On 4th June, 2016, Roma’s Under-19 side won their most recent league title, in the penultimate edition of the Campionato Primavera before it was restructured.
Roma have historically had a good progression rate of players moving from the academy to the first team, and by beating Juventus in a penalty shoot-out, the class of 2016 showed they also had potential to achieve big things in the sport.
At the time, the Under-19 championship was split into three groups, with the most successful teams advancing to the Final Eight, a knockout stage to determine the overall winner.
Alberto De Rossi’s side had topped their group with 57 points, before beating Virtus Entella in the quarter-finals and sealing their place in the final with a win over Inter Milan on penalties.
Roma faced off with Juventus in the final, falling behind to a penalty, before Ezequiel Ponce took the game to extra time with an equaliser. The striker was the first player to score for Roma in the ensuing penalty shootout, which they won 6-5 to claim the trophy.
The Juventus side they beat were no pushovers, as nearly half of their lineup play in Serie A now. Emil Audero is at Sampdoria, Pol Lirola at Fiorentina, Filippo Romagna at Sassuolo, and Francesco Cassata and Andrea Favilli are at Genoa. Moise Kean – an unused substitute on the day – is in the Premier League with Everton.
But what about the Roma lineup?
The players De Rossi had at his disposal that season were so strong collectively, that two players who have since made their first team debuts, Luca Pellegrini and Mirko Antonucci, could not even get on from the bench.
Of course, not every player would have been expected to move into the first team straight away. But what has happened to the squad that lifted that trophy four years ago?
Here are their stories since that day.
Lorenzo CrisantoEmbed from Getty Images
Roma had strong goalkeepers in the youth ranks that season, with Lorenzo Crisanto given the nod ahead of Andrea Romagnoli and Ionut Pop for the final against Juventus.
Aged 18 at the time of the final, Crisanto went on to spend another season playing in the Primavera – winning the youth edition of the Coppa Italia at the end of it – and was called up to five matchday squads in Serie A, without ever playing for the first team.
For the 2017-18 season, the goalkeeper was loaned out to Robur Siena, where he made his senior debut in Serie C. However, it was his only appearance for the club.
The season that followed brought two different loan spells for Crisanto, who spent the first half of the campaign at Pistoiese before moving to Monopoli.
Still finding his feet at senior level, Crisanto left Roma permanently last summer, teaming up with Alessandria in Serie C.
Eros De Santis
At right-back, another 18-year-old was chosen. Eros De Santis had already been called up to one senior Serie A squad by Luciano Spalletti that season, and he would feature on four benches across all competitions the year after.
Having concluded his time with the academy in 2017, De Santis was loaned out to Virtus Entella. He managed a respectable 13 appearances in Serie B, including 10 starts, but dropped down a level when leaving Roma permanently in 2018.
De Santis joined Robur Siena in Serie C, from where he was loaned out to Monza for six months in January 2019. That loan spell was not particularly successful, and the defender moved to Viterbese in Serie C at the start of this calendar year.
One of the few members of this squad who went on to make their first team debut, Elio Capradossi was already establishing himself as a big prospect. Slightly older than most of his teammates at the time, the centre-back had been on the verge of a first team breakthrough at the start of the season – and was even included in Roma’s Champions League squad – only to see those dreams denied when he suffered an ACL injury.
Capradossi recovered in time to help Roma against Juventus, and took on extra responsibility when he scored Roma’s fourth penalty.
However, if he was really going to get the gametime he needed, it would have to be out on loan, so he was sent to Serie B side Bari for the 2016-17 season.
His campaign was a success, so he returned to Bari for another loan the season after, before being recalled to Roma following the January 2018 sale of Hector Moreno. In May that year, at the age of 22, Capradossi finally got to make his senior debut for Roma.
Unfortunately, he was only able to add one more appearance, before being loaned out again – this time to Spezia. Despite featuring in three pre-season matches under Paulo Fonseca in 2019, Capradossi was sold to the club he had just been on loan at ahead of the current campaign – nine years after joining the academy.
So far, he has made more than 25 appearances in all competitions this season, with Spezia hoping for a play-off place.
Lining up at centre-back alongside Capradossi was Riccardo Marchizza, another player who would establish himself as a leader of the young group.
Born in Rome, Marchizza had been in the club’s youth setup since the age of eight. Included in the matchday squad for Spalletti’s first game back in charge in 2015, the left-footed defender wrapped up a promising season with the Campionato Primavera triumph – despite being the only Roma player to miss a penalty.
Spalletti showed some faith in Marchizza again the following season, calling him up for five Serie A squads and giving him his senior debut as a late substitute in a December 2016 Europa League match against Astra Giurgiu.
When Spalletti left at the end of the season, though, Marchizza was one of the players sacrificed to Sassuolo in order for Eusebio Di Francesco to arrive as manager.
