For the latest instalment in this series, we turn our attention to arguably one of the most beloved Roma players from the last two decades - certainly among those not blessed enough to have been born in the capital, at least.
Possessing the technical quality that is seemingly bestowed on almost all Brazilians at birth, yet with a versatility, adaptability and tactical discipline that made him well-suited to the European game, Rodrigo Taddei was in many respects a manager's dream...
RODRIGO TADDEI - DON RODRIGO
Throughout history, Roma have had a proud tradition of using homegrown players – but every so often, a player from abroad comes to represent the club as if it were their own.
One of the shrewdest signings Roma have ever made, Rodrigo Taddei arrived from Siena on a free transfer in 2005 before going on to spend the best part of a decade in the Italian capital.
Brazilian by birth but also an Italian citizen thanks to his great-grandparents, he made the step up to a club of Roma’s stature with ease. Instantly becoming a regular on Luciano Spalletti’s team sheet, Taddei played in all 38 league games of his first season with the club.
The wide man continued to feature heavily under Spalletti, until his game time started to decrease following the coach’s departure in 2009.
However, Taddei was still a reliable member of the squad, and he continued to make an impact under Claudio Ranieri, Vincenzo Montella, Luis Enrique and Rudi Garcia. The only season in which he made fewer than 20 appearances was 2012-13.
Renowned for his versatility, Taddei arrived at Roma as a winger, but also went on to play as a full-back or central midfielder. He was dependable in whichever role he played.
Taddei’s journey with Roma lasted nine years, during which time the club won the Coppa Italia twice and the Supercoppa Italiana once. He was also a runner up in three editions of both competitions, as well as five times in Serie A.
By the end of his Roma career, Taddei had made 296 appearances for the club. Of the many illustrious Brazilians to represent Roma, only legendary defender Aldair played in more games than him.
During that time, Taddei scored 31 goals, which were all celebrated with his hand on his heart in tribute to his younger brother Leonardo, who sadly passed away after a car crash that he was also involved in back in his Siena days.
While that was a tragic day for the Taddei family, Rodrigo survived and was able to keep playing – and he made the most of all that followed.
Thanks to his infectious smile and the way in which he had flair and work rate in equal measure, Taddei was always a popular player during his near decade with Roma.
Here are five of his best moments in a Giallorossi shirt.
1. Brazilian trickery at its best
vs. OLYMPIAKOS (h)
18 October 2006
One of the first moments that will always spring to mind for Roma fans when Taddei is mentioned is when he showed off some of his best skills in a Champions League clash with Olympiakos in 2006.
With the ball at his feet on the left-hand side of the penalty area, Taddei dragged it behind his standing leg with the inside of his right foot, before bringing it back across and in front of his body in the opposite direction with the outside of his boot.
The Olympiakos defender was sent off balance by Taddei’s trickery, and could quite easily have tripped him in the box.
Taddei skipped past his challenge, before his shot was blocked by another opponent.
In the blink of an eye, he had created a chance for himself from an unlikely position.
The iconic move came to be known as the ‘Aurelio’, in honour of Roma’s assistant manager at the time, Aurelio Andreazzoli, who had encouraged Taddei to take the move from the training ground onto the pitch.
He would go on to bring out the move on many more occasions, regularly bamboozling defenders with the quickness of movement.
2. Some acrobatic exploits
vs. CAGLIARI (h)
23 December 2006
Of course, Taddei often had the end product to ensure his wide range of skills had a meaningful impact – and even his finishes could be skilful in their own right.
The best example was when he scored with an overhead kick in a Serie A game against Cagliari in Roma’s last game of 2006.
Christian Panucci’s cross from the right wing floated towards the centre of the box, where Taddei was lurking.
Shifting his weight before rising into the air, he pulled off an acrobatic finish to send the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Coming just five minutes into the game, Taddei’s early piece of instinct gave Roma the lead.
The game finished 2-0, with Taddei having helped Roma enter the Christmas break in high spirits.
3. A brilliant header on a big European night
vs. REAL MADRID (a)
5 March 2008
Only a handful of players can say they have scored for Roma against Real Madrid, and Taddei can count himself among them.
