“My all-time ideal XI would be Buffon in goal, Maicon, Samuel and... Candela.”Francesco Totti
We should start at the end, with his farewell game at the Stadio Olimpico on 5 June 2009. An honour afforded to the likes of Francesco Rocca, Bruno Conti, Giuseppe Giannini and Aldair in the last three decades, some of the very best players ever to pull on a Giallorossi jersey. That in itself is indication enough of just how strong a bond is felt between the French World Cup winner Vincent Candela and AS Roma, and how loved he is by the fans.
As a youngster he almost became a rugby player - he trained once a week at the Stade Toulousain - but luckily he opted to dedicate himself entirely to football. An Olympique Marseille fan with a Michel Platini poster in his bedroom, he made a name for himself at Guingamp, dazzling pundits and fans alike with his performances for this team in a town of little more than 7,000 inhabitants.
He helped them win the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1996 and became the first Guingamp player to play for France.
Having already become a legend at the small French club, Vincent had to fight tooth and nail to convince them to sell him to Roma. Negotiations were long and extremely difficult, as president Sensi revealed in 2001: “Candela was the hardest transfer deal I ever had to do. I wanted him at all costs but he played for a provincial team in France and every time I tried to close the deal they upped their demands.”
Candela would play 289 times for Roma in all competitive matches: 210 in Serie A, 30 in Coppa Italia, one in the Italian Super Cup and 48 in Europe. The fans loved him for his amazing technique and penchant for the spectacular. In 2002 he said: “I can't help doing step-overs. For me the simple things are those which come to me naturally.”
Like the goal he scored in the 2001 Italian Super Cup. One touch to control before unleashing an absolute rocket to open the scoring on six minutes. After the match, he said he tried his luck from that range because his team-mates had told him in training not to think twice about shooting from outside the box. So he did. And the rest came naturally.
"I send a big thanks to the thousands of people – fans, assistants or staff members, coaches, players, journalists, friends and presidents – who took part, along with my family, in that fantastic path I set out on in 1997 and that still continues today. Our lives couldn’t be so special had we not had the good fortune to share so many amazing memories together. Thank you, Roma."Vincent Candela