Sassuolo immediately loaned Marchizza out to Avellino in Serie B, where he established himself with 18 appearances. He spent the following campaign in the same division with Crotone, playing 17 times in the league, and for the current season, he joined Spezia on loan.
That means he has been able to restore his partnership with Capradossi, with the duo establishing themselves as regulars at centre-back. Marchizza remains under contract at Sassuolo until 2022.
Silvio AnocicEmbed from Getty Images
Brought to Roma’s academy from Croatia in 2014, Anocic is the only player from this starting lineup who is still contracted to the club.
Despite being called up to two matchday squads in the first two games of the 2015-16 season by Rudi Garcia – before Emerson Palmieri joined the club late in the transfer window – and winning the Coppa Italia Primavera in 2017, the left-back has struggled for opportunities in the first team.
Anocic was sent out on loan to Cibalia, back in the second tier in his native country, for the present campaign. The 22-year-old has made 14 appearances for them, scoring twice.
Despite only being 23 years old, Jose Machin has already played for 12 different clubs at youth and senior level. The midfielder from Equatorial Guinea clearly had potential, even spending four years at Barcelona’s academy between 2004 and 2008, but has failed to settle anywhere yet.
Pepin, as he is also known, joined Roma’s academy from Malaga’s in 2015 – with the Spanish club’s ‘B’ team, Atletico Malagueno, having already given him a senior debut. By the end of the calendar year, he had also made his senior debut for Equatorial Guinea.
Used in friendlies and called up to the bench six times by Rudi Garcia, but never given such an opportunity under Spalletti, Pepin was loaned out to Trapani in Serie B for the 2016-17 season.
Loans at FC Lugano, Brescia and Pescara followed, with the latter taking him on permanently in 2018. He featured heavily as Pescara reached the play-offs at the end of the season, before being given another chance in Serie A when Parma bought him in 2019.
Parma loaned him straight back to Pescara, where he scored seven goals in 20 league games before dropping into Serie C with Monza in January 2020. Monza have an obligation to buy him at the end of the season, dependent on certain clauses.
Lorenzo VascoEmbed from Getty Images
Roma had many potential leaders in their Primavera squad of 2015-16, but it was 18-year-old Lorenzo Vasco who captained the group. Born in nearby Aprilia and raised a Romanista, the midfielder had been with Roma’s academy since the age of 10.
Vasco, who scored Roma’s second penalty against Juventus, was given the chance to experience senior football in the third tier on loan with Sudtirol in 2016-17, but he switched to Fidelis Andria midway through the campaign.
Fondi took him on loan for the next season, in which he made 23 appearances in Serie C. When leaving Roma permanently at the end of the campaign, in 2018 – having never got as close to the first team as he had dreamed – Vasco returned to his local club, Racing Aprilia (who had just incorporated his previous side Fondi into their association as part of a merger).
After one season with them in Serie D, Vasco stayed in the fourth tier with Ostia Mare, another Rome-based side, when transferring in the summer of 2019.
Another midfielder born on the outskirts of the capital, Christian D’Urso joined Roma’s academy in 2010. He featured in four matchday squads for the senior team in 2015-16 – three under Garcia, and one in Spalletti’s first game – but never made his debut.
The midfielder played on loan at Latina in Serie B for the first half of the 2016-17 season, before switching to Carpi, where he featured less.
For the 2017-18 campaign, D’Urso was loaned to Ascoli, and this time he lasted the whole season, before making more appearances than in any of his previous years in 2018-19, in Greece with Apollon Smyrnis. However, his side were relegated from the Greek top flight.
In 2019, he left Roma permanently, joining Cittadella in Serie B. D’Urso has made a decent start to life away from Rome, scoring three goals in 19 league games so far.
Lorenzo Di LivioEmbed from Getty Images
Wearing the number 10 shirt for Roma in the final against Juventus was a famous name. Son of former Italy international Angelo Di Livio, Lorenzo had already made his Serie A debut by the time the final came, as Garcia had sent him on as a substitute for Mohamed Salah in a draw with Chievo in January 2016.
After helping Roma win the youth championship, things did not progress well for the attacking midfielder. A loan at Ternana in Serie B brought just seven appearances in 2016-17, and the next season at Reggina, in Serie C, Di Livio received a three-month ban for doping.
Di Livio has spent his entire career since in the third tier. He spent the later part of the 2017-18 season at Matera, before joining Robur Siena on loan for the following campaign.
Last summer, Di Livio left Roma permanently, signing for Catanzaro. He has scored once in 19 games – just six of which were starts – for them in all competitions.
A player for whom things have progressed well since 2016, Emanuele Ndoj had left Roma’s academy in February 2016 for Brescia, but was loaned back to the capital in time to play his part in the Scudetto triumph.
