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Remembering Roma’s perfect 3-5-2 that won Francesco Totti his only league title

Francesco Totti's one and only Serie A title win came as part of a beautifully balanced team

Robert Huth has triple the amount of league titles as Francesco Totti. Let that sink in for a second.

But over the course of his 25-year career, in which he’s finished second in Serie A on eight occasions, Totti has achieved near immortality in the Eternal City.

So let’s focus on the positives. Let’s remember that one, special, league title success in 2001, achieved using an almost perfect 3-5-2 formation.



The gaffer

Five league titles with Milan and Real Madrid, not to mention a Champions League win with the former, meant Fabio Capello was one of Europe’s most highly regarded coaches.

As a player he’d won Coppa Italia with Roma during his three seasons at the club, but he’d never managed to win Serie A.

All that would change with his balanced 3-5-2 formation, which blended South American sorcery, Italian marble and gave free reign to the most talented trequartista in the country, Totti.



The back three

Heard the one about the Brazilian, the Argentinian and the Frenchman?

Brazilian A.C. Zago, Argentinian Walter Samuel and Frenchman Jonathan Zebina combined for a back three boasting pace, power and ability on the ball.

They conceded 33 goals across the season, bettered only by Juventus and Parma, providing a fantastic backbone for Roma’s attacking talents to flourish.



The best wing-back ever

Spare a thought for Vincent Candela, a French international and fine wing-back in his own right, who was slightly overshadowed by the phenomenon playing on the opposite flank.

Marcos Evangelista de Morais, known to you and I as Cafu, raided up and down the right with the flair only a Brazilian ‘defender’ could muster.

The 30-year-old, one of five Brazilians at Roma, played 31 times in the league, more than making up for the lack of wingers in Capello’s squad.



The water carriers

Every good team needs the unheralded workers, who put a shift in to allow others to bask in the glory of goals and assists.

Capello’s side was no different, with Italian duo Cristiano Zanetti and Damiano Tommasi doubling up deep in midfield to win the ball back and keep it simple.

Zanetti would interchange with Brazilian Emerson throughout the season, protecting the back three and dropping in when Cafu and Candela streamed forward.



The holy trinity

Now we get to the front end. The goalscorers. The holy trinity. Totti playing in behind Gabriel Batistuta and Vincenzo Montella.

As with the defensive midfielders, Capello had plenty of strength in depth, with Marco Delvecchio coming for Montella throughout the season.

The quartet combined for 49 league goals, with Batistuta finishing as Roma’s top scorer but trailing to Hernan Crespo, Andriy Shevchenko and Enrico Chiesa in the battle to be Serie A’s Capocannoniere.

Most importantly, Totti was free to roam as he so pleased, playing some of the best football of his career to be crowned Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year. Bellissimo.




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