During part one of our mini-series yesterday, we discussed what makes a “perfect footballer.” While there is no standard recipe for perfection, most of us agreed that the “perfect footballer” possesses a unique blend of physical prowess and mental processing speed. That blend can vary based on the position, but essentially this “perfect footballer” needs to be fitter, stronger, faster and smarter than the majority of players on the pitch.
Not an easy recipe, and as you saw, we diverged a bit when trying to label the best and brightest in global football. From Kylian Mbappe to Kevin DeBruyne to Adama Traore to Luka Modric, we struggled to identify the perfect modern footballer.
But what if, instead of identifying the perfect footballer, we built them ourselves?
That was the task I set before the CdT crew: Build the perfect Roma player.
Taking one physical trait from any Roma player in club history, create the perfect Roma player. But, you can only use one trait from one player. In other words, you can't have Totti's brain and his feet; you can only choose one.
Your perfect Roma player will be based on the following mental and physical traits:
- Brain (Decision making, tactical understanding, understanding risk vs reward)
- Eyes (seeing passing lanes, reading defensive structures, picking out final passes etc.)
- Heart (desire, passion, energy, commitment)
- Legs (running speed, agility, shot power, balance, strength on the ball)
- Feet (first touch, shot control, close control, crossing accuracy, dribbling)
Bren's Perfect Roma Player
Brain: Simone Perrotta
Perrotta had some top-class skills, but you don’t carve out an 18-year-long World Cup-winning career playing multiple positions and serving a variety of roles if you don’t understand the game of football. Perrotta’s understanding of the game allowed him to excel as a holding player, a box-to-box midfielder, and an attacking midfielder, all while playing in the center and out-wide. He was just one of those dudes who knew how to play, full stop.
Eyes: Manuela Giugliano
I’m reaching over to the women’s side for this one, and based on what she’s done over the past two years or so, I’m not sure there’s a player with better vision in the organization than Giugliano. While she has a sublime touch and feel for the game, her ability to see passing lanes before they actually open is second to none—she can place that pinpoint final pass just as easily as she can spring Bonfantini into space from 40 or 50 yards away. Giugliano has a lot of top qualities, but her 20/20 vision would make for a perfect footballer.
Heart: Daniele De Rossi
This might be the most obvious one, right? Set aside his love and passion for the club and De Rossi was still perhaps the most relentless and ferocious player to ever wear a Roma shirt. On the current squad, Jordan Veretout’s inexhaustible energy supply would be a top choice, but when I envision Roma + heart, it’s Daniele De Rossi. Whether he was hurt or injured, 25 or 35, he left it all on the pitch.
Legs: Stephan El Shaarawy
SES may not be the fastest player in club history, but his agility and springiness (if you will) were impeccable. He just never seemed to paint himself into a corner; there was never a defender he couldn’t skip around or an opening he couldn’t find. While I may be sacrificing some shot power here, El Shaarawy’s agility, balance, and fast-twitch muscles would make this RoboPlayer impossible to contain.
Feet: Francesco Totti
I could have conceivably taken Totti for any of these categories, but his feet really set him apart from his contemporaries. He wasn’t the strongest or fastest player on the squad at any point in his career, but his feet were magic. From his pillow-like touch to his close control to his thunderous free-kicks and cheeky penalties, Totti’s feet were his ultimate weapon and would be the perfect capper to this perfect footballer.
Dallagente's Perfect Roma Player
Brain: Agostino Di Bartolomei
I’m stealing Bren’s reasoning for this, with a different context. Ago was another gradually moving back from attacking mid to playing deep midfielder, and then libero switching between midfield and defence over his Roma career. But what’s so special about it in his case? Di Bartolomei had to put total trust in his coach’s demands to play an atypical style of football that could have easily meant Dibba getting savaged by Italian history and football, had it gone wrong. Yet he had the temperament not just to pull it off, but lead Roma to an epic league title victory and European Cup final, as well as several Italian Cups in between. The nerve it takes to pull that off cannot be understated.