By the end of the season, Ndoj was back at Brescia, making 17, 23 and 28 appearances respectively in three seasons in Serie B – the last culminating in promotion. By this stage a full Albanian international, despite being born in Italy, Ndoj has continued to contribute in the top flight, registering five starts and eight substitute appearances in Serie A thus far.
Now aged 23, Ndoj has a contract with Brescia until 2022.
At the tip of Roma’s formation against Juventus was a striker who had arrived the previous summer with a decent amount of promise. Already with five goals from 33 senior appearances with River Plate in Argentina under his belt, there was hope that Ezequiel Ponce could eventually become a first team player at Roma.
That never happened. An unused sub 11 times in Serie A that season, Ponce was then struck with a ligament injury that denied him the chance to feature in the first team under Spalletti.
He recovered in time for a prolific end to the Primavera season, with nine goals in 10 games, and scored Roma’s goal in open play and their first penalty of the shootout against Juventus.
After that, despite a relative lack of first team striker options, it was time for Ponce to grow elsewhere. He spent 2016-17 on loan in La Liga with Granada, scoring just twice; 2017-18 in Ligue 1 with Lille, again netting twice; and 2018-19 in Greece with AEK Athens.
It was in that last season when Ponce began to finally reach his potential, scoring 21 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions. It was enough for some to consider giving Ponce a chance in the Roma first team, but the Argentine stayed neither in Italy nor Greece.
Instead, Ponce joined Spartak Moscow in Russia, where he is coached by Italian-born manager Domenico Tedesco. The 23-year-old has not quite hit the heights of last season, recording four goals in 19 appearances in the Russian top flight. He has, however, added three goals from three in the Russian Cup and two from four in Europa League qualifiers.
The first of three players De Rossi sent on, Emanuele Spinozzi replaced his namesake Ndoj in the 88th minute. Just 17 at the time, the midfielder took – and scored – Roma’s third penalty.
After loans at Pontedera, Piacenza and Teramo, Spinozzi featured briefly in pre-season for Roma in 2019, even scoring in Paulo Fonseca’s first friendly, before leaving permanently for Pistoiese. He has played 23 times for the Serie C outfit, without scoring, so far.
A similar story followed fellow midfielder Alessandro Bordin. He too was 17 when sent on against Juventus, at the end of extra time, in place of Di Livio. Bordin scored the sixth penalty, but his future lied away from Roma.
After unsuccessful loans at Ternana and Perugia, he also made a cameo in pre-season 2019, but left Roma permanently in the summer. He moved to Spezia, who loaned him out immediately to Pistoiese – where he has made 19 appearances upon reuniting with Spinozzi.
Also coming on just in time for the penalty shootout was Lorenzo Grossi, who replaced D’Urso. The Rome-born defender scored the winning spot kick for Roma, but was released one year later, joining Pro Vercelli. His contract there expires at the end of the current season, in which he has played 11 times.
Finally, here is a brief summary of what has happened to the players who did not get on from the bench that day.
Andrea Romagnoli – Goalkeeper who left Roma for Spartak Moscow in 2019, at the age of 21, after two unfruitful loans.
Ionut Pop – Romanian goalkeeper who had been at Roma since 2013. After loans at Fidelis Andria and Alessandria, he returned to his homeland with Hermannstadt in 2019.
Andrea Paolelli – Right-back who spent time on loan at Viterbese and then Gubbio between 2016 and 2019. He dropped down to Serie D with Albalonga after being released last summer.
Luca Pellegrini – Left-back who was given some first team opportunities in 2018-19, before being sold to Juventus in a swap deal for Leonardo Spinazzola. Now 21, he has since been loaned back to Cagliari, who Roma had initially lent him to in January 2019.
Stefano Ciavattini – Rome-born centre-back who was released in 2018, going on to spend a season at Reggina before joining and leaving Pianese within four weeks.
Niccolo Tofanari – Defender who stayed in the youth ranks until 2017 before being loaned to Pontedera. He joined Gubbio permanently in 2018-19 but moved on to Ascoli, who loaned him out to Fano in Serie C, after just one season.
Filippo Franchi – Roman forward who was loaned to Sicilian side Akragas and then Reggina in 2017-18, before leaving for Matelica. He has since moved to Tuttocuoio, Avezzano and his current side Chieti, in Serie D.
Edoardo Soleri – Striker who had already made his senior debut in the Europa League, but did not get on against Juventus. After loans at Spezia, Almeria, Almere City and Braga, he joined Padova in 2019. He has scored three times for them in Serie C.
Mirko Antonucci – Still owned by Roma, a winger who made his senior debut under Eusebio Di Francesco in 2018 after turning professional a few months earlier. He was loaned to Pescara in 2018-19 and despite showing some promise under Paulo Fonseca, was sent on loan to Vitoria Setubal in January. He is still without a goal in professional football.Embed from Getty Images