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History Makers: Vincent Candela


We go back through our history to pick out five decisive moments from a former player. This week, mercurial homegrown playmaker Alberto Aquilani gets the treatment...

For the latest instalment in this series, we have returned to the 2000-2001 Scudetto-winning side for a retrospective on the best moments of first-class French defender Vincent Candela.

While marauding right-back Cafu often gets the majority of the attention, his partner on the opposite flank was often equally incisive for Fabio Capello's team - and endured a similarly stellar career for both club and country.


VINCENT CANDELA - THE MUSKETEER


During that fairytale title-winning campaign alone Candela made 33 appearances, chipping in with three goals and four assists.

The Frenchman enjoyed a trophy-laden eight-year stay with the Giallorossi, during which time he made 289 appearances for the club and was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2014.

In the summer of 1996, as a blossoming 22-year-old, he become an Olympian and a UEFA Intertoto Cup winner - with 10 days separating games in Atalanta and, for Ligue 1 newcomers Guingamp in Volgograd, Russia.

Culture shocks aside and while zipping about to all manner of locations in search of silverware, Candela was ready for the next step in his career.

With his growing reputation further enhanced and international suitors bristling, the Bédarieux native elected to join AS Roma in 1997 and embarked on the greatest years of his career for club and country.

As a player Candela had natural defensive ability, pace, trickery to bamboozle opposing players in all areas of the pitch, supreme skill and a healthy offering of French nonchalance.

A side with Cafu on the right needed someone of similar stature to provide balance and width from the left, and Candela was more than up to the task.

Naturally right-footed, he nevertheless seemed to prefer playing on the left - with his ability to shift the ball both ways further confusing opposing sides.

“Technically he was phenomenal – he had the feet of a No. 10 – but he was extraordinary in terms of his physical presence as well," goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli told asroma.com back in 2016.

"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.”

Candela was also a trustworthy and loyal servant to his national team - winning both the World Cup and European Championships, to add to his array of medals from his legendary achievements in Rome.

Let’s look back at the top five moments from the Frenchman’s time in the capital.


1. Solo stunner against Juve

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vs. JUVENTUS (h)
15 November 1998
Serie A

In a typically highly-charged encounter with Juventus, with the Giallorossi leading through a fine volley from Paulo Sergio, a second goal was needed to put the result beyond doubt - even after Paolo Montero’s red card at the hour mark.

Step forward Vincent Candela.

In the 87th minute, he had one thing in mind - and it wasn’t to wind down the clock.

The roving full-back picked up the ball on the left touchline and turned his marker inside out with a nutmeg to power into the 18-yard box and, as he looked up to lay-off the ball to a teammate, he sensed that Roma’s attackers were outnumbered and that he was in fact best placed of all to shoot.

That he did, slotting the ball home past a helpless Angelo Peruzzi.

2. Showmanship in the heat of derby battle

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vs. LAZIO (a)
28 November 1998
Serie A

Candela. Derby della Capitale. Combative Argentine midfielder Matías Almeyda in pursuit.

With those compelling characters, locking horns in one of the game’s biggest derbies, there are several ways that exchange could unfold.

On this occasion the Frenchman came out on top, as he set a trap and lured in Almeyda only to beat him without even touching the ball.

While advancing at full speed Candela sensationally brought a long ball under control with the instep of his right foot which made the ball stop a few yards behind him.

Almeyda sensed his opportunity and rushed in with two feet to claim the ball... only for Candela to feign moving in his direction and step over the ball before dribbling away and command the attention of two more Lazio players before laying off the ball to a teammate.

It was a subtle moment which summarised Candela's quality as a footballer.


3. A brace to see off Lecce

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vs. Lecce (h)
4 December 1999
Serie A

After a Totti opener was cancelled out by a free-kick from David Sesa, a magical back-heel from Vincenzo Montella put Candela in space 20 yards from goal - and he unleashed a rocket to put his side back in front.

A header from Matteo Pivotto restored level terms again for the visitors before Candela had the final say as he was found by Marco Delvecchio on the edge of the box.

The wing-back pushed the ball into the box with a low, side-footed delivery, which caught a deflection from a Lecce player and found its way into the net.

His just reward for his tireless endeavours and being in such an advanced position in the 86th minute of the game.

4. Volley at Bari kickstarts Scudetto sprint

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vs. BARI (a)
19 May 2001
Serie A

Candela opened the scoring in a crucial match away against Bari as Fabio Capello’s unstoppable side closed in on the Serie A title.

The left-back picked up the ball 25 yards from goal by being first to a loose ball and chipping it over an onrushing Bari player and then remarkably, with the ball still in the air, took one more touch to set himself up for a thunderbolt of a volley which had a flight plan that must have been picked up air traffic control in the port city.

Incredible ingenuity and skill.

Batistuta added a brace either side of Cafu netting with a header to secure the last away win of the 2000-01 season, in a game where half of Rome seemed to have descended on the San Nicola.

The fans knew a win would put the title within touching distance. Four weeks later, many of them were on the pitch at the Olimpico as the club celebrated a third Scudetto.

5. The stepover specialist

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Candela's attacking tendencies and turn of pace could see him quickly join attacks and prove to be a consistent threat in the final third.

With the ball he could transition into being a devilish winger with educated French feet and step overs were a big part of his offensive arsenal.

A full-back years ahead of his time, just like his teammate Cafu, Candela, had exquisite timing, knowing when an opposing player was about to overcommit and he could coolly step over the ball and casually go the other way.

The Frenchman was a potent attacking source for Roma and in the final third could find the net himself with a catalogue of wonder strikes or unlock the meanest of defences with a cutting pass to Roma’s lethal marksman such as the king of Rome himself, Francesco Totti, with whom Candela struck up a great friendship and mutual respect which remains to this day.

Candela savoured his years in a Roma shirt and the memories outlined above only touch on his colossal contribution to the club’s success.

There was also a double at home in only his fifth Serie A game against Verona including an 89th-minute winner and a goal to show for his efforts in a famous 5-0 home rout of AC Milan in 1998 and a mazing run against Lecce for a special solo effort in 2001.


What happened next for Candela?

Candela eventually left Rome in January 2005, joining Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers for a short-lived taste of the Premier League.

He returned to Serie A later that summer with Udinese and scored his final goal in Italy on 1 October - against Lazio, of all clubs.

At the age of 40 the Serie A great entered the business world as an entrepreneur with a wine business and started to get involved in charity events and grassroots initiatives. Always tied to Rome, he eventually settled down in the area.

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In April the Roma great was part of the #RomaCares initiative as he joined CEO Guido Fienga and mascot Romolo to visit young fans and present them with Easter eggs as a gift from the club - while he continues to serve as a regular pundit for Roma Radio and Roma TV.

“I consider myself as a man of the world, so I adapt to anywhere, but when I arrived in Rome, the capital of Italy, with this beauty from all angles, I fell in love straight away” Candela said recently.

“I like Rome because of its passion for football; every weekend there was almost 70,000 people in the stadium.

"The Roma fans are fantastic, fans mean everything to players, I always say that they’re the legends, because without passion and people it wouldn’t be one of the most beautiful sports in the world.”

Read more in this series:

Pedro Manfredini
Alberto Aquilani
Hidetoshi Nakata
Cafu

Follow Mark Pickering on Twitter: @_MarkPickering