During Jose Mourinho’s time as Roma manager, the club have brought in some big-name players, but the boss has also promoted a handful of Primavera products to the first team.
There has been a misconception throughout Mourinho’s career that he does not trust in youth, but in addition to giving prominent roles to academy products like Edoardo Bove and Nicola Zalewski (who earned their debuts under his predecessor, Paulo Fonseca), the Portuguese coach has launched the senior careers of 10 players to have come through Roma’s youth system.
Felix Afena-Gyan (27/10/21)
Incorporated into Roma’s youth setup in March 2021, Felix Afena-Gyan was initially assigned a place in the under-18s but was quickly promoted to the under-19s.
When Mourinho – one of whom’s family names is Felix – became Roma manager that summer, Afena-Gyan was one of the first youngsters to benefit. He made his Roma debut in October 2021 as a substitute against Cagliari.
It was from the bench that Felix made his most memorable Roma appearance when, the following month, he scored two dramatic goals to earn his side a win over Genoa. As his reward, Mourinho infamously bought Felix a pair of shoes worth €800.
Despite the apparent affinity between player and coach, Felix had to be sacrificed to Cremonese at the end of the season to make room for Andrea Belotti. He never added to those two goals he scored for Roma, despite ending up on 22 appearances.
Filippo Missori (25/11/21)
Born in Rome, Filippo Missori was in the Giallorossi’s academy since 2013. He was awarded his first-team debut in November 2021 during a Europa Conference League match, which made him the first player born in 2004 to represent the club.
A right-back, Missori had to wait until May 2023 to make his Serie A debut, a few months before he was sacrificed to Sassuolo in a deal to help Roma’s Financial Fair Play efforts.
Cristian Volpato (4/12/21)
The other player Roma sent to Sassuolo at the time for the same purpose was Cristian Volpato, who was famed for being a player under the wing of Francesco Totti’s agency.
Having joined Roma’s academy in January 2020, Volpato was thrust into the limelight by Mourinho in December 2021 as a substitute against Inter.
A couple of months later, he became the first player born in Australia (or any other country in Oceania) to score for Roma. He also netted one goal the following season, coincidentally against the same opponent (Hellas Verona).
Dimitrios Keramitsis (16/1/22)
After Empoli brought Dimitrios Keramitsis to Italy from his native Greece in 2020, Roma acquired him a year after.
In January 2022, Mourinho sent him on for Ainsley Maitland-Niles in a Serie A win over Cagliari. At the time, Keramitsis was the third youngest foreign player to debut for Roma.
Still a teenager, Keramitsis has not added to his solitary Roma appearance yet (at the time of writing) but is still playing at Primavera level.
Giacomo Faticanti (27/10/22)
Roma’s first academy debutant of the 2022-23 season, Giacomo Faticanti made his bow against HJK in the Europa League during October 2022. Coincidentally, he was subbed in for another Primavera product pushed forward by Mourinho, Volpato.
Raised in a Roma-supporting family, Faticanti idolised Daniele De Rossi and wore the number 16 at youth level in his honour. Eventually, he became captain of the Primavera.
A desire for first-team football, though, led him to Lecce in the summer of 2023, after he had failed to add any more appearances for Mourinho’s side.
Benjamin Tahirovic (13/11/22)
Technically, Benjamin Tahirovic had already played at senior level before coming to Roma, having made 28 appearances for Vasalund in the Swedish third tier in 2020.
Roma, though, assigned him to their Primavera squad after signing the midfielder in February 2021. After spending the 2021-22 campaign with the under-19s, Tahirovic set out with the first team in November 2022, debuting against Torino.
He ultimately made 13 appearances across the season, during which he also earned his senior debut for the Bosnia-Herzegovina national team.
Afterwards, Ajax bought him from Roma in another deal designed to balance the books without sacrificing too much from the first team.
Jordan Majchrzak (12/3/23)
Loaned in from Legia Warsaw, where he was playing with the reserves, for the 2022-23 season, Jordan Majchrzak was placed in Roma’s under-19 squad.
Mourinho threw him on for the first team in a March 2023 loss against Sassuolo, which turned out to be his only appearance for Roma.
Since he only scored three times for the Primavera, the club decided not to use their option to buy him and he subsequently returned to Poland, with Puszcza Niepolomice taking him on his next loan from Legia Warsaw.
Niccolo Pisilli (6/5/23)
Signed by hometown club Roma at the age of eight, Niccolo Pisilli played for the first time at professional level against Inter in a Serie A match dated May 2023.
It came a month after he was part of the squad to win the Coppa Italia Primavera under Federico Guidi’s guidance.
Pisilli, who was 18 at the time of his senior debut, has a contract until 2026 as things stand.
Riccardo Pagano (20/8/23)
After impressing in pre-season for Roma during their 2023 preparations, Riccardo Pagano was promoted for more first-team consideration by Mourinho.
Having already featured on the bench towards the end of the previous campaign, his debut followed on the opening day of 2023-24, against Salernitana. In fact, by the time of the October international break, Pagano had come on in half of Roma’s 10 matches in all competitions.
Another Totti client, the teenage midfielder developed in the Roma setup from the age of nine.
Francesco D’Alessio (5/10/23)
Francesco D’Alessio’s debut for Roma in October 2023 was followed by a heartwarming interview in which Mourinho recounted how the capital-born midfielder had enthusiastically waited outside Trigoria as a child to try and watch the first-team training of the stars of the time.
Fast-forwarding to the summer of 2023, 10 years after he joined Roma’s academy, and D’Alessio was now one of the players training inside the gates.
He subsequently got his first taste of senior football in a Europa League win over Servette at Stadio Olimpico.
Luigi Cherubini (26/10/23)
A Roma youth player until 2017 and then again from 2018 (not mentioning where he went in between), Luigi Cherubini has been captaining the Primavera for most of the 2023-24 season so far.
The attacking midfielder’s senior debut was earned on matchday three of the Europa League group stage, as he came on as a late substitute for Houssem Aouar against Slavia Prague at Stadio Olimpico.
The debut came about three months before his 20th birthday.
Joao Costa (9/11/23)
During the latter stages of the last match of Mourinho’s four-game suspension in the 2023-24 Europa League group stage, the manager gave the instructions from upstairs – which included sending Joao Costa on for his debut against Slavia Prague.
Due to the lack of wingers in the Roma squad, Mourinho had been hinting at Costa’s promotion for a number of weeks and finally gave the 18-year-old his bow in November 2023 as a late substitute for Leandro Paredes.
Sadly, it was as part of a disappointing 2-0 defeat in the Czech Republic.
This article was originally published on 19th October, 2023, and has been updated since.