2019-20 Roma review: The player ratings

With an exhausting 2019-20 season finally over, it’s time to reflect on how Roma did.

It was a campaign like no other, lasting nearly a whole year due to the extension of the season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Eventually, Roma finished fifth in Serie A, reached the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia, and made it to the Round of 16 in the Europa League.

For Paulo Fonseca’s first season in charge, and with the club relying on a lot of new players, it was a season of steady progress. Missing out on the top four for the second year in a row is an obvious disappointment, but on an individual basis, some players have shown they can carry Roma forward into their intriguing new future.

Rated out of 10, here’s how each player did this season.

Pau Lopez – 5.5

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One of the first priorities for Roma last summer was to find a new, reliable goalkeeper. Unfortunately, that may be the case again this year.

Pau Lopez did not quite live up to his price tag after becoming the most expensive goalkeeper in the club’s history. The former Real Betis shot-stopper was rarely tested in the first part of the season, so didn’t get much of a chance to prove himself – but after the winter break, his form deteriorated.

A mistake in the Derby Della Capitale against Lazio in January was the precursor for a series of errors that left fans baffled. His distribution was also problematic, as Roma struggled to build from him.

At other times, he looked like a steady presence in goal. However, he may not have done enough to warrant a second chance.

Antonio Mirante – 6.5

Just like last season, Antonio Mirante was a calming influence whenever called upon in goal. The veteran keeper rarely made a mistake in his seven appearances.

Mirante has proven himself as one of the best backup keepers Roma have had in recent years. He gives a sense of confidence to those in front of him.

The only shame is that he did not play more games.

Daniel Fuzato – N/A

A goalkeeper who the club clearly believe in, but who has had to be patient for opportunities, Daniel Fuzato finally made his club debut two years after joining, in the last game of the Serie A season against Juventus.

The 23-year-old did relatively well, despite the opponents being weaker than normal. A loan spell next season should help his development.

Davide Zappacosta – 5.5

Brought in last summer with fair expectations, Davide Zappacosta’s season nearly ended before it had even begun. Suffering an ACL injury just 12 minutes into his Roma career, it looked as if the Italian would spend most of the season on the sidelines.

When he did return, he was understandably not the standout player in his position that some fans had expected him to be. He seemed to be lacking a bit of sharpness, not just physically but also mentally.

He ultimately failed to establish himself as first-choice. But without the injury and with a bit more end product, he might have been able to change that.

Bruno Peres – 6.5

The man who did end the season as first-choice right-back for Roma was someone whose strength in the role could not have been foreseen. Bruno Peres returned from his 18-month loan spell in Brazil in January as a completely different player.

Peres showed commitment to get back to his best, and began to thrive as an attacking full-back – especially when Roma changed to a 3-4-2-1 formation in July.

The former Torino star began to replicate the form that had made Roma buy him in the first place – even scoring a brace against SPAL. What the future holds for Peres in the long-term is unclear, but he stepped up when he was needed.

Davide Santon – 5.5

It has been a forgettable second season in Rome for Davide Santon. The full-back was limited to just 10 starts in all competitions. He made more in Serie A alone the season before.

It seems as if Fonseca did not quite know where Santon’s best role was. After trying him out in midfield in pre-season, the 29-year-old predictably played more often in his natural position as a full-back. But he never had continuity.

Santon is someone who makes few mistakes, but also does little to change games in the opposite direction. He was decent enough when called upon, but that was far too infrequent to make a serious impact.

Alessandro Florenzi – 5.5

What a year it has been for Alessandro Florenzi. He started the season as club captain and ended it out on loan in Spain.

Even more so than Santon, Fonseca did not understand how best to use Florenzi. The Roman featured as a winger on either flank or as a right-back, but struggled to build up a run of games.

He was starting to feature more heavily around Christmas time, which made his departure the next month a little questionable. But, sadly, Roma did not particularly miss him when he had gone.

Chris Smalling – 9

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Who could have seen this coming? Chris Smalling was a surprise addition to Roma’s defence at the end of the transfer window last summer, but he exceeded all expectations to become Fonseca’s most important player.

Smalling was a rock at the back, protecting his goal with all he had. Vital blocks, clearances and tackles – the Englishman did it all.

He even got on the scoresheet three times, showing his effectiveness at both ends. Overall, his consistency was exceptional. Smalling never allowed his standards to drop.

Roma will still be hoping to find a way to keep him, even though his loan from Manchester United has expired. If Smalling’s contribution to Roma ends here, though, he leaves with his head held high.

Gianluca Mancini – 6.5

The other half of Roma’s most common centre-back partnership, Gianluca Mancini did not quite replicate Smalling for consistency, but had a solid season overall.

Brought in from Atalanta, Mancini quickly established himself as a starter. His bravery was a big positive – but he was sometimes over-eager, which led to him picking up more yellow cards than anyone else.

If Mancini can eradicate that from his game, he could be a strong centre-back for Roma in the future. Perfection should not have been expected for a young man in his first season at the Stadio Olimpico; in general, he can be proud of how he did.

Federico Fazio – 6

Federico Fazio saw his gametime drop by more than half in 2019-20. The Argentine has been a great servant to the club, but his better years are behind him.

That said, the extent to which Fonseca jettisoned him from the first team between November and the re-start did not seem fair. Fazio was still being a capable player when called upon; he just did not get enough chances.

His experience is still important to Roma, though. Overall, he reacted well to his new backup role, and showed he can still play a part.

Roger Ibanez – 6.5

One of the more surprising success stories of the season was the integration of Roger Ibanez after his January move from Atalanta. He arrived with no reputation; barely anyone had heard of him.

