Roma fans take a lot of pride in their club's local roots...like, a lot; just look at how many pieces we've dedicated to the clubs local icons. Some of that pride stems from the fact that so many of the club's successes over the past 20 years or so were built on the backs of Roman and Italian players. Being called provincial by northern clubs may have had pejorative connotations, but Roma fans wore it like a badge of honor.
While we all love that aspect of the club, Roma have imported some sensational talent over the years, particularly from South America. Contemporary fans remember Walter Sabatini's penchant for scouring the sandlots and stadiums of Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro or Montevideo to unearth the world's next great star, but Roma's South American roots date back to the earliest days of the club.
The history of the sport itself, and much of what makes the beautiful game beautiful, is deeply rooted in the South American style of play, and Roma have certainly taken advantage of that through the decades.
Outside of a couple veterans from Argentina and a few intriguing kids from Brazil, Roma's current squad is relatively bereft of South American talent, so what better time than now to create an All-Time XI comprised solely of South American players?
Goalkeeper: Alisson Becker
Brazil | 2016-2018 | 64 Appearances
This one was a no-brainer. Although he was only Roma's top-choice goalkeeper for one season, he put together a season for the ages. During the 2017-2018 campaign, Alisson made 37 starts and kept 17 clean-sheets and saved Roma, by some estimates, as many as 13 points that season.
With his explosiveness, soft hands, quick reflexes and skilled feet, Alisson is the prototypical modern goalkeeper.
Brazil | 1997-2003 | 217 Appearances
What can you say about Marcos Evangelista de Morais that hasn't already been said? Cafu was not only one of the best full-backs to ever play for Roma, he's one of the best full-backs to ever play the game, not to mention one of the most decorated. Cafu still remains the only player to ever appear in three-straight World Cup Finals and has two Scudetti on his resume, including 31 starts with Roma during their last championship season (2000-2001).
Left-Back: Emerson Palmieri
Brazil | 2015-2018 | 47 Appearances
Given the club's recent struggles with the left-back position, there weren't many South Americans from which to choose. In a toss-up between Argentinian Leandro Cufre, who spent four years in the capital, we went with the higher upside of the Brazilian-born Emerson Palmieri.
Much like Alisson Becker, Palmieri really only had one season of success with Roma, but the promise he showed in 2016-2017, playing to a 7.37 WhoScored match-rating, was enough for him to claim this spot. Solid in either direction, Palmieri was a crucial piece in Luciano Spalletti's record-setting team, but was unfortunately sold to Chelsea in the winter of 2018.
Brazil | 1990-2004 | 415 Appearances
Part of the club's inaugural Hall of Fame class in 2012, no South American player made more appearances for Roma than Aldair, who ranks fifth in the club's all-time appearance list. Arriving from Benfica in the summer of 1990, Aldair enjoyed the best stretch of his career while playing for the Giallorossi. Between 1990 and 2004, Aldair won a Scudetto, the Coppa Italia, the Supercoppa Italiana, a Bronze Medal at the 1996 Olympics, the Copa America in 1997 and the grand-daddy of them all, the FIFA World Cup at USA 1994.
One of the best defenders of his generation, Aldair left Roma after the 2002-2003 season to play with Genoa in Serie B and then Murata in San Marino.
Center-Back: Walter Samuel
Argentina | 2000-2004 | 173 Appearances
While we could make a case for Federico Fazio or Nicolas Burdisso here, neither had the same peak career as Samuel, who was a lock for 30 appearances in each of his four years in Rome. A starter on Roma's 2001 Scudetto team, Samuel came to Italy in the summer of 2000 from Boca Juniors for the modern equivalent of €20 million.
Known for his fast, aggressive and physical style of play, Samuel soon became one of the hottest commodities in Europe and was sold to Real Madrid in 2004 for €25 million before returning to Serie A with Inter Milan after only one season in Spain.
It's a shame Roma fans didn't get to see more of the Samuel-Cristian Chivu pairing, but Samuel's four-year hitch in the Eternal City set the stage for his greater successes later in his career.
