With one goal and three assists in her first 247 minutes in a Roma shirt, Benedetta Glionna's Giallorosse career has gotten off to a near-perfect start. Acquired over the summer through a trade with Juventus involving forward Agnese Bonfantini, the 22-year-old forward had big shoes to fill. Not only was Bonfantini a fan favorite, but she was also a hell of a prospect in her own right, scoring 12 league goals in 56 appearances between 2018 and 2021. Between her aggressive approach, pace, and dribbling ability Bonfantini is one of Italy's brightest U-23 talents and a huge piece of Roma's plans.
Needless to say, parting with a talent like that shouldn't be taken lightly. And if you're going to trade a key element of the club's present and future, you better receive equal value in return. The good news is that Roma's Head of Women's Football (and former manager) Betty Bavagnoli managed that and so much more when she acquired Benedetta Glionna earlier this summer.
Making her Serie A debut as an 18-year-old with Juventus in 2017, Glionna has gone on to score 29 league goals since then, including 10 last season, which placed her fifth in the league scoring race. As talented as Bonfantini may be, by any objective measure, Glionna has had the more productive career to date. And, as we're seeing through the early portions of the season, she may be a better fit for this current Roma side and arguably has a higher ceiling than Bonfantini.
Thanks to her familiarity with manager Alessandro Spugna’s tactics, Glionna's first season in the capital has gotten off to a roaring start. While she didn't technically score against Empoli in the season opener—though she narrowly pushed one past the post—she had a hand in two of Empoli's three own goals that afternoon. Throw in her three assists so far, and her first Roma goal two weeks ago against Pomigliano, and Glionna is already making a name for herself among the Giallorosse faithful.
To get a better understanding of how Glionna is making her mark with Roma, we're going to take a look at her early work in Giallorosse colors to see exactly what she's capable of and what it means for the club's plans this season and beyond.
Glionna's Gifts: Creativity, Dribbling, Effective Speed & Finishing
With 10 goals last season, Benedetta Glionna found herself in some impressive goal-scoring company, joining the likes of Cristiana Girelli, Valentina Giacinti, and Daniela Sabatino among Serie A's most clinical strikers. She's not yet an elite goal-scorer, but she is undoubtedly one of the league's brightest young offensive talents, and as we're seeing in the early days of the ‘21-’22 season, she's so much more than a simple goal scorer.
While she doesn't have the speed of a 100-meter sprinter, Glionna has what we'd call effective speed. Using a series of body feints, step-overs, hesitation dribbles, and curl and drag moves, Glionna creates effective space between herself and the defense. The ability to create room for herself is part of what makes her such an effective goal scorer, but as we'll soon see, she brings these skills and traits to bear as a playmaker as well.
However, before we look at her shimmies and shakes, take a look at some of the pinpoint assists she's laid out for her teammates already, showcasing a rather underappreciated aspect of her game.
And we'll start with one of the sharpest assists you'll ever see:
I cut this clip short by accident, otherwise, there would have been a giant pause symbol in the middle, but this sequence started with Glionna running down the flanks and giving a quick glance before playing this inch-perfect ball to Valeria Pirone at the near post—this pass was so precise, it practically landed right on her foot. It's one thing to drop a dime like that standing still, but to do so in mid-gallop, and with such tremendous timing and precision, is outstanding.
And if you look closely, Pirone had to do nothing more than twist her foot slightly to redirect the ball past the keeper. If this pass were a fraction off in any direction, or even a split second late or early, this chance disappears in the wind.
But Glionna has already unfurled a few of these beauties in Roma's first three matches. Here's another near-post dime from Roma's 4-1 victory over Napoli:
Yes, Elisa Bartoli was completely unmarked at the near post, but that doesn't take away from Glionna's perfectly weighted ball to set up the captain. Similar to the prior clip, Glionna started this sequence on the flank before cutting in and creating a bit of space with a slight hesitation dribble. It's not something you'd spend hours perfecting on FIFA, but that slight little pause at the edge of the 18 gave her just enough time and space to whip the ball Bartoli's way—a subtle but clever (and effective) sequence from a player who's barely 22-years-old.
In this next clip, we see Glionna once again using hesitation to her advantage, giving the defender a moment's pause before dropping another dime, this time to Manuela Giugliano in the middle of the box:
Before we get to Glionna, can we talk about that finish!? Giugliano may be best known for spraying the ball over the park, but this was a sensational left-footed volley from Roma's number ten. But none of that would have been possible without Glionna's out-swinging cross, which once again was served up on a tee for its intended target.
Napoli's defense was already broken by this point, but you'll notice how the two defenders closest to Glionna froze the moment she gets to the edge of the area. Given her ability to dribble, score, and create in equal measure, the defense had to respect all three possible outcomes, and by pulling up ever so slightly before firing in the cross, Glionna planted the seed of doubt in their mind, making this play possible.
