On the 15th anniversary of Roma’s famous third Scudetto, we look back on the team that wrote a new chapter in Giallorossi history – with input from one of its key members.
From his position between the posts, goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli had the perfect view of the play in front of him. And that exalted vantage point makes him perhaps the perfect person to give the inside track on his Roma team-mates of the 2000-01 season, when the Giallorossi secured their third Scudetto crown.
Asroma.com sat down with Antonioli, who made 145 appearances for the club between 1999 and 2003, to get a first-hand perspective on his title-winning teammates…
“A great player and an even better person. Aldair was of the best defenders ever to play in Italy, in my opinion on a par with the likes of Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi. He wasn’t a starter in the 2000-01 season, as he was starting to get a bit older, but he helped us no end both on and off the field with his charisma and experience.
“He’s probably the best Brazilian centre-back of all time. And that’s no mean feat.”
“He wasn’t the best player in the world technically and preferred only to use his left foot if he could, but he was an absolute colossus when man-marking an opponent. He never gave anyone any room at all – he was Argentine by birth as well as in spirit. There’s a good reason why the fans called him ‘The Wall!
“He arrived at Roma in the Scudetto-winning season and was only 22, but he played with the assurance of a veteran from the very first day.”
“An excellent defender, with a similar character to Aldair. He was probably less strong technically than his teammate, but he was excellent at breaking out of defence with the ball at his feet and his eyes surveying the pitch, creating numerical superiority for us in the middle of the field. That was one of the secrets of our success in 2000-01.”
“He was a quick, strong defender who was sometimes a bit over-exuberant. Instinct was definitely one of his great strengths, but at times he went overboard. Like Samuel, he was just 22 when he came to Roma in the Scudetto campaign, but the Argentine had a stronger character.”
“He was lethal. The nickname Il Pendolino ('The Express Train') was spot on and he had fantastic technical ability to boot. Cafu was a right-back and went up and down the right flank for the entire 90 minutes, making a vital contribution to our attacking play. There was no doubting his star quality on the field, but away from it he was even better.
“Cafu was always positive and always had a smile on his face, but would make himself heard in the locker room when he needed to.”
“He was a man of few words and never had much to say in the locker room, but out on the field his contribution was enormous. He was a vital part of the team, especially in the first half of the season when he linked up with Damiano Tommasi.
“Those two more than made up for the absence of Emerson. They gave us quality and substance in midfield.”
“A real grafter in football and a wonderful person in everyday life. He had an incredible season the year we won the Scudetto – he was everywhere, all the time. Tommasi would take knocks all game long and just get the ball and carry on. He was a vital player throughout his time at Roma, not just in the 2000-01 season.
“He wasn’t the best player from a technical standpoint, but he had bags of other qualities that had a huge impact.”
“A complete midfielder – he was an excellent player. Emerson was great with his feet, had good strength, showed great determination and was brimming with personality - he had everything.
“He missed the first half of the season with a cruciate ligament injury and his contribution was vital when he eventually returned. Emerson scored three goals (against Bologna, Vicenza and Fiorentina), but he gave us much more than that. He helped us all make a step up in quality in critical moments of the season.”
“Another wide player with incredibly quality. Technically he was phenomenal – he had the feet of a No. 10 – but he was extraordinary in terms of his physical presence as well. He’d be up and down his left flank all game long without his level dropping once. Having him and Cafu on either wing was a massive asset that none of our opponents could count on.”
“Nakata was a tireless worker. Though his passport said he was Japanese, he had a very European way of playing football. His biggest strength was always being ready to take his chance – he wasn’t a starter under Fabio Capello, but when he did come on he’d often manage to make the difference.
“Nakata’s stand-out performance was the match against Juventus at the Stadio Delle Alpi – he came on in the second half and made a huge contribution to our 2-2 draw with the Bianconeri, which was a big result in the title race. He scored a stunning long-range effort and it was his shot that set up Vincenzo Montella for the second goal.”
“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, even with the free-scoring Montella on the bench.
“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!”
“What a player! A No. 9 with a rare nose for goal, he was a player of phenomenal technical ability. He scored loads of goals that year, even though he often came off the bench, and some of them were real beauties: his wonderful lob over AC Milan goalie Sebastiano Rossi’s head was just fantastic.
“There was a lot of talk about him not getting on with Capello as he wasn’t being played from the start, but I think the fact that his time was limited spurred him on to do his best and score some vital goals.”
“He was strength personified, one of the most potent players ever to grace Serie A. He didn’t have the greatest technical ability, but he more than made up for that with heart, desire and character. He’d strike the ball with incredible power, even with his head.
“I remember his brace against Lecce on the second day of the season: the first was a bullet header from a Cafu cross, while the second was a left-footed effort lashed in off the crossbar. I bet that bar is still rattling now. Then there was that rocket of a free-kick against Hellas Verona – it was past their goalie in the blink of an eye.”
“It’s hard to find words to describe Il Capitano. A No. 10 of exceptional talent who reads the game at least half an hour before everyone else. His game was perhaps more instinctive in the Scudetto-winning season that is it now, and his contribution of goals and assists was fundamental to our success.”
“I don’t like speaking about myself – I prefer to let others draw judgment. But I will say that I always gave my all for the Giallorossi jersey and tried to honor it every time I pulled it on.
“Sometimes I did well, other times less well, but I was never found wanting in terms of desire and dedication - I’m proud to have been the starting goalkeeper for Roma when the club won its third Scudetto.”
© 2018-2023 Soccer S.r.l. – EU VAT IT09305501000 - all rights reserved. The AS Roma names, logos and artwork are registered or unregistered trademarks of Soccer S.r.l. All other trademarks may be the property of their respective holders.