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Reviewing Roma’s Keepers: Patricio Proved To Be a Perfect Fit

The Portuguese veteran quickly proved why Mourinho targeted him to be Roma’s last line of defense.

AS Roma v Feyenoord - 2022 UEFA Europa Conference League Final Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

From 2015 to 2018 Roma was in good hands. No, not because their home and auto policies were covered by Allstate, but because they had two of the most reliable goalkeepers in Europe between the sticks. For the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, Wojciech Szczęsny protected the Rome goal well enough before his loan from Arsenal expired and he moved on to Juventus. Despite that, he was quickly forgotten once Roma found someone better: Alisson Becker.

Alisson was otherworldly in leading Roma to the Champions League semifinals during the 2017-18 season. Those memories will live with Romanisti forever, but given the Giallorossi’s financial constraints during the Pallotta era, there was no way Roma was going to turn down over €70 million for the Brazilian Don Draper. And just like that, the Giallorossi were back in the market for a keeper.

Monchi’s mistakes as a DS in the Italian capital are well documented, but his replacement of Alisson with Robin Olsen stands out like a sore thumb. Monchi broke one of the cardinal rules of the transfer market and ponied up the cash for Olsen after he performed well for Sweden at the 2018 World Cup. That turned out to be a disaster and likely cost Roma a return to the Champions League.

To cover that mistake on Olsen, Roma dropped more than €20 million on Pau Lopez, a keeper that seemed to fit Paulo Fonseca’s needs for a ball-playing keeper, just a season later. Problem is, that Lopez had issues doing his primary job as a keeper: stopping shots. In year two, he showed some improvement, but the writing was on the wall and Lopez followed Fonseca out the door this past summer.

Enter Tiago Pinto and José Mourinho. And consequently, enter Rui Patricio. Patricio entered to little fanfare and quite a bit of criticism from some, even getting pegged as the Portuguese Antonio Mirante. So, while you probably already know how things turned out with Patricio, let’s look back at our preseason view on things before judging Roma’s goalkeeper position.

Best and Worst-Case Scenarios Revisited

The Best-Case Scenario in August

In the best-case scenario, Patricio does what Olsen and Lopez couldn’t do in their time at the Stadio Olimpico— limit mistakes, make the saves he’s supposed to make, occasionally pull a rabbit out of his hat, and just not cost Roma points on the table.

Roma has been lacking a keeper who instilled confidence and could get the job done on a week-to-week basis. Patricio has to be that guy and he showed the ability to do just that with a couple of big saves in Roma’s recent friendly against Porto.

Patricio will hopefully find himself a bit less under fire than Lopez and Mirante did last season with a more solid defensive approach in front of him thanks to Mourinho’s arrival. Plus, a year more experience for Gianluca Mancini, Max Kumbulla, and Roger Ibañez, as well as a healthy Chris Smalling should hopefully make his job slightly easier.

In this end, the best-case scenario did in fact play itself out. Patricio did the things outlined in the first paragraph to a T. He also proved to be a steadying presence behind Roma’s backline and was a big reason for the drop in goals conceded in Mourinho’s more defensive setup. It definitely feels good to see that my hopes for the best won out over my fear of the worst case.

The Worst-Case Scenario in August

In the worst-case scenario (barring injury), Patricio proves to just be an older version of Olsen and Lopez. A guy who is no more than bang average and costs Roma vital points along the way. As the season wears on, and Patricio continues to struggle, Mourinho decides to roll the dice with Fuzato, who ultimately himself proves not to be up to snuff in meaningful matches.

If that scenario plays itself out then Roma finds itself out of the Champions League and perhaps Europa League again and is back in the market for a keeper come June for the fourth time in five seasons. The Giallorossi are forced to splash bigger cash for a player like Cragno next summer, while they are stuck looking for a home for Patricio like they’ve had to do in recent summers with Olsen and Lopez.

Luckily, the worst-case scenario couldn’t have been further from the truth. Patricio more than proved to be up to snuff even in the twilight of his career. He played all but one match in all competitions and played well. We never got to see much of Daniel Fuzato though, so it’s hard to say if he’s got what it takes to play top-flight keeper.

But, in the end, that’s kind of a good thing because it means Roma had a steady presence in net, achieved Europa League qualification, and won’t be in the market for another starting keeper again this summer.

Player Reviews & Ratings

Since the goalkeeper position features a much smaller player pool than the other positions on the roster the report card section will be just a bit shorter. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make it any less important considering what Roma has dealt with between the sticks in recent seasons.

Rui Patricio

UEFA Europa Conference League FINAL”AS Roma v Feyenoord Rotterdam” Photo by ANP via Getty Images

Stats (Serie A)

  • 52 matches played
  • 1.06 goals conceded per match
  • 21 clean sheets

Season Summary

What more could Roma have asked for from Patricio this season? He was everything and more than the Giallorossi could’ve expected when writing Wolves a check for just over €10 million. And he proved that every cent was well spent: 15 clean sheets in the league and 21 in all competitions speaks volumes about his play in net. He was the steadying presence Roma was missing the last three seasons. Not often spectacular, but always steady, Patricio was a perfect fit for this Roma.

Outlook for Next Season

Barring a sudden downturn in form or injury, Patricio will again be Roma’s number one between the sticks as the club tries to build on this season’s Conference League trophy. Given this season’s performance, there’s no reason to believe that Patricio can’t play at a high level for at least one more season. Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see if Mourinho gives him a few more matches off given that Mile Svilar comes in with more experience than Fuzato.

Final Grade: 9 out of 10

Patricio gave up very few bad goals this season. Sure, he had matches where he conceded two or three, but that often came down to poor defending rather than blunders on his part. And given his performance in the ECL final, Patricio is a big reason Roma hoisted a cup. Maybe my expectations for goalkeepers have been watered down by Olsen and Lopez, but I thought Patricio was very good this season.

Daniel Fuzato

AS Roma Training Session Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 1 match played
  • 2 goals allowed
  • 3 saves

Season Summary

Fuzato started just one Conference League match this season against CSKA Sofia, conceding twice. Other than that he was pulling the proverbial splinters out of his rear end. I don’t think even in the best-case scenario we imagined that the 24-year-old Brazilian would’ve played this little.

Outlook for Next Season

With signing Svilar on a free transfer, the writing is seemingly on the wall for Fuzato. It’s unlikely that the Brazilian would be happy sitting around as the third keeper and he’ll likely move on in the off-season. It’s a disappointing end to a Roma career that never got off the ground, but not every unknown Brazilian is going to turn into the next Alisson. Best of luck to Fuzato wherever he ends up next season.

Final Grade: Incomplete

It’d be unfair to grade Fuzato off of one start all season long, so we’ll give him an incomplete rating. It does make you wonder if he trained that poorly to not earn another start here or there, but we’ll likely have to wait until he’s elsewhere to see if he’s got what it takes to be a top-flight starter in Italy or elsewhere.

Final Thoughts on The Goalkeepers

Goalkeeper is the position with the least rotation. Nevertheless, Mourinho took that to another level this season by playing Rui Patricio in all but one group stage match in the Conference League. That speaks volumes to just how good Patricio was. After enduring Olsen and Lopez for the last three seasons, he was just what the doctor ordered.

On the same token though, the fact that Fuzato played so little is probably also an indictment on him. Thankfully, Patricio was all Roma could’ve hoped for and was a key cog in Mourinho’s retooled Roma defense. We’ll see if Mile Svilar can take some of those minutes from the Portuguese veteran next season, but for the time being Roma is in good hands with Patricio.