Goalkeeping is one of the last remaining contentious areas of debate on the women’s side of Italian football. After three seasons as a Roma fan in this league, I feel there’s no use skirting around the issue; especially when you’ve got a top keeper like Camelia Ceasar in Roma’s goal, whose presence is emblematic of a topic that still gives some Femminile football fans cause to walk around with a big chip on shoulders. The simple question is: How long does it take for goalkeepers—in any category of any league—to get taller, faster, stronger?
Historically, men’s football holds its own answers. But, today, the simple answer is we’ll never find out unless Serie A Femminile continues to get the long-term support, training, and opportunity to keep beating its own competitive levels, day in day out. Ceasar is proof of that much in her two seasons spent playing for Roma thus far.
Still in her early twenties and standing at 5 foot 6 inches tall, Ceasar has displaced former Italian international keepers such as Chiara Marchitelli (back in their Brescia days) and Rosalia Pipitone in Rome. Last season, Ceasar was pitted against Italy’s international reserve keeper Rachele Baldi, who arrived as a new signing to Roma in the summer of 2020. Pretty much all of those names have been bigger and taller than Ceasar, but what gains they have over the Romanian-Italian keeper in stature are matched by Ceasar’s agility and character.
Ceasar’s ability to unite her backline, and maybe even an entire dressing room, was evident when her charisma spread through the atmosphere of Roma’s pre-season training back in 2019. After helping Roma to win last season’s Coppa Italia on penalties, the post-season footage of that victorious campaign included on-pitch training segments where Ceasar was unequivocal about her mindset and strategy when it came to penalty saves (of which she’s come up with some big ones in league games for Roma, too). In Ceasar, you’ve got a character who knows what she wants, recognises her limits, and yet has a clear plan to keep breaking those limits and reach new levels.
Despite her continued progress in Rome, and a glittering CV that now holds league titles and cup successes with different clubs, Ceasar has never been trusted with more than 13 league games for Roma in the past two seasons. Could this be the year Roma’s #12 makes the number 1 spot her own?
Goalkeepers: Camelia Ceasar (Starter), Rachele Baldi (Number 2), Katia Ghioc (Primavera Star - Reserve), Aurora Gilardi (Reserve).
Best Case Scenario
Roma’s goalkeeping lineup has no clear favourites, which could either work for the squad or against it. But, if it’s to work in Roma’s favour, then we’re counting on senior keepers Ceasar and Baldi to push each other to new personal bests in both the league and cup.
You can’t get much better than winning the cup itself, so maybe Ceasar’s status as the club’s penalty-save specialist has her penciled in for the latter rounds of the Coppa Italia once again. That means Rachele Baldi’s best chance at making the goalkeeping spot her own lies firmly in the Serie A calendar. And though we’ve spent all this time writing about Ceasar, let’s make no mistake: Rachele Baldi is a very accomplished keeper. We’ll get to more on her later.
For now, it’s enough to say that Baldi needs to use her sophomore season to do exactly what Ceasar did in her own second season with Roma last year: Cut out the mistakes from her debut year. Meanwhile, Ceasar simply needs another season like the last one, and count on that being enough to finally earn a full league campaign’s worth of action in Rome.
Worst Case Scenario
As we mentioned earlier, there’s no clear hierarchy between Roma’s four goalkeepers other than the greater experience of names like Ceasar and Baldi, compared to the relative youth of reserve keepers Katia Ghioc and Aurora Gilardi (pictured above).
New Roma manager Alessandro Spugna has no loyalties to any one of these names, except arguably new signing Aurora Gilardi who’s been brought in from Brescia this summer. That leaves Spugna with complete freedom to play or bench any keeper as he likes. The worst case is that Roma still feels the need to keep rotating keepers, undermine their confidence and fail to bring the consistent best out of either Ceasar or Baldi. That would leave a door slightly ajar for an unlikely start for either Ghioc or Gilardi in the league.
Ghioc has the conviction of two consecutive league titles won at Primavera level with Roma under her belt, while Gilardi is held in high esteem within Italy’s youth ranks at the international level. But, in an ideal world where Roma’s season goes to plan, we won’t be seeing much of Ghioc or Gilardi this campaign.
Breakout Candidate: Rachele Baldi
As much as we love Ceasar, it’s Rachele Baldi who’s got more to prove this season. So we couldn’t name anyone else as our breakout star candidate, as you’d have to say Ceasar proved done more than enough in a Roma jersey to consider herself to favourite at the club. The onus is on Baldi to make the unexpected happen.
Baldi wasn’t in the running for the Italy goalkeeper spot this time last year for no reason. But it’s up to her to re-find the kind of form that earned her call-ups to the Italy squad in the first place. Her Roman adventure is Baldi’s first career move outside of her home region of Tuscany, and it seems like she lost some self-assuredness in her new surroundings last season. But she now has a trump card up her sleeve.
This season, Baldi has been joined in Rome by the familiar face of new Roma full-back (and former Empoli captain) Lucia Di Guglielmo. The two player’s shared history in Tuscany runs back so far that they’d both been playing together a decade ago, back when Empoli’s club was still known as Castelfranco. And though Baldi moved away from Empoli before Roma coach Alessandro Spugna and Roma winger Benedetta Glionna plied their trade in Tuscany last season, all four names will share the experience of what it’s like to move from Empoli to trying to prove yourself in the Italian capital,
That now gives Baldi plenty of cause to feel settled in the Eternal City. And who knows if she will use that as fuel to dominate in goal this year? Baldi certainly has all the tools to do so.