Remembering AS Roma’s 2001 Scudetto Triumph

When you look at the history, the size and the players that have played for the club – you’d expect AS Roma to have won more than the three Serie A titles that they’ve won in their ninety-four year history!

Their last Scudetto came in the 2000-01 season and it seemed to happen because the stars in the sky aligned themselves perfectly that year.

They had a squad full of top players and a world class manager at the helm guiding them to that championship.

Various other clubs in Italy that year could’ve thought fate would be on their side.

AC Milan had a championship winning coach in Alberto Zaccheroni, Internazionale had the legendary Marcello Lippi as their boss, Turkish great Faith Terim (who had just won the UEFA Cup with Galatasaray) was Fiorentina’s gaffer, Juventus had a well respected upstart in Carlo Ancelotti and Roman rivals Lazio had Sven-Goran Ericsson, the man who had brought them the league title the season before.

The current champions Lazio had a squad that boasted the likes of Pavel Nedved, Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo. Juve had winners like Edwin van der Sar, Antonio Conte, Alessandro Del Piero and Zinedine Zidane. Over at Inter there was Ronaldo, Christian Vieri, Clarence Seedorf and World Cup winner Laurent Blanc. AC Milan counted on Paolo Maldini, Leonardo and a prolific Andriy Shevchenko in their ranks. Parma also had a list of who’s who that included Gianluigi Buffon, Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro.

Yet it was consistent bridesmaids Roma who would hold their nerve that season and end up with the main piece of silverware.

The Giallorossi had such a strong squad. They had majestic forwards and prolific goalscorers. Yet they also had experienced winners, gladiators and intelligent thinkers too.

Keeper Francesco Antonioli was always a bit under-appreciated in my opinion. He always seemed to be in the right place that year and showed real desire to help his team’s cause.

World class fullback Cafu was hitting his peak years (he had a lot of them). The rest of the defence was made up from the likes of the experienced Aldair, uncompromising new boy Walter Samuel, veteran Brazilian internationalist Antonio Carlos Zago and Jonathan Zebina who was a resilient player who would fill in gaps that year. French World Cup winner Vincent Candela would often give a rich balance to the defence as he’d compliment Cafu on the opposite side of the field.

In midfield, there were players in the engine-room that could be described as smart and hard-working. Damiano Tommasi and Cristiano Zanetti were two such talents. They’d give their absolute all for AS Roma and cover every blade of grass. The energetic Emerson arrived from Brazil in the summer of 2000 but had to wait until early 2001 to play in his debut. He only made fourteen league appearances in that title winning season but they came as the club looked to hold onto their lead and secure that league trophy. Then there was the versatile Uruguayan Gianni Guigou who could come in and work too.

Although midfield was often reserved for the industrious and for those that could win the ball back, you also had players in there that could change things going forward. Hidetoshi Nakata and Marcos Assunção might not have started as many games as they’d have wished that season but they’d get used at important times when Roma needed some extra creativity to turn things around. Nakata would have the vision needed to unlock defences, while Assunção could provide an extra threat from set-pieces.

In the final third, The Wolves were certainly spoiled for choice. No team would better Roma’s sixty-eight goals in that 2001 season.

Gabriel Batistuta had become a legendary Serie A scorer during his nine years at Fiorentina. But he left Tuscany for Italy’s capital in 2000 in search of the big title and he made an instant impact, scoring an impressive twenty league goals.

‘The Little Airplane’ Vincenzo Montella was another prolific forward. He’d often start on the bench to make way for Batistuta but he’d still chip in with important goals at important times.

Marco Delvecchio didn’t quite have the nose for goals that Gabriel and Vincenzo possessed but Marco was hardworking. That extra work-rate gave his side a balance up-top and that’s why he was used so often in the 2000-01 season.

Then you had ‘Il Capitano’ Francesco Totti. The talismanic leader of the team that had came up through the club’s youth set-up and who’d play over 600 times for AS Roma, he’d spend his entire career with the Giallorossi. Totti was one of the world’s best performers of this generation. He could grab vital goals, skip beyond opponents, battle warrior like defenders and provide bellissimo assists for teammates.

The glue that held all these superb talents together was gifted coach Fabio Capello. The serial winning boss changed to a 3-4-1-2 tactic, which allowed him to get the most from his attacking wing-backs and it gave Totti a license to play in the free, creative role in behind the strikers.

To get the best out of that talented squad and to get Roma over the line, you needed a determined manager who had tasted the greatest success before. Capello had all the tools to create that masterpiece of a squad and have them battling for every point possible.

Roma even looked the part. The 2000-01 kit was a super tight number made by Kappa. With an imperial red primary colour and golden yellow trims, the uniforms would have looked the part for any glorious Roman legion from the days of the empire.

