Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve our list of the best Italian, South American ad European players in Roma’s history. But those categories shrink into insignificance compared the most memorable Primavera youth products to have (n)ever played for AS Roma. This is it, guys. The big one!
Editorial note: For those of us deprived of any form of sarcasm: Avery your eyes, this won’t be pretty.
Goalkeeper: Carlo Zotti
I must confess it wil be mainly an overview of ‘talents’ from 2002 onwards because I only started following Roma right after the Scudetto celebrations/hangovers and boy, this name takes me back a loooong way.
Carlo Zotti, born in 1982, was the annual Primavera kid thrown into the goalkeeper mix, and at the time and I had high hopes for him (little did I know). I had one particularly good reason: His name was one consonant different than the greatest Roman player of all time. Carlo was destined for greatness. Or so I thought.
Zotti, a member of the Italy U-21 who won the 2004 European Championship, had a difficult time in Rome and had to battle Pelizzolli, Antonioli and Lupatelli for a starting spot so it wasn’t really a fair race. Zotti got loaned out in 2005 to Ascoli and in 2007 to Sampdoria. Both loans weren’t a success. He was 4th choice keeper in 2007-2008 (behind JSB, Curci, Doni) and after that Carlo left Roma. Enough is enough.
He mainly featured for smaller clubs like Citadella and Bellinzona and…that’s all she wrote really. According to Wikipedia (so it must be true then) he ended his football career in 2015 at FC Locarno with zero appearances. Okay great, now my day’s ruined.
Center-Back: Giuseppe Scurto
A tall defender and member of the 2002-2004 Primavera, Giuseppe made his debut for AS Roma in 2004 against Milan. Scurto was part of literally every national youth set-up (U-15/U-18/U-19/U-20/U-21) but AS Roma was the toughest nut to crack. And surprise surprise, he didn’t cut it. After only one season with the first team, 50% of Scurto was sold to Chievo in 2005 and the Flying Donkeys bought his other half two years later.
Giuseppe had a reasonable career, playing for Chievo, Triestina and Treviso before calling it quits in 2012 due to ‘physical issues’. Hmmm, perhaps he WAS destined for AS Roma all this time...
Fun fact: He’s now a Primavera manager and enjoyed some successes at Palermo.
Center-Back: Luca Antei
I nearly choked in my coffee when I discovered Luca’s already 28 by now. Once hailed by the walking tobacco plant himself, Walter Sabatini, as an exceptional talent, Antei was called up during season 2010-2011 but never got to see a single minute on the pitch. No worries, Antei did win the Primavera title that year.
Luca was loaned out to Grosseto until 2012 but had an operation on his knee which doomed his following season and perhaps his whole career. However, Sassuolo jumped on the occasion and signed 50% of Antei one year later. By 2015 he was 100% property of Sassuolo and Luca eventually made approximately 50 appearances for the Neroverdi.
Right now, Luca’s at Benevento playing alongside famous names like Christian Maggio, Luca Caldirola, Marco Sau and another former Roma youth product, Federico Barba.
Who knows how it would have ended without that knee surgery because Antei was an interesting prospect for sure. We’ll never know if Sabatini was right in 2011 but it looks like Antei will forever be seen as one of the many wasted Primavera kids and that’s a shame.
Left-Back: Cesare Bovo
You know, I really liked this guy. He was no Juan, Benatia or Aldair, but he wasn’t that bad at all. And hey, he was already part of the 2001 Scudetto team as youth player (0 appearances though) which I guess is nice for his resume.
In 2002, with only one Coppa game under his belt, he was sold to Lecce in a co-ownership and stayed in the south of Italy for 2 seasons. Roma used him in the famous Matteo Ferrari deal back in 2004 with Parma. After a decent campaign, he returned to Roma in 2005 and actually tasted from a lot of first team action, he replaced that same Ferrari who went to Everton on loan.
He was an integral part of the 2005-2006 side (Luciano Spalletti’s debut) which ended second in Serie A after Calciopoli. Bovo amassed 22 appearances in the league (both as a CB and fullback), even though there was stiff competition from Mexes, Chivu, Panucci and Cufre.
Ferrari returned in 2006 and a certain Marco Cassetti also joined the fray so there was no room for Bovo anymore. Cesare featured for various Serie A clubs like Palermo, Torino, Genoa and Pescara after 2006 but dropped down to Serie B in 2017 with the latter.
Oh well, at least he’ll always have that 2001 Scudetto to brag about.
Right-Back: Alessandro Crescenzi
Perhaps the most magnificent hairdo in Roma’s history, next to Totti (2004 version) and Abel Xavier. Alessandro was able to play both right and left-back and was promoted to the first team in 2008, at the age of 17. A promising talent but blocked by players like Cicinho, Riise, Tonetto and Cassetti. He made his debut in March 2009.
After the 2008-2009 season, he got loaned out to (are you ready for this?) 6 different frikkin’ teams from both Serie A and Serie B. In between he visited the lovely island Corsica with club Ajaccio. That all happened between 2009 and 2016. Needless to say, there was no future for Crescenzi in Rome. His total of Roman appearances will remain 1.
