Italian players Roma brought back to Serie A from foreign clubs

It seems the links with Leonardo Bonucci being brought back to Serie A by Roma from the Bundesliga’s Union Berlin have been and gone, but there have been previous examples of the Giallorossi offering a route back into Italian football for a homegrown player after a spell overseas.

The majority of Italian players Roma have used have either come through their own academy or been signed directly from other clubs in Serie A. Roma have regularly been active in foreign transfer markets, though, and that sometimes includes for Italian players looking for a way back into their home league.

With former Juventus defender Bonucci now unlikely to be added after rumours were met with a negative reaction by fans, Giallorossi Yorkshire looks back at the Italian players Roma did sign from foreign clubs before.

Stephan El Shaarawy (2021)

The most recent player to fit this criteria was someone whose last spell in Serie A had ended precisely with Roma.

Stephan El Shaarawy’s first stint at the club – which also began directly after a spell outside Italy with Monaco, even if his transfer to Roma was officially from AC Milan – ended in the summer of 2019, when he was sold to Shanghai Shenhua one year before the end of his contract.

By this point, the Chinese Super League bubble was about to burst at the end of an era. The winger never really settled in Shanghai and actively sought a return to Serie A, preferentially with Roma.

In January 2021, he got his wish, becoming Tiago Pinto’s first signing for the club. His form over the next couple of seasons, mainly as an impact sub, earned him another new contract with Roma by the summer of 2023.

Not only that, but a few months later, he found himself back among the Italy national team for the first time in over two years.

Davide Zappacosta (2019)

Roma’s options at right-back by the summer of 2019 left a lot to be desired. A pre-renaissance version of Rick Karsdorp had been shipped back on loan to Feyenoord, leaving Davide Santon as the main right-sided full-back until Bruno Peres returned from his own loan away at the end of the calendar year.

In an attempt to plug the gap, Roma brought in Davide Zappacosta on loan from Chelsea after a season in which he had made just four Premier League appearances.

Zappacosta had most recently played in Serie A for Torino until August 2017. Former Granata sporting director Gianluca Petrachi was the man behind his return to Italian football with Roma.

Just over a month into his spell at Roma, though, Zappacosta suffered an ACL injury. It did not stop the club extending his loan for the rest of the season, meaning he got to make nine appearances in the end for his local club, but that was that for Zappacosta at Roma.

He has remained in Serie A ever since, first with Genoa and now in a second spell with Atalanta.

Dani Osvaldo (2011)

Dani Osvaldo was born in Argentina, but was of Italian descent and had represented the country at under-21 level while he was a Fiorentina player in the late 2000s.

In 2010, Osvaldo left Bologna to begin a new challenge in Spain with Espanyol. He spent 18 months there before becoming part of Roma’s new era under Luis Enrique.

A few months after joining Roma in 2011, Osvaldo earned his senior debut for the Italy national team. Overall, he scored 30 goals for the club across two seasons before he was sold to Southampton.

That next venture outside Italy did not go to plan for Osvaldo and he once again returned to Serie A in 2014 with Juventus, igniting further controversy with the way he celebrated against Roma.

The season after, which he spent with Inter, was his last in Serie A before spells in Argentina and Portugal. His international career ended in 2014.

Luca Toni (2010)

One of the greatest Italian strikers of the 21st Century, Luca Toni was a World Cup winner in 2006, at which time he was playing for Fiorentina.

He left La Viola and Serie A behind him when Bayern Munich signed him in 2007; his return of 39 goals from 46 games in his debut season there showed why they believed in him.

Halfway into his third season in Germany, Toni reached the end of his time with Bayern. Roma, needing a boost in their title challenge, brought the then-32-year-old in on loan for the rest of the season.

Toni provided fresh impetus to their attack, scoring five goals from his 15 league appearances as Roma ultimately finished two points behind champions Inter.

The decision was made not to keep Toni for the 2010-11 season, which he instead started with Genoa and finished with Juventus.

There was a spell in the UAE for him after, before he returned to Italy with Fiorentina again and finished his career with an impactful spell at Verona.

Francesco Tavano (2007)

Francesco Tavano started his career in the lower divisions before helping Empoli win promotion to Serie A on two separate occasions.

After his season in the top flight in 2005-06, in which he scored 19 league goals, he embarked on an overseas challenge by signing for Valencia.

However, the attacker only played six times for the Spanish outfit and never scored for them. Half a year later, Roma took him back to Italy on loan.

Tavano scored twice from his 16 appearances for Roma, picking up a Coppa Italia winner’s medal despite being an unused sub in both legs of the final, before joining Livorno at the end of his loan spell.

Christian Panucci (2001)

Before becoming Roma’s highest scoring defender of all time, Christian Panucci was already well travelled. He started off with Genoa and Milan before earning a two-season spell with Real Madrid towards the end of the 1990s.

Inter took him back to Italy to see out the century, before loaning him to Chelsea and then Monaco in the 2000-01 season.

Meanwhile, Roma were winning the Scudetto. After their league win, they continued to build their squad by buying Panucci from the Ligue 1 side, who had only just converted his loan from Inter into a permanent deal.

Panucci ultimately settled at Roma, making more than 300 appearances across an eight-season spell, which was undoubtedly the most comfortable of his career.

It also enabled him to reclaim his role with Italy, since he never earned a cap while in the English or French leagues. Coincidentally, his first Italy appearance as a Roma player (earned in 2002) was against England, in Leeds.

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