There’s a Roman saying that goes ‘every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end’.
Seneca the Elder didn’t know it when he was dropping knowledge more than 2000 years ago but he effectively summed up the current state AS Roma.
Eusebio Di Francesco’s side head into the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool staring greatness in the face.
Aside from three domestic cups in 2007 and 2008, there hasn’t been much to shout about for Roma fans.
You have to go back to 2001 to find the last Roma side that came out on top of Serie A at the end of the season.
It would be Francesco Totti’s only title win and inspire Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi to succeed the club legend as Rome’s standard-bearers.
But how many of the current XI would get in Roma’s 2001 title winning side? Let’s first take a look at the two XIs.
Goalkeeper: Francesco Antonioli (2001) v Alisson (2018)
The fact that Real Madrid/Liverpool keeper-in-waiting Alisson will be starting ahead of Ederson for Brazil at the 2018 World Cup is testament to his abilities.
He’s a typically modern goalkeeper who looks equally as comfortable attempting to make the opposition striker look foolish by nutmegging him as he does saving shots.
It’s for that reason he edges Antonioli, a fine keeper in his own right who won two Serie A titles on the fringes of AC Milan’s first-team before stepping up at Roma in 2001.
Right wing-back: Cafu (2001) v Alessandro Florenzi (2018)
As a lifelong Roma fan Florenzi will have no problems conceding this battle to Cafu.
The Brazilian is rightly regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation and will remain Brazil’s most capped player for some time unless Neymar hangs around.
Florenzi can take something away though- he’s already scored more career goals than the Brazilian.
Left wing-back: Vincent Candela (2001) v Aleksandar Kolarov (2018)
Did you know that Candela was in the Italian version of Shaolin Soccer? Of course you did.
He also played for Sam Allardyce’s Galacticos Bolton side alongside Jay-Jay Okocha, Ivan Campo and Fernando Hierro in 2005.
But, for services to leathering the ball as hard as humanly possible, Kolarov wins this battle.
Centre-back: Walter Samuel (2001) v Federico Fazio (2018)
The battle of the two Argentinians.
For Samuel’s forgettable period at Real Madrid see Fazio’s gaffe-filled 20 games for Spurs.
But Walter was granite hard and has a Champions League medal sitting alongside six Serie A titles in his trophy cabinet. No contest.
Centre-back: Zago (2001) v Juan Jesus (2018)
Zago’s nicknames throughout his 17-year career range from ‘Terminator’ to ‘Zago the dragon spitter’ which tells you all you need to know about his uncompromising style.
Fellow Brazilian Juan Jesus is slightly more stylish on the ball but not in the same league when it comes to defending.
We’re going with Zago because we don’t want to get hurt.
Centre-back: Jonathan Zebina (2001) v Kostas Manolas (2018)
What do Zebina and Pascal Chimbonda have in common? They are both French one-cap wonders.
Whereas Chimbonda was punching, Zebina is unlucky in that he was competing with the likes of Lilian Thuram for a spot.
Unfortunately he’s been pipped again for a place in this side, with Manolas’ header against Barcelona ensuring he’ll never have to pay for another coffee in Rome.
Midfield: Damiano Tommasi (2001) v Daniele De Rossi (2018)
The battle of the two Italian terriers would have ensured plenty of fireworks.
Fabio Capello described Tommasi as his most important player in the title win, a label you’d probably give De Rossi in the current side.
But, aside from being a better footballer, De Rossi has a tattoo of someone getting brutally taken out on his leg, so it’s probably best we go with him.
Midfield: Cristiano Zanetti (2001) v Radja Nainggolan (2018)
While we’re on the topic of tough midfielders, Zanetti and Nainggolan didn’t mind mixing it up with the best of them.
Zanetti represented Inter Milan, Roma and Juventus during a solid career.
But, again, Nainggolan is a better footballer, which is impressive considering his dedication to smoking an boozing.
Midfield: Francesco Totti (2001) v Kevin Strootman (2018)
This isn’t a fair fight. For a start, Totti played as an attacking midfielder whereas Strootman is more defensive.
But anyone you put up against Totti would fall by the wayside.
If you’re a Roma fan then Er Bimbo de Oro comes before all else, including significant others.
Striker: Marco Delvecchio (2001) v Edin Dzeko (2018)
Delvecchio spent ten years at Roma, honing the ability to score against arch-rivals Lazio whenever he faced them.
But his goal ratio- around one every three and a half games- looks positively pedestrian when compared to Dzeko.
The big Bosnian was written off after leaving Man City but has since shut any doubters up with three consecutive prolific seasons.
Striker: Gabriel Batistuta (2001) v Cengiz Under (2018)
During the Nineties and early Noughties there was no more terrifying sight for defenders than Batistuta buccaneering towards goal.
He scored goals in every which way, from towering back post headers to 35-yard crossbar botherers.
Under is growing in confidence after a slow start in Italy and has a lovely left foot but he’s still nowhere near Batistuta’s pedigree.
The final XI
We’ve ended up with a surprising 6/5 split towards Roma’s current side.
Imagine the damage Kolarov’s left foot could do in combination with Batistuta’s head.
Alisson and Totti vying to be the side’s playmaker would also be a pretty epic battle.
It’s just a shame no one has invented a time machine yet.
READ MORE FROM THE WORLD OF DREAM TEAM:
- Remembering Roma’s perfect 3-5-2 that won Francesco Totti his only league title
- The story of Kostas Manolas’ first professional goal is pure Greek mythology
- Remembering when Mohamed Salah left Liverpool for Real Madrid in the summer of 2018