In the latest edition of our History Makers series, we take a look at ‘Super’ Mario Delvecchio - a Scudetto winner with the Giallorossi that endeared himself to the Curva Sud thanks to his relentless tormenting of Lazio in the Derby della Capitale.
The tall, slight frame, the trademark centre-parting and flowing black curtains, all those cupped ears, derby goals, the thumping headers and that wand of a left-foot: there was never any mistaking Delvecchio.
A Milan boy that found a home in the Italian capital, his career certainly had its challenges as Delvecchio went from a divisive figure to an iconic one - playing a pivotal role in some of the Giallorossi’s greatest moments in recent history.
Delvecchio gave everything for his team and produced the goods in Rome whenever the club needed him the most and after more than a decade together, both city and player would end up adopting each other as their own.
MARCO DELVECCHIO - SUPER MARCO
Delvecchio made 44 appearances for hometown club Inter Milan between loans at Venezia and then Udinese, before Roma saw something in the 6’1” forward and made their move in the winter of 1995.
The first of his 10 league goals in 24 games of his maiden campaign at the Stadio Olimpico helped seal a 2-0 win at Napoli in November and he would go on to score the first of two Roma hat-tricks against the same opposition later that term.
His club form saw ‘Super Marco’ selected to represent the Azzurri at both the 1996 Olympic Games and UEFA Under-21 Championship, with Delvecchio earning a winners’ medal at the latter before eventually going on to earn 22 senior caps for his country.
Typically, he saved his first Italy goal for the Euro 2000 final and, at least until the 93rd-minute of normal time, it looked to have won the trophy until France’s soul-crushing extra-time comeback.
Delvecchio would hit double figures in successive seasons with the Giallorossi - in 1998-99 (18 goals) and 1999-90 (11) - forming the attacking triumvirate alongside Vincenzo Montella and Francesco Totti at the Olimpico.
The arrivals of Gabriel Batistuta and Fabio Capello changed the Roma make-up and ripped the Serie A crown out of the hands of their city rivals, with Delvecchio’s goalscoring never quite the same again.
But that certainly didn’t diminish his contribution to the cause, as fellow Scudetto winner Francesco Antonioli told asroma.com in 2016: “[Delvecchio was] an unusual forward in that, as well as scoring goals, he put in a great deal of work for the team.
“He only bagged three goals in the 2000-01 season, but he was fundamental to the balance of our team and that’s why Capello always had him in the side.”
His strength was monstrous, his touch delicate, both his pace and dribbling deceptively brilliant, but it was his efforts against Lazio that truly burned his legacy into the fabric of the Giallorossi.
Delvecchio was the man for the big occasion and scored nine times in 15 league versions of the Derby della Capitale; of which he won five, drew six and lost four.
Only one of his strikes against Lazio came in a losing cause, while in the six other games in which he found the back of the net the game ended in either a Roma victory or a dramatic sharing of the spoils.
As you can see here, in a collection of five of his best goals for the Giallorossi…
1. That Alessandro Nesta face...
vs. LAZIO (h)
27 October 2001
“I loved watching him dummy to cut inside – he’d always do it and though the defenders were expecting it, they still couldn’t stop it. Alessandro Nesta could tell you a thing or two about that!”
Antonioli again, who’s absolutely bang on; as evidenced in this stunning effort from 2001-02 that put Roma en route to a 2-0 win over their bitter rivals.
The raking pass downfield from Emerson is superb, the chest control, strength and finish are excellent from Delvecchio but the replay showing Nesta’s pained expression following the ball into the net from the turf is simply magnificent.
2. An increasingly familiar sight...
vs. LAZIO (h)
21 November 1999
Another derby, another Delvecchio goal to open the scoring for Roma as they romp past the Aquile.
Cristiano Zanetti plays an instinctive through ball to Delvecchio who has the freedom of the Lazio defence, before opening his body up and placing a clinical finish beyond Luca Marchegiani.
This got the ball rolling on a memorable day for the Giallorossi and Delvecchio, who scored twice in a resounding 4-1 win.
3. Big moment in the title run-in
vs. LAZIO (h)
29 April 2001
Having seen Lazio lift the Serie A trophy the season before, Roma were bloody-minded in their pursuit of restoring order in the capital and having beaten Lazio already in the season, their Matchday 28 encounter took on real significance.
With the title in their sights, Roma took on their counterparts in blue a week prior to facing nearest challengers Juventus in a crucial start to their run-in.
Delvecchio had already supplied Batistuta’s first before making it 2-0 with a fine volley on his outstretched left-foot and although Lazio eventually pulled back a late equaliser, Delvecchio had again played his trump card against his side’s greatest foes as they marched to the title.
4. Starting the derby myth-making
11 April 1999
Remember that cut-inside and finish that Antonioli mentioned before?
Yeah, well this time it’s Sinisa Mihajlovic with his proverbial pants being pulled down as Delvecchio turns him inside-out before thumping home on his left foot.
This was part of his first of two derby doubles, where the Roma no.24 again handed his side the lead as they left the Olimpico with all three points.
5. An acrobatic intervention
vs. UDINESE (h)
6 April 1996
Just to prove Delvecchio also scored in games that didn’t feature Lazio, here’s a stunner from his very first season at the club.
A clipped cross from the left floats into the Udinese box, met by a soaring Delvecchio, who throws himself into the air to deposit the perfect bicycle kick into the far corner.
It was just his fourth goal for the club and a beauty at that.
What happened next for Delvecchio?
Delvecchio eventually left Roma in 2005 having made 300 appearances and scored 83 goals for the Giallorossi.
He went on to play for Brescia, Parma and Ascoli before hanging up his boots, although he was tempted out of retirement for a season in the lower leagues with Pescatori Ostia.
Delvecchio scored 34 goals in 35 appearances in Rome’s regional division of Italy’s fifth-tier before finally calling time on his career in 2009.
He went on to finish runner-up in Ballando con le Stelle (Dancing with the Stars) in 2012, which was the beginning of a successful TV career that has seen Delvecchio also co-host Bobo e Marco - i re del ballo (Bobo and Marco - The kings of dance) alongside former Italy teammate Christian Vieri.
He has also become a regular pundit on Italian football and also pursuing a coaching career that he hopes will one day see him return to his adopted city, possibly in the Olimpico dugout.
“Although I was born in Milan, Rome is my city,” he later said.
“I am in love with it, the fans and the atmosphere. My future will be in Rome.”
Read more in this series: