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Stuart Harper On April - 14 - 2011

Sette Sempre Unica - Hope Springs Eternal For AS Roma

Roma’s rollercoaster rattles on. Ascending from the depths of last week’s Juventus misery; the Giallaorossi emerged to clinch a vital three points against an in-form Udinese – with ‘il capitano’ bagging two ‘typically Totti’ strikes to keep Roma’s ‘fourth-place quest’ alive.

Saturday’s trip to Udine was fraught with danger. Defeat to Juve the previous weekend left the Bianconeri breathing down Roma’s neck, and a loss to Guidolin’s in-form Zebrette would have made a fourth place finish nigh on impossible.

Having lost Mexes prematurely, fortune favoured Montella’s men when the scourge of all Serie A defences, Alexis Sanchez, was ruled out shortly before kick-off. Nonetheless, there was still the small matter of marshalling Atonio Di Natale with the Friuli focus falling upon the talismanic duo of Toto and Er Pupone.

Of the latter, should proof be needed, Totti’s opening goal illustrated that his mojo had emphatically returned. From a 57th minute penalty, Totti motioned to resolutely thump home the spot-kick but slowed down his right foot prior to impact, lofting the ball over Handanovic who could only flail in vain having dived away to his left – the return of cucchiaio!

So if Totti’s opening salvo was audacious, the impeccably timed second may indeed prove priceless by the time this season concludes. In what was literally the last kick of the game, Totti powerfully flicked Riise’s cross past a helpless Handanovic, to seal a critical victory made all the more meaningful with both Juventus and Lazio also engineering victories.

Aside from the result, the good news for Romanisti is obviously capitano’s renaissance and the bonhomie this engenders within the ranks. At full-time, and as Antonio Di Natale lay prone and disconsolate, to a man each and every member of Roma’s playing and backroom staff jubilantly hugged Totti in a public show of affection and unison which made a Sunday afternoon in Genoa a very distant memory.

Bouncing back from last week’s painful home reverse to Juventus, it’s clear that Roma once again possess both togetherness and resolve – essential qualities as the race for fourth nears its conclusion. If there is a negative however, it’s that Roma need to find goals from elsewhere.

From Roma’s previous four games, Totti has snagged all six of the team’s strikes and it is imperative that one or more from Borriello, Menez and Vucinic step up to the plate. Seemingly there is a degree of discord between Montella and Boriello and Menez, with both underperforming since l’aeroplanino’s reign commenced. If Roma are to remain contenders for fourth both Marco and Jeremy need to emerge from their slump and prove their worth with the goals lacking from each player for over two months.

Speaking of Montella, he is forging quite the respectable palmares considering the unenviable mess he inherited. From seven games, Vincenzo has garnered a healthy 14-points, with only one loss marring his record. While ostensibly still within the ‘honeymoon period’, it is hard not to feel a degree of sympathy for Monetella when all anyone wants to discuss, including Francesco Totti, is Carlo Ancelotti.

Totti went on record to express his desire to work with Ancelotti, with the current Chelsea coach reciprocating in kind. And with Chelsea’s Champions League demise, the rumour mill is spinning more furiously than ever on the subject of a pending tryst between Carlo and capitano. This said, should Montella navigate a successful conclusion to Roma’s current campaign, would it be inconceivable for Roma to keep faith with the rookie tactician?

Inevitably, conjecture amongst tifosi surrounds the Di Benedetto millions and the possibilities brought about by the American. However, fans need to be realistic with regards to the depth of Di Benedetto’s pockets – and really do need to put into context what it costs not just to acquire, but salary some of the games more notable names.

Listening to Roma fans, it is clear that each department from goalkeeper to the forward-line needs enhancing. Therefore, if the rumoured war chest of €60m is accurate, tifosi will have to quell their desire for marquee names in favour of a carefully selected clutch of burgeoning, rather than established talent – rather than depositing an entire fund on a standout signing or possibly two. Furthermore, if indeed Di Benedetto subscribes to a ‘developmental methodology’; would it then be more prudent to remain with Montella as a manager who compliments such a culture?

Almost certainly fans will baulk at such a suggestion and the clamour for Ancelotti and a host of stellar signings will grow exponentially. In this instance, Roma need to exercise caution when scouting for suitable talent and specifically need to shun agents looking to secure handsome pension plans for players looking for capitalise on the capital club’s windfall. Roma were burnt by the ‘Adriano experience’ and desperately need to avoid a similar pitfall in the mercato minefield - caveat emptor.

If however Roma do opt for just one notable acquisition, may a certain Guiseppe Rossi prove to be an ideal fit? Goal savvy, the current Villareal and Azzurri forward could offer Roma a perfect foil for Totti, and is the type of character who could enter into Curva Sud folklore with a host of goals. While many tifosi will echo the urgent need to replace Mexes, one could also suggest that Roma risk a goal drought without Totti’s endeavours, and a player of Rossi’s ilk would help immeasurably – not withstanding his age (24), and the charming convenience of his American heritage.

When all is said and done, for Roma, it’s a time of possibilities, a period prone to wild speculation and excited conjecture – and yet nothing has been formalised, either on or off the pitch. So amongst all the uncertainty of this rollercoaster ride of a season, at least one thing is constant – the enduring class of Francesco Totti. And as long as Totti reigns, hope will always spring eternal.

Stuart Harper

Freelance sports writer covering football, calcio & futbol. A Villa, Roma & Barca fan. Cycling too.

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