Seven games that were the making of Lorenzo Pellegrini at Roma

His contract situation was a cause of concern for Roma for a long time, but Lorenzo Pellegrini will be ours until at least 2026 – giving him every chance of cementing his reputation and becoming a club legend.

Pellegrini rose through the Roma academy ranks, captaining the Primavera side, before making his senior debut and then spending two years with Sassuolo until he returned ready for the first team.

Since then, his progress has been a joy to witness. Currently serving as club captain, Pellegrini will honour the armband for years to come, continuing a proud Roman tradition of having homegrown leaders.

The Italy international will be 30 years old by the time his new contract expires, so has every chance of earning his place among the all-time greats between now and then.

This is the story of how he became so integral to his beloved club, told via seven key appearances throughout his career to date.

Cesena v Roma, March 2015

Pellegrini’s promise was long since clear to those with a keen eye for talent. Brought to Roma’s youth setup by Bruno Conti as a nine-year-old, he honed his talents before becoming a standout player at under-19 level years down the line.

It isn’t always a given that a top talent in the youth ranks will be successful in the senior game, but just a few days after he scored an extraordinary goal from outside the box in the UEFA Youth League against Manchester City, Roma gave their first show of faith that Pellegrini could by giving him his debut in March 2015.

Rudi Garcia was in charge at the time, and with Roma winning 1-0, the Frenchman sent Pellegrini – wearing the number 52 shirt – on from the bench to replace Salih Ucan.

Pellegrini had already been called up to the squad on six occasions up to that point that season, plus once the previous year. But this was the moment he would finally get the breakthrough, earning 23 minutes of gametime.

It would be more than two years until his next Roma appearance after his spell with Sassuolo, but Pellegrini’s patience would pay off in the long run.

Roma v Lazio, September 2018

After his return to the capital, Pellegrini endured a mixed first full season in the first team. But his fortunes began to pick up in his sophomore year under the guidance of Eusebio Di Francesco, who had worked with him at Sassuolo and returned to Rome at the same time.

A watershed moment for Pellegrini came in his first ever Derby Della Capitale as a player. Having sat on the bench for both derbies in the 2017-18 season, he was once again a sub for the first one of the following campaign. But he would be up on his feet soon enough.

Javier Pastore, playing as a number 10 after Di Francesco finally abandoned his faltering 4-3-3 for a 4-2-3-1, suffered an injury just 37 minutes in. Pellegrini was chosen as the man to replace him, getting experience in the territory further forward that he would come to own.

It took Pellegrini less than 10 minutes to make an impact. On the stroke of half-time, he gave Roma the lead with an instinctive backheel finish from in front of goal. It was a special moment for a boyhood supporter of the club.

Roma went on to win the derby 3-1, which was significant enough in itself. But in the even bigger picture, that game gave the first glimpse of Pellegrini as a trequartista – a role he would take from the start in his following appearance and one he still thrives in to this day.

CSKA Moscow v Roma, November 2018

Expectations for Roma had risen on the European stage following their sensational run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2017-18.

They earned two wins and one defeat from the subsequent season’s first three group games before travelling to Russia for a tricky tie with CSKA Moscow.

The occasion marked Pellegrini’s 50th appearance for the club, showing he had become well embedded into the setup – and he made sure to step up to celebrate the occasion.

It was from Pellegrini’s corner that Kostas Manolas headed in the opening goal, and it was the number seven himself who restored Roma’s lead after they were pegged back in the second half.

Pellegrini got his first Champions League goal by slotting home from a wide angle in the box. It proved to be the winner in a 2-1 triumph, and yet another sign of how he was maturing and becoming more influential.

Roma v Sassuolo, September 2019

If there is one game that, to date, stands out as Pellegrini’s best performance for Roma, it may well be how he contributed against his former club in one of the early fixtures of the 2019-20 season.

Once again playing as an attacking midfielder in the 4-2-3-1 system of new coach Paulo Fonseca, Pellegrini put in a devastating display in a 4-2 win.

Despite not getting any goals himself, Pellegrini played a pivotal role with three assists – for Bryan Cristante, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (who scored on his debut) and Justin Kluivert.

The first was a corner, the second was a well-weighted through ball, and the third was the pick of the bunch – a turn and long pass to open up the play and split the defence.

His range and weight of passing throughout was outstanding, helping Roma shift gears and create chances against a side that equally look to play as frequently as possible.

In addition, he hit the post with one attempt of his own in the second half.

Pellegrini stood head and shoulders above the rest that day in yet another sign that he was establishing himself as a talisman.

Inter Milan v Roma, December 2019

Just a few months later, a place in the Roma hierarchy was cemented as Pellegrini wore the captain’s armband from the start of a game for the first time at senior level.

His leadership credentials were clear from an early age, hence his captaincy of the Primavera, and he slowly but surely earned his place in the senior group.

Thus, following the club’s tradition of keeping Rome-based players at the core of their project, Pellegrini proudly led his side out at San Siro in December 2019.

The game itself wasn’t an iconic one, as it ended as a 0-0 draw, but that was a respectable result given that Inter had scored against every other team they had played that season until then.

Pellegrini was his usual busy self in midfield, putting in a combative shift that showed he was ready to honour the captaincy – a role he would assume full-time just over a year later.

Parma v Roma, January 2020

After flourishing in a more advanced position, Pellegrini had been providing plenty of assists. However, there was one area in which there was still room for improvement – goalscoring.

He would only find the net once in Serie A in his third full season as a Roma player, but one month after that strike, he stepped up in the Coppa Italia.

Away at Parma in the Round of 16, Roma battled their way to victory thanks to Pellegrini scoring his first ever brace in senior football.

His first goal came from open play after a clever give-and-go with Nikola Kalinic, and his second was a penalty. It was the first time he had taken a spot kick for the club and he lived up to the responsibility.

When his side needed a figurehead, he stepped up in the way he had always been destined to.

Since then, he has scored three more braces and several more individual goals – including some more penalties, but mainly those from open play – showing he has added that extra element to his game. Perhaps it was this performance that gave him the belief that he could do so.

Trabzonspor v Roma, August 2021

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Roma were given a relatively complicated draw for their first Europa Conference League tie as Pellegrini set out on his first full season with the captain’s armband. Trabzonspor were the opponents in the play-off round for Jose Mourinho’s first official match in charge.

Thankfully, Roma made fairly light work of them, kicking things off with a 2-1 win away from home. The player to get the first goal was none other than Pellegrini.

In doing so, he became the first player in the history of football to have scored in the Champions League, Europa League and Conference League.

Taking charge as he has become accustomed to doing so, he ensured the new campaign began on the front foot. The 3-0 win in the second leg at home a week later meant his efforts earned the reward of a place in the group stage.

The summer of 2021 marked the beginning of an exciting new era for Roma with Mourinho as the manager. It was fitting for it to be Pellegrini who got the first goal of said new era, one that he will be fundamental in.

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