One thing that many Romanisti have great pride in is the fact that many of the club’s greatest players have, in fact, been Roman. Agostino Di Bartolomei carried the torch in the 1970s before passing the torch to “Il Principe” Giuseppe Giannini in the 80s. Of course, Giannini would help usher in the reign of Francesco Totti beginning in the 90s. During the 2000s Totti was joined by fellow Romans Daniele De Rossi, Alberto Aquilani, and Alessandro Florenzi.
For longer than many of us have been alive, there has been at least one Roman in the squad. Usually, that Roman, or those Romans, have also been important members of the squad. However, with the sale of Luca Pellegrini, retirement of De Rossi, and the loaning out of Florenzi and Mirko Antonucci, Roma now has just one native son in the squad: Lorenzo Pellegrini.
Those recent events, coupled with his own forced retirement, prompted Totti to call out ownership for trying to “de-Romanize” Roma. That comment was made as Totti chose to leave his front office role; likely in frustration. However, is there some truth to that statement or is it something else?
For so long, Roma has been able to carry on the Roman tradition because it’s graduated a number of Romans through the youth ranks. The club has brought through a number of both Roman and non-Roman academy graduates into the first team. Yet, when you look at the make up of the current squad, only Pellegrini and Daniel Fuzato, who has yet to make a senior team appearance, have played for Alberto De Rossi’s Primavera side.
This leads one to wonder if the team is being “de-Romanized” simply because the team isn’t grooming enough quality local talent. I’ll explore this question in two pieces. First, in this piece I’ll explore the players that have come through Roma’s youth sector to play some form of top flight football since 2010. Then, I’ll assess just how successful Roma academy graduates have been, both Roman or non-Roman, either at Roma or elsewhere in the last decade compared to the first decade of the 2000s.
2010-13: The Golden Generation
Roma’s Primavera started the 2010s with rousing success. During the 2010/11 season, Alberto De Rossi’s ragazzi won the primavera Scudetto with a squad oozing talent. That season was almost a decade ago now, but many of its members have built long professional careers since then.
The most notable of those players is Florenzi. The now 29-year-old Roman made 261 appearances for the Giallorossi senior side before his current loan at Valencia. Despite major injuries and being played as a makeshift right back, Florenzi has been one of the most successful Roma academy products of the 2010s. In addition to being named Roma captain prior to the season, Florenzi has also been capped 35 times by Italy.
In addition to Florenzi, who moved to first team football after the title-winning season, the 10/11 squad also included Matteo Politano, Gianluca Caprari, Valerio Verre, Federico Viviani, Federico Barba, Luca Antei and Stafano Sabelli. The most notable of those players is Politano, who very nearly made a dream move back to the capital this winter. Politano never made a first team appearance in Giallor e osso, but has had Serie A success elsewhere. Politano made his mark at Sassuolo before moving to Inter and now Napoli. He’s also earned three Italy caps under Roberto Mancini.
(Interestingly enough, the hat trick hero from this match, Mattia Montini, never made it to Serie A. )
Caprari hasn’t had the same level of success as Florenzi or Politano, but he’s stuck around in Italy’s top flight with Pescara, Sampdoria, and Parma as a rotation forward. He was even signed by Inter in 2016, but never made an appearance with the Nerazzurri.
Verre was loaned out multiple times by the Giallorossi between Series A & B from 2012-2015 with Siena, Palermo, and Perugia before finally landing with Pescara in 15/16. After a successful 18/19 with Perugia, Verre returned to Serie A this season with a surprise Verona outfit. Verre, now 26, has been a regular with 23 appearances and 3 goals, which bodes well for his top flight future.
Sabelli has spent most of his career in Serie B, but is a regular starter at right back for Brescia this season. With Brescia likely relegated, we’ll see if he’s done enough to attract the attention of another lower table A side. Meanwhile, Viviani is currently plying his trade in B with Livorno, but has spent the last four seasons in Serie A with Verona, Bologna, SPAL, and Frosinone—often as a depth midfielder.
Barba has bounced around quite a bit in his career, but has played in Serie A with Empoli and Chievo, as well a brief stint in the Bundesliga with Stuggart and La Liga with Real Sociedad. Antei is currently in Serie B with Benevento, but spent four seasons with Sassuolo in Serie A and one with Benevento before their relegation.
For the 11/12 season, that impressive crop (minus Florenzi) was joined by a few more players that would carve out top flight careers. The carryover talent coupled with the newcomers saw De Rossi’s boys lift another trophy: the Primavera Coppa Italia.
The most notable of those players was a 16-year-old Alessio Romagnoli. Romagnoli, with Florenzi, is arguably the most successful Roma Primavera product of the last decade. After making 13 Roma senior side appearances, Romagnoli was loaned to Sampdoria in 14/15 before being sold to AC Milan in 2015 for €27.5 million. Since then Romagnoli has become captain of the Rossoneri and a regular member of the Italian national team.
In addition to Romagnoli, other notable players who joined the Primavera that season were Federico Ricci, Nico Lopez, and Junior Tallo. Ricci spent multiple seasons with Sassuolo, Genoa, and Crotone in the middle of the decade. Lopez played one season with Roma before moving onto Udinese and Verona in Serie A. Since then he’s played top flight football in Spain (Granada), his native Uruguay (Club Nacional), Brazil (Internacional), and Mexio (Tigres). Meanwhile, Tallo has made multiple Ligue 1 stops and spent some time in the Portuguese first division with Vitoria Gumareas.
Despite the majority of the bigger talents moving on from the 11/12, De Rossi’s side lifted another trophy in 12/13 in the form of the Supercoppa Primavera. Some players of note that joined the Primavera that season were Daniele Verde, Arturo Calabresi, Luca Mazzitelli, and Elio Capradossi.
