I'm sure I speak for most Roma fans when I say we could get used to the idea of winning, like, ten titles in a row like Juventus, but that's not the world in which we live. In this world, the one where Roma is being sold for the second time in eight years, championships are hard-won affairs. With only three Scudetti in their history, Roma fans have learned to savor those fleeing moments of glory.
I wager that most of us weren't alive for the club's first title in 1942 (and if you were, kudos to you) and that a sizable portion of our readership was either in diapers or several years away from existence when Roma grabbed the ‘83 honors, meaning the only title in most of our lucid memories came at the end (literally on the last day) of the 2000-2001 season.
So, take the extreme rarity of Roma winning the league, our own recency bias, the sheer reverence for Francesco Totti, and it's no surprise that the 2001 team has reached such exalted status among Roma fans.
Ordinarily, we would have saved this piece for the spring of 2021, but with the sporting world in state of chaos right now, there's no better time than the present to check in with Roma's 2001 title team.
June 17, 2001: Roma 3, Parma 1
In a rare final-day decider, Roma entered Matchday 34 (only 18 teams back then) with a slim two-point lead over second place Juventus, who were hosting the eventual seventh place finishers Atalanta at the old Stadio delle Alpi in Torino. Playing host to fourth place Parma, a side that featured three eventual World Cup winners, Roma's task was a bit tougher than Juve's, making an already hectic day even more combustible.
Fabio Capello ran out his tried and true 3-4-1-2 that afternoon with Francesco Antonioli in goal; Jonathan Zebina, Antonio Carlos and Walter Samuel in defense; Vincent Candela, Emerson, Damiano Tommasi and Cafu in midfield; Francesco Totti, Vincenzo Montella and Gabriel Batistuta up top. Parma countered with a trio of future world-beaters in Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Lilian Thuram.
Needless to say, it was a star studded affair, with sunshine to match. And, as you can see in clip above, the Olimpico was filled to the brim with Roma fans waiting to see history...and they wouldn't have wait long.
After settling a loose ball in the 19th minute, Candela found Totti streaking into the middle of the box, and with a lash of his right foot, Totti beat a flat-footed Buffon from about six yards out, sending the estimated crowd of 75,000 Romans into absolute hysterics.
Roma would double their lead in the 39th minute when Batistuta's break away shot was turned away by a stellar Buffon kick-save, which then landed right at the feet of Vincenzo Montella—the little airplane left no doubt, blasting it into a wide open net.
Batistuta would make it all but official when he tripled Roma's lead in the 78th minute, getting on the end of a beautiful left-to-right ball from Montella, who launched it from well in Roma's territory. From there, Batistuta settled it, cut in and beat Buffon at the near post with a quick left-footed shot.
While Parma tacked on a late goal, the deed was done. Thanks to goals from their top three leading scorers, Roma captured their first Scudetto in nearly 20 years.
So, what are these all-conquering heroes up to now? Let's check in with a few of Roma's most recent champions and see if they have can offer a path forward for this current Roma.
Where Are The Now?
Totti would continue leading Roma for another 16 years, a stretch that included multiple second place finishes in the league, the European Golden shoe in 2006-2007, the 2006 World Cup, the Coppa Italia in ‘06-’07 and’07-’08, the Supercoppa Italiana in 2007 and practically every club record that ever mattered.
After “retiring” from the club in May of 2017, Totti served as a club director for nearly two years, which turned out to be a complete sham foisted on him by the club; he was more of a figurehead than an actual decision maker. Feeling bitter and betrayed, Totti walked away from Roma last year and has spent most of 2019 and 2020 playing in charity matches, traveling with his family and, most recently, starting his own scouting agency.
Totti was inducted into the club Hall of Fame in 2017 and the Italian Football Hall of Fame in 2018, and rumor has it he's open to returning to the club in some capacity when the Dan Friedkin takeover is concluded—fingers crossed.
Montella's Roma playing days effectively came to an end in December of 2006 when he was loaned to Fulham for a six-month stretch in the spring of 2007. Montella would then spend the 2007-2008 season on loan with Sampdoria before returning to Roma as a bit player during the 2008-2009 season, playing his final professional match on May 16, 2009.
Montella retired in July of ‘09 as Roma's fifth all-time leading goal scorer, and then promptly signed on to coach Roma's U-15s the very same month. Montella would get his shot with the senior club following Claudio Ranieri's dismissal in February 2011. While he didn't survive Roma's 2011 change in ownership, he's gone on to manage Catania, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Milan, Sevilla and Fiorentina once again.