Rather than showcasing her pinpoint crosses and keen sense of timing, this next clip brings Glionna's concentration, anticipation, aggression, and quick-thinking to the forefront:
Napoli was outmatched in this game, but we have to credit Glionna for her sense of anticipation here. After initially keeping an eye on the left-back, Glionna instantly pounced on the ball once she realized the defender was playing it straight up the middle. And after intercepting the ball, she immediately turns back upfield and orchestrates a quick give-and-go with Pirone. We can quibble with Pirone's decision not to play it back to Glionna, but she was an inch away from notching another assist had Pirone not been foiled by the post.
Now let's take a quick look at Glionna's more direct contributions to the Roma cause. While she's only found the back of the net once this season, we've already seen flashes of the traits that make her such a dangerous goal scorer.
And we'll start with a goal she almost scored in Roma's opener against her former club, Empoli:
The entire Glionna package is on display in this sequence: aggression, agility, acceleration, trickery, and finishing. Where lesser players may have simply tried running past the defender on the outside, Glionna set up the defender with a series of stutter steps at the edge of the box, putting the defender on her heels, before braking (and breaking, I suppose) hard to her left—throwing the defender completely off balance—before quickly juking the other way.
This is what we mean by effective speed. Glionna doesn't have Bonfantini or Serturini's direct pace, so she may not have been able to race past the defender down the right, but the combination of her stutter steps and hesitation dribbles made her first step (to the right after fooling the defender by going left) appear faster than it may have actually been. In other words, the result of her hesitation dribbles made her first step more effective.
This is really the closest approximation of a basketball-style cross-over dribble that football offers. Glionna knew exactly what she was doing here; she wrote this defender's epitaph before she even got near the edge of the area. The stutter steps, the hesitation, the change of direction; all of it was perfectly planned and executed, and she only missed a goal by a matter of inches.
But lest you think her finishing is lacking, check out this stunner:
Props to the camera person for getting such a great low angle here; you get a sense for the amount of english Pirone had to put on this ball to find Glionna in the first place. From there, it's all Benny. Watch how she's almost turning, adjusting, and opening her hips before the ball is even there. With the defender draped all over her, every second counted, and she did a tremendous job to get in position and shield the defender before turning and firing, and what a finish it was—left-footed and in the top corner at the far post.
These two examples, even though only one actually scored, are prime examples of what makes Glionna such a special player. She has the athleticism and that almost unspoken knack for creating her own chances, but as the second clip shows, she can also be the outlet for Roma's other forwards and seems to be striking up a lethal partnership with Pirone in the early stages of the season.
What Does it All Mean?
While it's still incredibly early in the season, Glionna's play has been so effective and so infectious, we couldn't help but take a look at the early returns. With a couple of twists of fate and an inch here or there, Glionna could easily have two or three goals and four or five assists in three matches. As it stands, Glionna has one goal and three assists, the latter of which is tied for the league lead with Milan's Verónica Boquete, and seems like a safe bet to exceed her 10 goals and four assists from last season.
In the broader sense, we may be looking at Roma's first genuine star player. No offense to Elisa Bartoli or Manuela Giugliano, both of whom are world-class players, but your average fan tunes in to see the flashier aspects of the game: dribbling and goal-scoring; the traits that put butts in the seats.
Given her impressive skill set, which includes top-notch passing, playmaking, scoring, and dribbling, Benedetta Glionna can become one of the most dynamic talents in the league. Serie A Femminile has plenty of bona fide goal scorers, players like Valentina Giacinti and Cristiana Girelli—forwards who have made the league their personal playground—but we haven't yet seen anyone quite like Glionna; a player who could potentially crack the double-double this season; an exceedingly rare feat in this league.
In our U-23 countdown, we profiled Glionna as a Rose Lavelle-lite; a game-breaking talent that influences the outcome of matches with her power, pace, passing, creativity, and nose for goal. Glionna may start the match slotted out wide on the right, but we've already seen her mix it up in the middle of the park. Given her vast collection of skills, Glionna can influence the game from anywhere on the pitch, which makes her practically unstoppable, not to mention indispensable to the club's future plans.
At its most basic, and I suppose even its most extreme, we're looking at the building block for Roma's first truly great squad. And it's not so much her sheer talent, but the myriad ways she can influence a match. It would be one thing if Glionna were just a poacher capable of racking up a dozen goals in 20 matches, or even if she were just a crafty, wily winger, but the fact that she can do both is precisely what makes her so dangerous to opponents and so important to Roma's future.
Glionna, much like Francesco Totti before her, will become the straw that stirs Roma's drink; she'll be the reason players flock to the capital, the foundation for all the club's personnel decisions, and, eventually, the face of the franchise.
Considering all that, please join me in extending a sincere thank you to Juventus. We all still believe in Agnese Bonfantini's potential, but she can't hold a candle to Benedetta Glionna.