After graduating the Primavera as a fairly highly-regarded prospect, Capradossi spent a loan spell with Bari in Serie B before returning to the capital for the spring of 2018. However, after just two appearances, Capradossi was loaned and then sold to Spezia in Serie B.
Mazzitelli, like so many others from this crop of players, spent a few years in Serie A with Sassuolo. Calabresi toiled in Serie B for a few years before playing last season with Bologna and moving to Ligue 1 with SC Amiens in 19/20. Meanwhile, Verde has bounced between top and second tier football, best known for his wonder goal with Real Valladolid.
2013-2105: Disappointing Defeats
With many of the players from the previous year’s Supercoppa winning squad returning, Roma finished third in their group in 2013/14. However, the trophy run would end with defeat to Lazio in the quarterfinals of the Scudetto playoffs. Yet, Roma only added one notable talent to the roster that season: Lorenzo Pellegrini. Roma’s current number seven returned to the club last season after a two year spell at Sassuolo and looks to be an important building block for Fonseca’s side moving forward.
De Rossi’s side would be even more impressive the following season. Roma finished atop its group in 14/15, but ultimately crashed out to Lazio in the semifinals 1-0. It was the second straight derby playoff defeat, but Roma added talented forwards Antonio Sanabria, Edoardo Soleri, and Marco Tumminello, as well as current Brescia midfielder Emanuele Ndoj.
In addition to Pellegrini, Sanabria was the jewel of this incarnation of the Primavera. The Paraguayan never truly broke through with Roma, but has begun to make a solid first team career for himself. After three and a half seasons in Spain, Sanabria returned to the Italian peninsula with Genoa in January 2019 where he’s become a regular. Still just 24-years-old, Sanabria should have a long career ahead of him for club and country with 17 Paragruay caps to date.
Soleri was one of the most prolific Roma Primavera strikers in his time with 60 goals in 93 total appearances, including 24 goals in 22 league matches in 16/17. Unfortunately, the Primavera success hasn’t translated to first team football for Soleri. After four years bouncing around on loan in various lower tier leagues, Soleri’s Roma contract expired last off-season. The 22-year-old Roman is currently in Serie C with Padova after signing on a free. Time will tell if he can make good on his Primavera successes at a higher level.
Tumminello, much like Soleri, lit up the Primavera in his last campaign of 16/17. He scored 19 goals in 18 league matches and 42 goals in 63 career appearances at the Primavera level. He was sold to Atalanta prior to the 18/19 season for €5.5 million. But, after making just two Serie A appearances with La Dea, Tumminello has struggled for playing time in Serie B on loan with Lecce and Pescara the last two seasons. Tumminello is just 21, but will need to start scoring first team goals soon, especially if he wants to make his way back to Italy’s top flight.
2015-17: Return to the Top
After near misses in the previous two seasons, Alberto De Rossi’s side came roaring back to the top in 2105/16. That side was led by the aforementioned Soleri goal parade and captain Capradossi at the back. In addition to Soleri, Roma added some other attacking talents to the squad, most notably Umar Sadiq.
In his first season after arriving from Spezia’s Primavera, Sadiq bagged 19 goals in 19 total appearances to go with two goals in six senior team appearances. After various loan spells away from the capital, Sadiq was offloaded to Partizan Belgrade for just under €2 million this past summer. It’ll be interesting to see if Sadiq, 23, turns his Partizan success into a move to one of Europe’s top leagues in the future.
Another forward who played a big part in the Scudetto push was Argentine Ezequiel Ponce. Ponce made 11 appearances scoring 10 goals in his lone season with the Primavera. However, after various loan spells, Roma sold him to Spartak Moscow this summer. Roma decided to cash in despite him scoring 21 times in 43 appearances last season with AEK Athens. Since his permanent move he’s got 9 goals in 26 appearances. It makes you wonder if he wouldn’t have been a better vice-Dzeko than Kalinic.
The 15/16 Scudetto triumph was followed up with two more trophies in 16/17: the Supercoppa Primavera and Coppa Italia Primavera. De Rossi’s side also reached the playoff semifinal bowing out to Inter as it’s attempt to repeat as Scudetto winners came up just short. In addition to the previously mentioned players who led the 15/16 side, these two seasons saw some other notable youngsters join the Roma Primavera ranks.
A number of Romans featured for those sides including Riccardo Marchizza, Davide Frattesi, Mirko Antonucci, and Luca Pellegrini. The most highly regarded of those players is Pellergini, who was offloaded to Juve this summer in exchange for Leonarado Spinazzola. Pellegrini has the talents to become Italy’s next great left back and is already a regular starter at Cagliari on loan. Unfortunately, if Pellegrini lives up to his vast potential it’ll likely be in Turin and not Rome.
Antonucci is still on Roma’s books but didn’t do a lot to impress in the first half of this season. He’s currently on loan in Portugal at Vitoria Setubal and will likely return to Rome in the summer. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, it’s possible Fonseca gives him another look in the preseason.
The 22-year-old Marchizza was an important member of those squads featuring at center back and serving as captain in 16/17. He hasn’t reached Serie A yet, but is owned by Sassuolo. He along with Frattesi was sent to Emilia-Romagna as makeweights in the Gregoire Defrel deal. Frattesi hasn’t played for the Neroverdi yet either. However, the 20-year-old midfielder’s stock has begun to rise. He has 5 goals and 2 assists for Empoli in 23 appearances during the current Serie B campaign. There are rumblings that he could even find his way back to the Olimpico.
Now that we have an idea of who the Roma Primavera has developed since 2010, we’ll attempt to assess just how successful player development has been in part II.