La Lupa would go through that thirty-four game campaign and only lose three league games. They wouldn’t suffer two defeats in a row. They didn’t lose at home during that campaign and followed up two of those losses with victories.

Before Christmas, they’d secure a valuable 1-0 win over city rivals Lazio. In March, Roma broke Inter hearts with Montella scoring a late winner in a 3-2 home win.

As the season was climaxing, Juve were breathing down Capello and his team’s necks. The Roman’s had to travel to Turin. The home side were two goals up after just six minutes. It looked as though AS Roma were throwing in the towel. But that was never the Giallorossi way that year. Fabio decided to do the unthinkable and bring off captain Totti and replace him with Nakata. The Japanese superstar soon started to boss the game and take it by the scruff of the neck. He would capitalise on a Juventus mistake, heading towards the opposition’s goal before firing a fierce long distanced shot into the back of the net on the 79th minute. Then in injury time, Van der Sar again couldn’t cope with a right footed strike from Nakata and Montella grabbed an important last gasp equaliser from the resulting rebound.

When the final game of the season arrived, Roma had drawn their last two encounters and that meant to secure their first top flight title since the early eighties they had to beat fourth placed Parma at the Stadio Olimpico on the 17th of June 2001.

Over 74,000 fans were crammed into Roma’s boiling casa waving flags and cheering on their heroes, hoping to see them secure this historic Scudetto.

An extremely talented Parma side were all that stood between the Giallorosso gladiators and their destiny!

If the players were nervous, then they didn’t show it as Il Capitano led his team out to a cacophony of noise and colour. The golden sun was shining down on them!

Montella came close in the seventh minute, after neat play by Candela on the left, but the striker’s shot when inches wide.

Then just as the twentieth minute approached the ball ended up at the feet of Vincent Candela on the left side, just at the edge of Parma’s box. The French fullback passes the ball towards the edge of the area, Montella leaves it and an on rushing Francesco Totti hammers the ball home with a fearsome shot that threatened to takeaway the goal net.

The stadium erupts, the pressure is released!

Totti runs toward the home crowd, taking off his top and he’s soon engulfed under bodies. As he reemerges, the captain looks to the crowd and indicates that it’s all for them.

The home side then double their lead on the thirty-eighth minute. Batistuta was released on the right and he headed towards goal. As he entered Parma’s penalty area, the Argentine fired a low shot in at goal. The keeper gets down to it but he can only parry the ball into the path of Roma number nine Montella. The Italian hitman redirects the ball back towards goal with a first time finish and he takes off like an aeroplane as he celebrates going one step closer to becoming a champion.

Any attack from the opposition in that first half was thwarted by Antonioli and his backline.

As Parma start to chase the game in the second period, Roma start to pick a few holes with their counter attack play. This culminates with twelve minutes left on the clock. A long ball forward by Montella reaches Batigol, he cuts back inside the opponent’s box and he evades his marker. Gabriel then hits a low left-footed strike that beats the goalie and nestles in at the near post.

Pandemonium ensues as ultras and team officials invade the pitch to celebrate with the winning team.

Marco Di Vaio then struck a consolation for the visitors but nothing can dampen the glorious mood that has now surrounded the pitch and the terraces.

Then things became extremely chaotic as the Romans charged onto the field mistakenly believing that the full-time whistle had been blown. Players were swamped and they even had some of their Kappa gear taken off them as supporters claimed historic souvenirs. It was bizarre to see some of the club’s stars looking on bewildered in just their underwear!

That pitch invasion caused a further ten minute wait before the referee could officially blow the final whistle, finish the 2000-01 season and confirm AS Roma as that term’s rightful champs.

Francesco Totti would sum up his emotions years later:

‘There were many tears in the curva, of love and euphoria: the same ones that I saw many years later, on the Sunday of my retirement, when they were tinged with melancholy. I didn’t win much in my career. But the intensity of those few days of triumph, especially that 17 June 2001, more than makes up for any deficit. Happiness can’t be counted, it’s felt. The Roman and Romanista captain who leads Roma to the title is a concept that transcends pure sporting joy.’

Via Football Italia

Italian cuisine can be sublime. It can be made up of some basic ingredients and strong flavours. A nice dish can become a wonderful one with a touch of something special like a dash of local olive oil. You then have an experienced chef that brings it all together and the locals will flock to his place to enjoy the best of meals. I think that is an analogy that sits well with that consistent and sublime AS Roma side.

They never let anyone down, they had a squad full of hard-work, passion and intelligence. It also possessed the flamboyant game-changers that gave that something special to make the ultimate difference in big encounters. All the while they were bossed by one of the very best in Fabio Capello.

It was a year that would define a generation for The Romanista. It gave them and their great leader Francesco Totti that bit of silverware that they so craved. It showed what a strong team with a great work-ethic could do. It also vindicated Fabio Capello’s standing in world football.


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