After being sacked from the Viola in December of 2019, Montella remains on the job market.
70,000,000,000 lire was a hefty cost for Roma to pay for a 31-year-old striker, but Batigol wasn’t your average forward. With 203 goals in a Viola shirt, including 78 during his final three seasons in Firenze, Batistuta still had a bit left in the tank when he made the switch to the capital in the summer of Y2K.
Batistuta's goal in that title-clinching match was his 20th of the season and was, as it turned out, the last time he'd crack double digit goals in a European league. Feeling the age in his legs, Batistuta managed only 12 goals in all competitions during his final two seasons with Roma. He would move to Inter Milan during the 2002-2003 season before finishing his playing career in Qatar for Al-Arabi.
Batistuta retired from football in 2005 but his sporting days didn't end there. In 2009, Batistuta won the Copa Stella Artois...in polo, the kind with horses not silly swim caps. Lingering ankle and leg pain from his playing days cut his polo career short, and after a brief one-year stint coaching with Colon, Batigol took his turn at announcing, calling Champions League matches with Fox Sports in 2016.
While there have been intermittent whispers of a return to coaching, Batistuta remains retired from the footballing world.
Candela spent eight seasons with Roma, making over 200 appearances for the club in all competitions, adding the 2001 Scudetto to a trophy room that includes the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. After leaving Roma, Candela spent the next several years playing for clubs as varied as Bolton, Udinese, Siena and Messina before retiring in 2007.
Candela was inducted into the Roma Hall of Fame in 2013 and has spent much of the past 20 years living in the city, making a variety of media appearances, including a run on Italy's version of Dancing with the Stars, and attending to his various restaurants.
Tommasi, the tall and curly-haired midfielder, spent a decade with Roma, making well over 200 appearances in that time, including 31 starts during Roma's 2001 title season. After missing a large chunk of time between 2004 and 2005, Tommasi was praised for forgoing a larger salary and playing for the league minimum upon returning, earning a papal blessing in the process!
After leaving the club in the summer of 2006, Tommasi made stops with Levante in Spain and QPR in England before playing out the string in China, Italy's semi-pro circuit, and even a season in San Marino.
Tommasi's post-playing days have largely centered around charitable works in places as far-flung as China and Kosovo. Since 2011, Tommasi has served as the president of the Italian Footballers Association and was among the first to call for the league to halt play during Coronavirus Pandemic.
One of the best full-backs to play in Serie A in recent memory, Cafu, a Hall of Fame inductee for both Roma and AC Milan, spent six glorious seasons in the capital before moving to Milan in the summer of 2003. Cafu would make over 200 appearances for Roma, including 31 starts for the ‘01 Scudetto team, adding that trophy to an incredible resume that includes one Champions League title and two World Cup winners medals. In fact, Cafu remains the only player in history to appear in three-straight World Cup finals.
Cafu hung up his boots for good in 2008 and has spent his post-playing days in a variety of pursuits, most notably his Fundação Cafu, a football/wrap-around program that cares for children and adults in Jardim Arine, a communal of Sao Paulo.
For the low, low sum of only 40,000,000,000 lire, Roma acquired Samuel from Boca Juniors in the year 2000. The then 22-year-old defender made an immediate impact for his new club, sitting in the middle of Capello's three-man defense for nearly 3,000 minutes in the '00-'01 campaign. In addition to his stout defensive work, Samuel chipped in a goal and two assists that season.
Samuel would remain in Rome through the 2003-2004 season before Roma sold him to Real Madrid for €25 million. Unfortunately for him, he didn't fit the bill at the Bernabeu and was sold to Inter Milan after only one season for €16 million, where he would haunt Roma for the next nine seasons, winning five straight titles—in which Roma were runners up FOUR FUCKING TIMES. God, I hate Inter so much.
After that impressive run, Samuel spent three seasons with Basel before finally retiring from football in 2016 at the age of 38 and is currently an assistant coach with Argentina's national team.
Delvecchio, a 6'1” forward, is one of the more beloved figures in recent Roma history. A Milan-born player, Delvecchio came to the capital after struggling to start his Inter career—with stints at Venezia and Udinese in between—and became an integral component in Roma's success in the early 2000s. Stats vary from source to source, but Delvecchio was a mainstay for Roma in the early ‘00s, notching 300 appearances and scoring 83 goals in all competitions.
