Usually in church I don’t talk about second- or third-choice goalkeepers. In the past seasons there has always been one certainty in goal for Roma, while the other two, three men fought for a place on the bench or a rare Coppa Italia start.
Last season we had Alisson. The two seasons before our number one was Szscezneythingy. And before that, between 2013 and 2015 an evergreen Morgan De Sanctis was ever-present between the sticks. 2012-2013 was different. You know, that hideous season under Zeman and Andreazzoli, we had three keepers who shared the 38 Serie A games: Stekelenburg, Lobont and Goicoechea. None of those 3 really impressed. Yikes, talk about nightmares, right?
So, since 2013, the position of a goalkeeper at AS Roma has always been one with a clear hierarchy: MDS, Woj and Alisson were certainties, the others were just used as training cones and to clean the shoes of those three men.
The big Swede Robin Olsen was supposed to be the fourth pillar. Monchi bought three new keepers last summer, with Robin being the most expensive one, coming of a pretty good World Cup in Russia. Fuzato remains an intriguing prospect, nothing more, nothing less. And the third newcomer was Antonio Mirante, a 35-year-old journeyman. Roma’s his first big club if you don’t count the meaningless 7 games for Juve in Serie B 2006-2007, after calciopoli.
We all know how the Olsen signing turned out, AKA Stekelenburg 2.0. However, with Ranieri taking over from EDF, it seems the Mirante signing suddenly made a lot more sense. Claudio rebuild his broken defense in part by choosing Antonio as his number one; older and more experienced than Olsen, and above all an Italian. A guy with approximately 400 games in all Italian competitions. And an incredibly good-looking chap (hey, the chicks at the Olimpico need some eye-candy as well with Totti gone). In hindsight it all made so much sense and you wonder why Eusebio didn’t switch Olsen with Mirante in the first place.
In Ranieri’s first game in charge, Olsen, EDF’s favorite, remained in goal. But after two shaky performances against SPAL and Napoli, Claudio put the Swede on the bench. Antonio Mirante entered the fray against Fiorentina, having played only three official games for Roma before the match against the Viola. But that day, April 3rd, would later turn out to be the real start of Mirante’s career at Roma.
Although the Giallorossi conceded two goals that match, the team looked different. Players felt more assured at the back, safer in a weird kind of way, just because there was this impressive Italian guy who’s a great communicator, rather than a tall, lanky and reserved Swede. Mirante was the captain of Bologna last year, that says something. He knows how to motivate guys and organize his defence. Roma needed a cool head between the sticks and ironically, this Italian was a better choice than a Scandinavian. Go figure...
Roma’s number 83 would start the next four games, and the Giallorossi would concede only one goal. Mirante kept three clean sheets, stats that make the fans go wild. Dare I say, those look Alissonesque. And the opponents weren’t exactly pushovers: Sampdoria, Udinese, Inter and a dangerous in-form Cagliari side.
Sure, it wasn’t always beautiful football from Ranieri’s Roma but it was damn effective. And yes, Manolas, Fazio and co. also deserve some credit. But this can’t be pure coincidence, right? The Tinkerman saw a defence in shambles and opted for a revamp with Mirante and more stability in midfield. If it wasn’t for an avoidable Perisic goal, Roma would brag with a 12/12 and zero goals conceded in four games.
This is probably where Olsen’s story ends with Roma. Bar a Mirante injury (sh*t, did I just jinx it?), he’ll be benched until the end of the season and then be sold to a club in the Premier League or he’ll go back to the Danish league. Whatever.
Mirante, however, has just started to write his first chapter in Rome, thanks to Ranieri. He’ll be 36-years-old this summer but he can be our new Morgan De Sanctis/Lobont. A mentor in the locker room who can stay until his late 30s and coach new talents like Fuzato, Greco or a newcomer like Cragno. And why not even play a handful of games in Serie A or the Champions League? This season he has shown we can count on him if things go bad; one of the few highlights of 2018-2019.
Of course I exaggerated a bit here and there, I don’t want to compare Mirante with Alisson. And Olsen isn’t THAT bad. He and Roma tried, it didn’t succeed. No harsh feelings, just part ways and go on with your lives,
Roma never had a Casillas, Neuer or Buffon all this time, and when they finally found one of that caliber, we lost him after one damn season. Heartbreaking. But before the Brazilian arrived, Roma fans were pretty happy with the likes of a De Sanctis or Wojciech. Hell, even Doni, JSB, Curci and Pelizzoli were seen as good fits for Roma even if they weren't world beaters. Mirante belongs in that list if he keeps this up until the last game. And when he does, he has earned his place on the team for next season.
You see, Antonio’s a man with a mission: Get Roma into the Champions League. And luckily for us, he was in the right place at the right time.