Growing up as the second youngest of six children, I was no stranger to the intense and unique relationship between siblings. Fights spring up over everything from toys to toothpaste to who gets the very back seat in the mini-van to who the dog loves most. And I'm talking viscous, no-holds barred, gouge your eyes out fights. And those are only the physical altercations; we haven't even covered the cut-you-to-the-core verbal insults only siblings can throw at each other. But here's the thing. If anyone outside that circle tested you, your siblings immediately spring to your defense.
And that's kind of what it's like being a Roma fan. We can make fun of the club. We can make jokes about the club being second-best, but if an outsider calls us bridesmaids or teases us about being runners-up, it's a virtual slap across the face if not a direct shot at our honor and dignity.
But...Roma have mastered the art of second place, haven't they? After winning the Scudetto during the 2000-2001 season, Roma have notched nine...count ‘em....NINE runners-up finishes since then.
From missing out on a repeat Scudetto by a mere two points, to Jose Mourinho's Inter sides keeping them at arms length, to their most recent second place finish (2016-2017), the Giallorossi have been oh-so-close too many times to count.
As part of SB Nation's Best Team to Never Win a Championship week we're going to focus on only one of those squads: the Claudio Ranieri-led 2009-2010 squad—the most bitter bridesmaid of the CdT-era.
Throughout the week, we're going to run through the highs and lows of that season: the key players, goals and moments that defied Roma's march towards the title. As a primer to that look-back, let's familiarize ourselves with that squad and that season.
Goalkeepers: Bogdan Lobont, Artur, Julio Sergio, Doni
Defense: Marco Andreolli, Juan, Philippe Mexes, Marco Motta, John Arne Riise, Max Tonetto, Nicolas Burdisso, Marco Cassetti, Aleandro Rosi
Midfield: David Pizarro, Rodrigo Taddei, Ricardo Faty, Daniele De Rossi, Simone Perotta, Matteo Brighi, Adrian Stoian
Forwards: Francesco Totti, Mirko Vucinic, Julio Baptista, Luca Toni, Jeremy Menez, Stefano Pettinari, Filippo Scardina
Managers: Luciano Spalletti, Claudio Ranieri
With two managers that season, one of whom is famous for his inability to settle on one formation, Roma used a lot of different looks during 2009-2010. With injuries to Francesco Totti and the mid-season acquisition of Luca Toni, Ranieri tinkered with his front-line throughout the season, rotating between Totti, Toni, Mirko Vucinic and Jeremy Menez at the center forward spot.
However, when the chips were on the line, this was Ranieri's A-Team:
The 4-2-3-1 was definitely this team's base, but the beauty of this club was it's flexibility. While Burdisso, Juan and Riise had the back-line locked down, and Perrotta and Pizarro were mainstays in the midfield, Ranieri had carte blanche in attack, mixing and matching between Totti, Vucinic, Menez, Taddei and even Julio Baptista, while the addition of Toni in January allowed Ranieri to use more traditional forward-led looks.
Roma had the pieces to fit Ranieri's fidgety ways, and at least for this one season, his tinkering was a strength.
Throughout Europe, the 2009-2010 season is best remembered as the year in which Jose Mourinho, a/k/a the Special One, led Inter Milan to only the sixth ever UEFA-based treble. While Mourinho's bunch made quick work of Bayern Munich in the Champions League final thanks to a Diego Milito brace, Roma made life difficult for Inter in both the Coppa Italia and the race for the Scudetto.
Milito would once again prove to be the difference maker in the Coppa Italia finale, scoring the matches lone goal, but with an 80 point campaign, one that included a mind-boggling 24-match unbeaten run (including wins over Juve and Inter), Ranieri kept the heat on Mourinho and Inter all season long.
After defeating Atalanta in Round 33, Roma held a slim one-point lead over Inter, a cushion they would maintain following a victory over Lazio in Round 34. And then the wheels came off in Round 35: a 2-1 loss at home to Sampdoria from which Roma were never able to recover, finishing the season two points behind Mourniho, Milito, Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto’o and the rest of the Nerazzurri.
Led by Francesco Totti and Mirko Vucinic's 14 league goals, and boosted by the mid-season addition of Luca Toni, Roma were a well-rounded and diverse squad that came inches away from winning the club's fourth Scudetto.
Join us throughout the week as we relive all the highs, lows, key moments and star players from arguably the best Roma team to never win a Scudetto.