Eyes: David Pizzaro
I’m tempted to go for Manuela Giugliano, too. But I have to give it to Pizzaro’s vision in a Roma shirt. In 2014 at 36 years old, Pek was called back up to the Chile national team under Sampaoli, after Pizzaro’s self-enforced exile from international duty several years earlier. That says it all about how timeless his game was from the heart of midfield, for club and country.
Heart: Radja Nainggolan
I’m going to give it to Ninja, who was one of my favourite players from the moment he first played for Roma. Radja the heart to play a clean game and rarely was in genuine card trouble because of it. He was a freakish athlete. For at least two seasons of his Roma career under Garcia, Radja’s commitment and desire were unquestionable. Unfortunately Spallletti turned his desire exclusively towards goalscoring and assists at the expense of his all-round development, which is why Radja’s now back at Cagliari, in the same manner Roberto Baggio finished his career at Brescia.
Legs: Aleksandar Kolarov
My guy with the legs to drive the team is Kolarov. His shot-power is ridiculous, and goalscoring record even moreso. He still regularly sprints an average of over 31.0 km/h each game, which would clock even faster in his prime. Though he’s justifiably accused of making the ball do more and more work with age, you won’t find a more influential player trusted by Roma teammates to use the ball to Roma’s benefit at any phase in the game. Whether Roma are winning, losing or drawing, Kolarov is often the guy taking the most touches and influencing the rhythm of the game accordingly.
Feet: Francesco Totti
Unquestionably, it’s Totti. Sampdoria vs. Roma, 2006. A left-foot volley plucked out of the sky onto his “weaker” foot. Seconds later, the entire stadium is on their feet applauding. I watch it over and over again, it will never get old.
Ssciavillo's Perfect Roma Player
Brain: Daniele De Rossi
While it’s true that De Rossi’s temperament got him in some hot water early in his career, his footballing intelligence came to the forefront as his legs accumulated miles. De Rossi was like a second manager on the pitch for Roma in his later years. He had a great tactical understanding of the game, which was invaluable to the squad. He was also a leader both on and off the pitch. He knew just what to say in the most difficult moments and always faced up to the music when things didn’t go right for Roma and Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see DDR using that brain on the Roma touchline one day.
Eyes: David Pizarro
I’m going to go with a bit of a throwback for this one. Pizarro was the metronome of Roma’s midfield during six plus seasons in the capital. Pizarro’s reading of the game allowed him to contribute 52 assists in 207 Roma appearances. The diminutive Chilean’s eyes unlocked plenty of opposing defenses and he was the perfect complement to De Rossi in Spalletti’s two-man midfield during the near Scudetto of 2009-10 because of these qualities.
Heart: Alessandro Florenzi
You can question Florenzi’s abilities as a footballer—he’s a sort of jack of all trades player, who does a lot for the team, but doesn’t do any one thing great. Injuries and positional switches mean that Florenzi’s Roma career will always be underwhelming. However, there’s one thing Florenzi can’t be criticized for—his heart. The man would run through walls for Roma with an energy, desire, passion, and commitment unmatched by the majority of his teammates. Roma would be well served to find more players with the heart of Florenzi.
Legs: Radja Nainggolan
The Ninja was an absolute beast in Roma’s midfield under Luciano Spalletti. The man ran tirelessly in the midfield, breaking up opposing play with his pressing while also pushing hard when Roma were in attack. And he was a lot more than pure hustle. Radja has an absolute rocket of a shot that led to him scoring his fair share of goals. Nainggolan was strong on the ball, balanced, and agile. Oh, and don’t forget, he made plenty of strong tackles with those legs. He had it all in terms of the legs you’d want on your ultimate footballer.
Feet: Francesco Totti
Like Bren said, Totti could conceivably fit into any of these categories, but his greatest asset was hit feet. The man’s feet were pure magic. His control and first touch were off the charts. I mean have you seen some of his one-time backheel passes to unlock opposing defenses? Then, of course, there were the wonder goals that were more about accuracy than power. From his chip of Francesco Toldo to the left-footed volley against Samp to countless others. What I would give to have that back at Roma.
Jonas’ Perfect Roma Player
One of my favorite defenders at Roma. We sure had more than a handful of crazy centre backs since 2000 (Mexes, Burdisso, Manolas etc) but Juan was different. Smooth like butter. He was the perfect partner for Mexes and such a calm presence. When Juan was on the pitch, I felt like a baby in mother’s womb: save.
