In part one, I gave an overview of the players that graduated out of Roma’s Primavera between 2010 and 2017 and went on to play some form of top flight football. Of course, many of those players are still in the early to mid-twenties, making it difficult to assess just how successful they ultimately will be. However, what is clear is that the majority will have spent little to no time with the Giallorossi first team.
While the whole idea for this deep dive came from Totti’s comments about Pallotta’s ownership group “de-Romanizing” Roma, it really turned into an overall evaluation of Roma’s player development both Roman and non-Roman. And while Roma hasn’t developed any superstars in the last decade, it has produced some solid players and even a few with potential star power.
So, in order to assess just how successful or unsuccessful the youth development has been at Trigoria over the last decade, I thought it would be interesting to compare it to the previous decade: Has the Roma Primavera side really fallen off or is it just that the lack of a major star on the level of Totti and De Rossi makes it feel that way?
Let’s take a look at some of the notable players that graduated from the Roma youth ranks from 2000 to 2010 and see how the 2010s stack up.
When looking at the players that came through Alberto De Rossi’s youth ranks from 2000-10, it’s easier to judge the overall body of work because the majority are either retired or near the end of their playing days.
The big prize of this era is of course Daniele De Rossi. De Rossi broke into Roma’s first team in 2001. Just like Francesco Totti in the early 90s and Giuseppe Giannini in the early 80s, De Rossi gave Roma a marquee Roman in the 2000s.
We all know what De Rossi accomplished in his storied Roma career, while adding to the Roman legacy of Roma. However, after Capitano Futuro there was a big drop-off in Roma youth products. The only other player from that era that may have come close to being a star was Alberto Aquilani.
Unfortunately for Aquilani, he never reached his true potential due to a string of injuries. After making just over 100 Roma appearances, he was sacrificed to help balance the books and sold to Liverpool for €20 million. Things never quite worked out for him in England and after that as he bounced around the Italian and Iberian peninsulas playing for seven more teams. Aquilani remains one of the biggest what ifs in recent Roma history.
The rest of the notable names from this era were mostly solid but not spectacular players with a few who had standout seasons. One of those players is Alessio Cerci. Cerci saw limited time with the Giallorossi before making a name for himself with Fiorentina and Torino. Cerci’s best season at Torino, flanking Ciro Immobile, earned him a move to Atletico Madrid, but much like Aquilani, his move abroad coincided with a decline in his performances.
Andrea Bertolacci was another player who didn’t get much of a chance in the capital, but had looks at other clubs. Bertolacci never made a senior team appearance for Roma, but his best season with Genoa in 14/15 (6 goals, 8 assists) allowed Roma to sell him to Milan for €21 million. His Milan career was a bust, but he’s still in the league with Sampdoria.
Stafano Okaka was given a chance to earn a place in the budget-Roma of the Sensi era during the mid-2000s. However, in 33 appearances he scored just once for the Giallorossi. Since his departure in 2012 after various loan spells, Okaka has bounced around Italy and Europe. His best goal-scoring season was in 15/16 with Anderlecht (15 goals). He’s now in his second season with Udinese and has 5 goals in 21 appearances during the suspended campaign.
A couple other players who got some first team burn with the Giallorossi around the same time as Okaka are Leandro Greco (37 appearances) and Aleandro Rosi (74 appearances). Both were loaned out various times before being sold in the summer of 2012. Rosi featured often enough at right back in his final Roma campaign to accumulate more than 1,700 minutes. Since their departures both have had journeyman careers, and ironically enough have reunited this season at Perugia in Serie B.
A few other notable journeymen to come out of the Roma youth system during this era were forwards Marco D’alessandro and Daniele Corvia, midfielder Daniele Galloppa, defender Cesare Bovo, and keepers Marco Amelia and Gianluca Curci. None except for Amelia (Milan) suited up for a club bigger than Roma and for the most part spent their careers playing for lower and mid-table Serie A teams.
2000s vs 2010s:
When comparing the on-the-field results between the 2000s and 2010s for Roma’s Primavera, it’s not even close. During the first decade of the new millennium, Alberto De Rossi’s side earned only one trophy: the 2004-2005 Scudetto. Meanwhile, since 2010 Roma has won two Scudetti, two Coppa Italias, and two Supercoppas at the Primavera level. But, does all that on the field success mean that Roma’s turned out more individual talent recently?
It’s still too soon too tell on some of the most recent graduates, which adds an important variable in any comparison. However, outside of De Rossi, who developed into a club icon and world class player, an argument can be made that Roma produced more talent in the 2010s than the 2000s.
Alessio Romagnoli, in his mid-20s, has already accomplished more than any defender to come out of the Roma system in the 2000s. He’s accumulated almost 150 Milan appearances and is the team’s captain. Additionally, Alessandro Florenzi may get a lot of flack for not performing well at right back, but he’s racked up 222 Roma appearances and 35 Italy caps. That’s certainly more than anyone outside of De Rossi can claim from the previous decade.
Meanwhile, Luca Pellegrini looks to have as much or more talent than perhaps anyone from either decade outside of De Rossi. He’s still just 20-years-old, but Pellegrini has all the makings of being a top left back. Unfortunately for Roma, he will be writing his legacy with Juventus if he’s as good as advertised.
Lorenzo Pellegrini, if he continues on his current trajectory, should surpass any of the midfield talents that came out of Trigoria in the 2000s, excluding De Rossi of course. Pellegrini is quickly cementing his place as the next Roman torchbearer for the Giallorossi. Meanwhile, up front, Politano’s career trajectory is similar to Cerci’s, but he could still surpass him if he succeeds with Napoli.
When looking at the journeyman/squad depth type players, the younger crop compares well in many ways. For example, Pablo Sanabria has the potential to have a stronger career than Okaka if he continues to perform for Genoa. Meanwhile, Caprari, Viviani, and Verre stack up well with players like D’alessandro, Galloppa, and Corvia.
While it may seem that Roma isn’t producing much first team talent in recent seasons, when comparing the last two decades it appears as if Roma is producing talent in greater quantities. Sure, Roma hasn’t produced a player of De Rossi’s level this decade, but players like the two Pellegrinis and Romagnoli project as high quality players with plenty of years ahead of them. Even Florenzi, for all his faults, ranks favorably when compared with the 2000s class of players.
With the club using fewer Primavera players to fill depth roles, it seems like Roma is producing less talent. Back during the Sensi years, players like Rosi, Greco, Okaka, and Curci were promoted to fill out the roster. Nowadays under Pallotta, low cost foreign veterans and youngsters are more likely to fill those roles, while promising Primavera players like Frattesi and Marchizza are being used as makeweights in bigger deals instead of filling out the roster.
It’s still possible that players like Mirko Antonucci and more recent Primavera products like Alessio Riccardi, Zan Celar, and Devid Bouah can still help the squad in upcoming seasons, as well. So, the “de-Romanization” of Roma seems like a bit of a knee jerk reaction, as players that are good enough to be kept in the squad, like Lorenzo Pellegrini, still project as important players. Sure, the Luca Pellgrini sale hurt, but similar to Aquilani’s move to Liverpool a decade ago, it was all about balancing the books.
While it would be nice to see the club utilize some more of it’s better prospects rather than send them away for mediocre foreigners like Gregoire Defrel, it would be unfair to say Roma is producing any less talent than it has in the past. In fact, in many ways the club is producing more and seeing the results in the Primavera trophy cabinet. Roma may not always have a Totti or De Rossi coming down the pike, but they do have several intriguing prospects, and as far as that future talisman is concerned...well, they stole him from Inter's youth system.