He was part of the Roma team that won both legs of their Champions League Last-16 clash in 2008. It was a unique achievement by that group of players, as it was the only time the club have done the double over a Spanish opponent in a major European competition.
Holding a 2-1 lead from the first leg, which had taken place at home, Roma travelled to the iconic Bernabeu stadium in Madrid knowing they would need to match the previous game’s performance to retain their lead in the tie and reach the next round.
Thankfully, that task became a lot easier when Taddei opening the scoring in the 73rd minute.
As Max Tonetto played a cross in from the left, Taddei snuck in front of his marker in the middle – his future Roma teammate Gabriel Heinze.
Taddei managed to arch his neck and head the ball back in the direction he had come from, sending it beyond Iker Casillas’ reach and into the far corner of the goal.
Roma went on to win that game 2-1 as well to reach the quarter-finals, making it one of the most significant matches Taddei ever played in.
Years later, he remembered in an interview with UEFA: “Scoring a goal in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid with a full stadium in the Champions League… I think that’s the pinnacle for any player.”
4. Producing the goods against his old side
vs. SIENA (h)
21 February 2009
Taddei had to wait until his 20th league appearance of the campaign to get his first goal of the 2008-09 season, but when the chance came his way, he got off the mark in style.
Returning to haunt the club from whom Roma had signed him, Taddei scored the only goal of the game to give his side a 1-0 win.
The ball fell kindly to the Brazilian after being headed away by a defender. From the left-hand side of the box, Taddei needed no invitation to aim for goal with his stronger right foot.
Aware that he would need to place the ball perfectly to ensure it wasn’t blocked by a defender, Taddei curled the ball into the far top corner of the Siena goal.
He could not have placed it any better; the ball dipped underneath the crossbar and beyond the gloves of former Roma keeper Gianluca Curci to nestle in the net.
5. Still delivering in the big moments
vs. JUVENTUS (a)
27 January 2011
Even as he entered his thirties, Taddei still maintained his ability to pull off acrobatic finishes.
In a Coppa Italia quarter-final against Juventus in 2011, Taddei scored another goal that showed the flexibility of both his body and his brain.
As the game entered stoppage time, with Roma 1-0 up, Daniele De Rossi sent a free kick into the box. Barely any attackers had ventured forward, but Taddei found himself on the shoulder of the last defender.
Spinning away from his marker, Taddei only had the keeper to beat, but with his back to goal, it was not so straightforward.
That did not stop him, though. He instinctively rotated his body 180 degrees, managing to connect with the ball on the volley as he turned.
It went beyond the reach of Marco Storari to confirm Roma’s place in the semi-finals.
What happened next for Taddei?
Taddei’s nine-year spell with the club is the second-longest any foreign player has ever spent at Roma (once again, behind only his compatriot Aldair).
However, all good things must come to an end, and Taddei’s time with Roma was up in 2014.
While he was no longer a Serie A player, Taddei still had a couple of years left in him, and so he joined Perugia for two seasons in the second tier.
In his first season, they qualified for the promotion play-offs, but lost to Pescara at the first hurdle. Taddei, who wore the No. 10 shirt at his new club, was an unused substitute in that game.
The following year, in his last campaign as a professional, Taddei featured in 15 games as Perugia – who had current Roma full-back Leonardo Spinazzola among their ranks while he was on loan from Juventus that season – finished 10th in Serie B.
The time had come for Taddei to hang up his boots at the age of 36. He cancelled his contract one year ahead of schedule, bringing an end to his playing career.
Taddei dedicated more than half of that career to Roma, showing great loyalty towards a club that he came to recognise as his own.
His passion for Roma has extended beyond his playing days. For example, at his home back in Brazil in 2019, he showed off a new table which the club colours and badge adorned, for the purpose of playing ‘futmesa’ – a cross between football and table tennis.
Later that year, he also visited Stadio Olimpico for a game against Atalanta, receiving a warm reception from the Curva Sud. The fans too, had come to appreciate him like one of their own.
The connection he felt and still feels towards the club is perhaps best summed up by the man himself.
In a 2017 interview, he said: “I miss Roma a lot, and I miss the fans, who continue to show me a lot of affection even today, both in life and on social media. They show me respect for what I have done.
“Rome is really like home to me, I feel like I was born there.”