Eyes: Francesco Totti
Not much to explain really. Just search some highlights of Totti and YouTube and wipe the drool of your chin.
Heart: Radja Nainggolan
Fuck it, I’m a patriot. After picking De Bruyne in a previous question, I’m gonna go for that other Belgian, Radja, this time. De Rossi or Florenzi are the obvious answers here and 9 outta 10 I would have chosen the very same names. But weirdly enough I instantly thought of Nainggolan and not De Rossi. Not a Roman, not even an Italian, but Radja understood the importance of the club, the colors, the crest and most of all the Curva. Put 11 Radja’s on your team and you simply can’t lose.
Legs: Mohamed Salah
Self-explanatory. Running speed, agility, shot power, balance, strength on the ball: check, check, check, check, check! I think I never saw a specimen like Salah at Roma. So sad he only lasted two seasons. Four or five seasons more and he could have been on par with the Conti, Falcao, Totti, De Rossi and Batistuta’s of this club.
Feet: Pja… errr Pizarro
Well since I couldn’t pick Totti, it was a toss-up between Pizarro or Pjanic for me. And then 2015-2016 Pjanic has a slight advantage. Old-school creative play-maker with good feet, knows how to score and pass in tight spaces. That season was his true coming of age. Aaaand then he left and went to Juve...Meh, screw him, David Pizarro it is! All hail Pek!
Jimmy's Perfect Roma Player
Brain: Kevin Strootman
Yeah, I chose Er Lavatrice, the man who gave a Lazio supporter the Italian salute while watching a match in the stands, as the brain. I think the logic follows, though; the reason Strootman was so good at cleaning up the dirty dishes in Rudi Garcia’s tactical system was because of his understanding of the pitch. If he didn’t have a strong understanding of the game, of where the opponent was going to pass to, of where he should pass to after winning the ball back, he wouldn’t have been able to play such an integral role in so many incarnations of Roma from 2013 to 2018.
Eyes: Francesco Totti
It’s Totti. You know it’s Totti, and any explanation I give beyond that would be belaboring the point.
Heart: Alessandro Florenzi
There is no other choice for this section. Alessandro Florenzi is definitely not as talented as Totti, he’s not as talented as Daniele De Rossi, and he’s honestly not as talented as Lorenzo Pellegrini. But he made up for that while he was at Roma (and he will continue to do so if he comes back) with heart. So. Much. Heart. He was committed to the club, committed to his teammates, committed to victory whenever possible. You could see him lose a bit of his soul any time he made a mistake, and you could see his heart grow three sizes like the Grinch at the end of How The Grinch Stole Christmas when he succeeded. That wonder goal against Barcelona was all heart, and if you don’t think Alessandro Florenzi deserves your love for his heart alone, I don’t know what to tell you.
Legs: Mohamed Salah
As I mentioned earlier, when Salah first joined Roma he was thought of as a pretty good speed demon, not a superstar. Mo BECAME a superstar while at Roma by combining his frighteningly fast pace with enough vision to pull it all together. Maybe he got some advice from Totti (I wouldn’t be surprised, they seemed to get along), but the point for this section is man can that guy fly.
Feet: Miralem Pjanic
You know what, I’ll stand up for the Pjanic we once knew. Twinkle Toes was understandably incredible with his feet, and I think it’s been long enough that we’re starting to forget that fact. It was a little bit easier to sleep at night thinking that Pjanic would be the future of Roma’s playmaking after Totti rode off into the sunset; obviously, that didn’t happen, and Pjanic lost most of, if not all of his goodwill in Rome by leaving for Juve. Given that, his passing, his scoring, his accuracy in close quarters made Roma’s Mira a dream to watch. If I can get rid of the scummy leave-for-Juve parts of Pjanic and just keep the feet, you know I’m doing that in an instant.
There you have it; five choices for the perfect Roma player. What's your recipe?
Which CdTer built the best Roma player? (Brain/Eyes/Heart/Legs/Feet?
This poll is closed
Bren: (Perrotta/Giugliano/De Rossi/SES/Totti)