Midfield: David Pizarro
Chile | 2006-2012 | 207 Appearances
After stints with Udinese and Inter Milan, Pizarro came to Roma in the summer of 2006 and immediately became an indispensable part of Roma's midfield for the next several seasons. While not necessarily a highlight reel type of player, Pek's influence on Luciano Spalletti's mid 2000s teams cannot be overstated. Call him the poor man's Andrea Pirlo if you must, but Pizarro's ability to control the tempo of the match was as good as it got during that era. Throw in his pinpoint passes and you had the perfect maestro for Roma's mid 2000s midfield.
Brazil | 1980-1985 | 152 Appearances
Never the strongest or fastest player on the pitch, Falcão’s genius rested in his reading of the game, or, as famed Roma journalist Fulvio Stinchelli once said, “Falcao always knew three passes beforehand where the ball would end up.”
Arriving in the capital from Brazilian side Internacional in 1980, Falcão was an instrumental part of Roma second Scudetto-winning side in 1983, scoring seven goals in 27 appearances and would go on to score 27 goals in 152 appearances with the Giallorossi.
In addition to his intellect, Falcão was noted for his touch, team-centered play and leadership, all of which led to him being part of the club's inaugural Hall of Fame class in 2012.
Midfield: Rodrigo Taddei
Brazil | 2005-2014 | 269 Appearances
With over 250 appearances at a variety of positions, the versatile and beloved Rodrigo Taddei gets the nod over his countryman Emerson. Taddei was one of those players you never knew quite what to make of, but he was a dutiful servant to the Giallorossi, playing midfield, winger, full-back and wing-back during his decade in the Eternal City.
With two Coppa Itaila titles to his credit and five runners-up finishes in Serie A, Taddei was, in many ways, the glue that kept those mid 2000s Roma sides together. In his first three seasons with the club, Taddei made 93 league appearances while scoring 19 goals.
Taddei would sign with Perugia in Serie B in 2014, finishing up his pro-career in his ancestral hometown. Never the flashiest or swiftest, Taddei wormed his way into our hearts with his hard-work, versatility and commitment to the crest.
It'll be a long time before we see another player quite like him.
Forward: Abel Balbo
Argentina | 1993-1998, 2000-2002 | 182 Appearances
Roma's eighth all-time leading scorer with 87 goals, Balbo first came to Roma in the summer of 1993 fresh off a prolific run with Udinese in which he scored 66 goals over the course of five seasons. With 34 goals in his first two seasons with the Giallorossi, Balbo made a great impression in the Eternal City. He'd go on to score 53 more goals with Roma before moving to Parma in 1998. After a brief stop in Fiorentina, Balbo returned to Roma just in time for the 2000-2001 Scudetto triumph.
While he wasn't an integral part of that title team, his first run with the club was magical, as he never scored fewer than 13 goals in his first five seasons with the club. Punctuated by his 1994-1995 season, in which he scored 22 goals in 36 appearances, Balbo was one of the most effective and efficient forwards in club history.
Balbo finished his professional career with Boca Juniors and has 197 goals to his credit.
Forward: Pedro Manfredini
Argentina | 1959-1965 | 164 Appearances
After only two professional seasons in his native Argentina, Manfredini moved to Roma in the summer of 1959. He didn't have the longest career in club history, but not many men were more prolific than Manfredini. With 104 goals in only 164 appearances, Manfredini ranks fifth all-time on the club's scoring list, but his 0.63 goals per match is second to only Rodolfo Volk.
Mandfredini won multiple scoring titles in his career, including Serie A (1962-1963), the Coppa Italia (1963-1964) and the Inter-Cities Fair Cup (1960-1961, 1962-1963).
Manfredini would finish his career with stops in Brescia and Venezia before retiring in 1974. He passed away on January 21, 2019 in Rome.
Forward: Dino da Costa
Brazil | 1955-1961 | 163 Appearances
Dino da Costa was a duel Italian/Brazilian citizen, but he was born in Rio, so we'll include him on this list. Arriving from Botafogo in the summer of 1955, it didn't take long for da Costa to make his mark, as he claimed the ‘56-’57 season Capocannoniere title with 22 goals. All told, da Costa finished his Roma career with 79 goals, which is now 10th on the club's all-time list, but not many players victimized Lazio quite as often as da Costa, as his 12 derby goals stood as the most ever until Francesco Totti came around.
Roma have certainly had their fair share of success with South American talents throughout the club's 90 year history, a trend that will hopefully continue into the future. Stick with us in the coming days and weeks as we look at some of the greatest European, Italian, African and Asian players in club history.