2021 was a year in which Roma players had to adapt to a busy schedule and changing demands from different coaches.
A run to the Europa League semi-finals kept the squad busy under Paulo Fonseca last season, stretching them to the limit, before the arrival of Jose Mourinho in the summer prompted new demands within a new era.
But which Roma players had the faith of the managers – or at least one of them – to the greatest extent? Here are the 10 players to have totalled more than 2000 minutes of action (not counting the extra time in Roma’s Coppa Italia game against Spezia in January) across all competitions throughout the calendar year.
10. Pau Lopez – 2187 minutesEmbed from Getty Images
Although Pau Lopez never lived up to his price tag as Roma’s most expensive goalkeeper signing of all time, the Spaniard largely retained the faith of Fonseca in what turned out to be both’s final season at the club.
Lopez lost his place earlier in the 2020 part of the season, but was Roma’s first-choice goalkeeper after Christmas until an injury near the season’s end. He didn’t do enough to stop the club planning to replace him and was offloaded over the summer.
9. Gonzalo Villar – 2263 minutes
Given that he is yet to play a single minute of the 2021-22 Serie A season, it is somewhat surprising to see Gonzalo Villar in this top 10. But then again, he was heavily used by Fonseca throughout last season.
There is an argument that, despite Villar’s promise, Fonseca used him too much and it caught up with the Spaniard. He hasn’t been able to show the best version of himself in 2021 after a breakout 2020.
8. Rui Patricio – 2340 minutesEmbed from Getty Images
With Lopez on his way out over the summer, Roma knew they needed a new reliable number one. In Rui Patricio, they have found what they needed.
The experienced keeper has been dependable since his arrival from Wolves, starting all of Roma’s matches in the first half of the Serie A season and all but one of their Europa Conference League matches so far.
7. Jordan Veretout – 3299 minutes
2021 has been a year of two halves for Jordan Veretout. But he has retained a role of responsibility despite contrasts in his form either side of the summer.
One of Roma’s most reliable players last season, he played a big part under Fonseca. Although, injuries – such as the one he picked up in the Europa League semi-final loss to Manchester United, which no doubt had a huge negative impact on the team – restricted him somewhat.
This side of the summer, Mourinho has given him many minutes too. Despite Veretout’s levels dropping, the new coach feels there are a lack of alternatives. He is still putting the Frenchman – who has been busier at international level too – through his paces.
6. Lorenzo Pellegrini – 3636 minutesEmbed from Getty Images
It would require some explanation to say anyone other than Lorenzo Pellegrini enjoyed 2021 as a Roma player the most. Over the past 12 months, the boyhood fan has become club captain, cemented his importance under various tactical systems, outscored all his teammates and established himself as one of Mourinho’s main men.
Putting club over country, Pellegrini forfeited Euro 2020 involvement – where he would have won a gold medal with Italy – to ensure his body healed and he could be at Roma’s disposal. His club are lucky in that regard; the attacking midfielder has been in fine form ever since.
An injury ended his 2021 slightly early, but all the signs have been positive so far. And next year – his first full one with the armband – things could get even better for the boy from Rome living his dream.
5. Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 3712 minutes
Roma have had to enjoy Henrikh Mkhitaryan on a season-by-season basis due to the lengths of the contracts he agrees to. But he has featured heavily in both of the campaigns encompassed in 2021.
One of the main sources of inspiration for the side under Fonseca, Mkhitaryan earned a contract extension after the ex-coach’s departure in order to be reunited with his old boss from his Manchester United days, Mourinho.
Despite the pair previously not having the best relationship, Mourinho has continued to give Mkhitaryan plenty of minutes – some in a less familiar central midfield role – in the new era.
4. Roger Ibanez – 3948 minutes
It took Roma some time to bed Roger Ibanez in after his January 2020 arrival from Atalanta. But over time, his responsibility has increased. Ultimately, 2021 has been a busy year for the defender.
Benefiting from Fonseca’s use of a back three last season, Ibanez featured frequently. This term, whether Mourinho has used a four or a three in defence, the Brazilian-born centre-half has been ready.
In fact, no outfield player has racked up more minutes under Mourinho than Ibanez so far.
3. Bryan Cristante – 4112 minutesEmbed from Getty Images
Whether in defence in Fonseca’s back three or his usual midfield territory under Mourinho, Bryan Cristante has put himself to use for Roma without complaints across the whole year.
Possessing one of the best attitudes in the squad, his coaches have enjoyed working with him, ensuring his gametime has remained high.
Having become one of the captains of the group, Cristante has been winning over some of his doubters and making more of a name for himself in a productive year for his Roma career.
2. Rick Karsdorp – 4360 minutes
Rick Karsdorp’s renaissance was one of the surprise stories of the 2020-21 season for Roma. After returning from the previous year’s loan spell with Feyenoord, few could have predicted he would become one of the club’s most consistent players.
The right-back has ensured his levels have not dropped in the new season either, establishing himself as virtually the only option Mourinho deems worth using in his position. Although Karsdorp is not faultless, it is easy to see why he has so much trust placed in him.
The Dutchman is one of only two players (the other tops this list) to have played more than 2000 minutes of action for Roma in both sides of the summer. Despite the club being linked with a new right-back for January, it would only be to support and not replace Karsdorp, who can expect to be busy again in 2022.
1. Gianluca Mancini – 4688 minutesEmbed from Getty Images
A player who enjoyed a steep development in 2020-21, even if his levels haven’t been as consistent in the new campaign, Gianluca Mancini has always been keen to take on as much responsibility as possible for Roma.
Clocking in more than 2500 minutes in the latter part of the 2020-21 season, Mancini was reliable throughout. Fonseca even confirmed he was playing through the pain barrier to remain on the pitch at some stages, while others around him were suffering physically as well.
The Italian has continued to push himself for Mourinho, who has elevated him to the role of vice-captain. Only fellow defender Ibanez and goalkeeper Patricio have played more for Roma since the change of manager.
There have been rumours of a new contract being in the pipeline for Mancini, who although still not the finished article, has established himself as a cornerstone of the Roma project for years to come.