After tallying 29 league goals between 1998 and 2000, Delvecchio took a bit of a backseat to Batigol, but still managed three goals and five assists in roughly 2,000 minutes during that magical ‘01 season. Delvecchio would move to Brescia, Parma and Ascoli, take a year off, and then return to score 34 goals for semi-pro side Pescatori Ostia in 2008-2009.
Since retiring from football, Delvecchio has been a bit of a media gadfly, doing commentary on radio and television, while appearing on Dancing with the Stars, doing voice over work for the animated film Shaolin Soccer and even making a few appearances on the beach soccer circuit.
The man between the sticks was in his second season with Roma when they won their dramatic last-ditch Scudetto, having arrived from Bologna in 1999. Antonioli would make 25 or more league starts in three of his four seasons with the Giallorossi, including 26 (with seven clean-sheets) during the 2000-2001 season.
Antonioli would solider on through 2012, playing for Sampdoria, Bologna and Cesena before retiring in 2012 at the age of 43. Not one to dawdle, Antonioli moved straight into coaching with Cesena, where he's remained the keepers coach ever since.
We'll end this trip down memory lane with the dapper man who made it all work...
After leaving AC Milan for the second time in 1998, Capello had a brief stint as a television commentator before signing on to lead Roma in 1999. A former Roma midfielder(1967-1970), Capello would lead the club for five seasons, winning two trophies in the process—the ‘01 Scudetto and Supercoppa.
Capello's switch to the 3-4-1-2 in the 2000-2001 season was critical to Roma's success as it put Totti firmly in the play-making role, while allowing Cafu and Candela to function as aggressive/attacking wing-backs. The switch was particularly effective for Totti, who set a new career-high (at the time) mark in goals with 13 while also chipping in six assists.
After leading Roma to the title, Capello was rumored to have a deal in place to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. However, with Sir Alex reversing course, Capello steered Roma to second place finishes in 2001-2002 (missing the title by two points) and a shocking eighth place finish in 2002-2003 before climbing the ladder back to second place in the 2003-2004 season, finishing a distant 11 points behind AC Milan.
With Roma reeling in debt, Capello jumped into the wealthy arms of the Old Lady, managing Juventus for two seasons before moving to Real Madrid and eventually taking national team gigs with England and Russia. Capello's coaching days finished with Jiangsu Suning in 2018.
While Capello's name has popped up for a few managerial openings over the past year or so, he remains retired, spending his time admiring his art collection, reportedly worth more than ten million pounds, and making blatantly ignorant comments about women's football.
The last few years have been soaked in frustration for Roma fans, and while it may feel like Roma will never win another title again, it will happen. We don't know when, but if we look to the ‘01 team as a blueprint, a few lessons emerge.
Leaving out having someone as uniquely talented as Totti, you may have noticed a theme in this piece; continuity. Capello kept the same tactical formation all season and leaned on a core of seven to eight players, each of whom played at 2,500 minutes that season.
And what's more, outside of Totti and Samuel, the bulk of those minutes were played by players in their mid-twenties and early-thirties; players in their respective primes. There was no counting on 34-year-olds to turn back the hands of time or hoping that a 19 or 20-year-old kid would suddenly put it all together. Roma assembled a talented team that was ready to win now.
Then there were the transfers. Roma's two largest purchases that summer, Batistuta and Samuel, in addition to both being Argentinians and costing the club over 100 billion lire (what a currency), each delivered performances commensurate with their price tag. Compare that to some of Roma's sunken costs over the past few years, and it's not hard to see why the club has struggled over the past 24 months or so—when you swing for the fences, you better knock it out of the park; and Roma did just that with Batigol and Samuel.
This Roma can get where that Roma was, but over the past few seasons we've seen a club bereft of patience and commitment. It's hard to reach the summit when you keep climbing back down to start over again. Gianluca Petrachi (if he survives the Friedkin takeover) has to take a long, hard look at Roma's roster and ask himself: Can we truly win with these guys? What help do they need? What pieces need to be added or removed? Without an honest answer to those questions, I'm afraid we'll keep running in place.
It's been nearly two decades since Roma's last title team, and the heroes of 2001 have experienced their fair share of success, frustration and heartbreak since then. Roma has always taken pride in her history, and with the 20th anniversary of that title coming up next season, what better way for Roma's new owner to win over the fans than to plan some sort of elaborate tribute to the men who gave us our last glimpse at glory?