second half goals propelled Roma to a come from behind 2-1 victory.
All of these accolades didn't go unnoticed at the international level either. Thanks to her ascendancy with Roma, Bonfantini earned her first caps with Italy, logging 26 minutes with the Azzurre during Cyprus Cup, and seems to have an outside shot at making this summer's World Cup.
Not a bad return for a 19-year-old in her debut season, right?
As with all players her age, Bonfatini's potential is hard to exactly quantify, but one look at Bonfantini and it's clear as day; she has it. On top of having all the requisite athleticism and creativity one craves from a winger/forward, Bonfantini understands the geometry and geography of the game; she knows how to beat you, where to beat, how to read angles, where to play the ball, and how to manipulate space. Simply put, she just knows how to play the game right.
But will she be playing for Roma next season?
As part of my ignorance to the club earlier this season, I was blissfully unaware that Bonfantini was not actual Roma property, having arrived in the capital on loan from Inter Milan, who were toiling away in Serie B, and have been for several seasons now.
However, propelled by Regina Baresi (daughter of Giuseppe and niece of Franco), Inter have run roughshod over Serie B, running out to a perfect...perfect...19-0 record with a +64 goal differential, and with only three matches to play have long since secured promotion. Update: they have since drawn a match, however.
I mention this simply because, well, because they're probably going to want to pair Bonfantini with Baresi, right?
Considering that my knowledge of Serie A Femminile is still developing, particularly with the finer administrative and organizational points, I'm not 100% certain how the contracts and transfer markets will work. However, as far as I know, there is a salary cap, so it's anyone's guess as to how much Roma can or will spend. Similarly, given the relative dearth of coverage in English, I can't say for certain if there is an option to buy in Bonfantini's loan deal, though I suspect there is not since she was a pretty widely heralded U19 prospect.
One thing is for certain, though; Bonfantini has blossomed with Roma and seems to have developed some solid relationships with her teammates, Giada Greggi in particular, so we can only hope that she loves Roma as much as Roma loves (and needs) her.
Besides, I hate Inter and they don't deserve nice things.