His latest trick? US Cremonese. On loan of course.
Midfielder: Federico Viviani
One of the most hyped Primavera products in recent times. Captain of the Primavera side that won the Coppa Italia in 2012! An Italian deep-lying playmaker ala Pirlo ready to take the world by storm! Made his debut under Real and Barcelona legend Luis Enrique! He signed a 5 year contract in 2012 ready to make his legacy in Rome!
What. A. Waste.
Loaned out to three different clubs between 2012 and 2015. Sold to Hellas Verona. Two more loans. Bought by SPAL, kept them in Serie A in 2018. His reward? Loaned to Frosinone and now Livorno until June 2020. Nobody knows what’s next for Federico but damn, that’s one hell of a disappointment.
He had a decent spell at SPAL but that’s about it. At the age of 28 I guess things won’t improve much for poor Federico. No big move in sight, no Coppa Italia with the big boys this time. The Primavera curse strikes again.
Midfielder: Massimiliano Marsili
Probably the sexiest name on this team. Born and bred in Rome, Marsili made just one appearance for Roma as a substitute: in 2005 when he was only 17. Half an hour of fame, that was his contribution with the first team between 2004 and 2007. Two loans to smaller teams didn’t help to launch his career.
What followed was nothing short of a disaster. Between 2009 and 2017 Marsili changed clubs thirteen times according to his Wikipedia. Still only 32 years old, Marsili is now at Bitonto at Serie D. The D stands for Depression.
Midfielder: Valerio Virga
A personal favorite of mine. Just like Zotti, this brings back a lot of memories. Well, not really because he only reached around 10 games for Roma. But back in 2004 I was just a commencing Roma fan, an amateur, so I clung on every youth product I could see on the team sheet. And admit it, Valerio Virga is a cool name.
Further research revealed that he was with Roma as recently as 2014, not that long ago. But Valerio has rarely seen the inside of Trigoria. Six loans in ten years, none of them were truly successful. He wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of De Rossi, that was pretty clear.
However, Virga did score a goal for Roma, in the Coppa Italia 2006 and even featured in the CL for the Giallorossi against Valencia that same year.
Now 33-years-old, his last three clubs were: Monterotondo, Borgosesia and Omegna. If you immediately knew where these are situated in Italy, I will personally come to your house and do the laundry including your underpants.
Forward: Federico Ricci
This one was all hype and promises. He has a brother, Matteo, but Federico was seen as the most talented of the two brothers. Or let’s say, chances were smaller he would fuck it up. Alas...
A handful of games in Rudi Garcia’s wonder campaign 2013-2014 but nothing to write home about really. Two satisfactory loans to Crotone and Sassuolo made the fans dream big. After all, that loan to Crotone worked miracles for Florenzi and Ricci was the same type of player.
But the Roma management had other plans with Federico. They used him in a deal to pry away Lorenzo Pellegrini from Sassuolo as Lorenzo’s ceiling was supposed to be higher. So, did Federico explode at Sassuolo then?
Sadly no. He’s now at Spezia, his fourth consecutive loan since joining the Neroverdi. He’s still only 25 going on 26, so don’t write him off just yet. But it doesn’t look good for yet another Roma Primavera star.
Oh and guess who’s also playing for Spezia Calcio? His brother Matteo...
Forward: Giammario Piscitella
Another kid who was hailed as the next big thing back in 2012. In May he signed a new contract until 2017 but Roma already sent Piscitella to Genoa that same summer in a deal involving Destro and Verre. Piscitella was suddenly 50% owned by Genoa.
Roma did buy him back one year later, only to send him immediately to Pescara instead. That was a flop and Giammario returned to Rome after six months. So what do you then? You just throw the poor boy out the backdoor again, this time to Cittadella. Seriously, if he didn’t suffer brain damage until this point, it’s a miracle.
Four more loans and eventually the painful journey was over for Giammario. He recently signed a 2-year-contract at Novara at the age of 27. Please for the love of God, just leave him alone this time.
The irony of it all? Giammario only played official games for Roma in 2011-2012 under Luis Enrique, BEFORE signing that huge contract.
Striker: Claudio Della Penna
The next Montella? The next Delvecchio? I don’t know what people were smoking back then, but I want a piece of it. Claudio’s highlight in giallo e rosso was being a substitute for the great Adrian Pit in a Coppa Italia match in 2007. On top of that, Roma lost the game.
Claudio was loaned out in 2008 and 2010 before he left Roma. He had 2 decent years at Ternana before going AWOL between 2012 and 2013. Palestrina, Boreale and Tor Sapienza are some of the more ‘exotic’ teams he joined in his career since 2014.
Claudio’s 30 now, so who knows, maybe he’ll come back to Rome one day and score four goals in a derby like Montella, silencing all the critics.
Honorable mentions: Pietro Pipolo, Damiano Ferronetti, Davide Petrucci, Daniele Corvia