In his formative performances as a Roma player, Ibanez began to show why the club have invested in him. Like Mancini, he had the occasional tendency to over-commit, but he usually timed his challenges well and looked good on the ball.

Depending on what formation Roma use next season, it’s not yet clear if Ibanez should be a starter, but he has outlined himself as a good option to build with.

Mert Cetin – 5.5

Also arriving with no expectations, Mert Cetin featured little after joining from the Turkish second division. He received a red card against Napoli on his first start, and it did not do his confidence much good – nor Fonseca’s confidence in him.

There were a few positives on the rare occasions Cetin did play, though. He looked comfortable in two positions – right-back and centre-back. He just wasn’t quite of the level required at Roma.

A loan spell should help Cetin develop – but it remains to be seen if he will reach a standard good enough to succeed in the capital.

Juan Jesus – 4

Poor Juan Jesus. After making a couple of costly errors early in the season, the Brazilian was virtually banished from the first team by Fonseca.

While he kept working hard in training, when it came to matchday, Jesus was barely ever selected. He declined the chance to leave in January, but still was shown little faith.

Four years after joining the club, it may be time for a fresh challenge for a player who can be useful on his day, but just wasn’t given such days often enough in 2019-20.

Aleksandar Kolarov – 6

This was probably Aleksandar Kolarov’s least spectacular of his three seasons at Roma so far. But that’s not to say he was bad; he just struggled to match the attacking output he has shown before due to his increasing age.

That said, he was still Roma’s joint-fourth top scorer of the season. In total, between goals and assists, he contributed to 10 goals for the team.

Positionally, things changed for Kolarov this season – especially after the re-start, when he became a left-sided central defender in a back three, a role which seemed to suit him more.

Staying there in the future may allow him to prolong his adventure with Roma, as he is unlikely to be first-choice at left-back any more, but still has the experience, commitment and quality that make him valuable.

Leonardo Spinazzola – 6.5

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It was a season of two halves for the other player competing for the left-back berth. Leonardo Spinazzola joined the club for big money, but took time to make an impact.

Often used as a right-back early in the season, Spinazzola made it clear that he would prefer to play on the opposite flank. When Fonseca did move him there, it brought out the best in the ex-Juventus man.

Spinazzola found freedom as a left-sided wing-back, causing havoc when he went forwards with his positive dribbling and crossing. By the end of the campaign, he had surpassed Kolarov in the pecking order. His patience had paid off.

Riccardo Calafiori – N/A

One of Roma’s most promising Primavera players, Riccardo Calafiori made his first team debut in the Serie A finale against Juventus. He didn’t last the whole 90 minutes, but showed why he is so highly valued.

Calafiori almost marked his debut with a goal, after sending a right-footed volley flying into the roof of the net, only to see it disallowed. But he has proven his confidence, and Roma now must try and integrate him further.

Amadou Diawara – 7

There was not a great deal of enthusiasm for the signing of Amadou Diawara as a counterpart when Kostas Manolas was sold to Napoli. But the Guinean midfielder soon proved the doubters wrong and established himself as a metronome in midfield.

At his best, Diawara kept the rhythm flowing for Roma, binding the three thirds of the pitch together. Confident playing either long or short passes, he was a playmaker from deep.

Sadly, a bit of consistency was lacking. Especially after the re-start, he made some crucial errors that gave away goals.

But the good games were more plentiful than the bad. It was a solid debut season for Diawara overall.

Jordan Veretout – 8

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Bringing balance and energy to Roma’s midfield, Jordan Veretout was a clear candidate for player of the season in his first season in the capital.

Signed from Fiorentina, Veretout became a key component of the structure Roma set up in under Fonseca. The Frenchman had echoes of great Roma midfielders of recent years like Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman.

Showing leadership throughout the season, Veretout’s drive and determination were crucial to Roma’s success. Whenever he wasn’t playing, the team suffered. His presence was that fundamental.

And in addition, his composure from the penalty spot further enhanced his reputation as someone Roma could rely on consistently.

Bryan Cristante – 6

Bryan Cristante is still a hard player to judge at Roma. He is yet to find his perfect role in the team’s midfield – and even dropped into defence on a couple of occasions.

After an indifferent 2018-19 campaign, he showed signs of improvement in the first few months of the new season. But his form tailed off by the end of it.

Cristante did not show the passing ability of Veretout or Diawara, nor the eye for goal of a more advanced midfielder. If he could just work out what he specialises in, he might be able to become more consistent – but he just didn’t show it enough in 2019-20.

Gonzalo Villar – 6

The emergence of Gonzalo Villar in Roma’s midfield after his January signing was refreshing, if fleeting. The Spanish youngster was energetic when given an opportunity, strong despite his small frame and eager to get in between the lines.

While many players benefitted from the three-month break in lockdown – such as Zappacosta or Nicolo Zaniolo, who missed fewer games as they returned from injury – Villar was one who suffered a bit. His first start, in the last game before football stopped, was a positive demonstration of what he could do.

After that, his momentum had been disrupted. He featured little in the last few weeks, but was good against Juventus, for example. Villar can be a bright prospect if he is given enough time to grow.

Lorenzo Pellegrini – 7

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No player endured more highs and lows in 2019-20 than Lorenzo Pellegrini. At the start of his third season back with his boyhood club, the attacking midfielder looked unbeatable. He was playing passes no others could, creating chances with genius instinct.

By the end of the season, he looked a shadow of the player he had been earlier in the campaign. It was frustrating, because it was clear what Pellegrini was capable of. But for some reason, he was drifting out of games.

His fall from grace did not make much sense, but it should not overshadow just how good he was earlier in the season. To declare it a poor season for Pellegrini would be incredibly short-sighted. He was still the team’s main provider, with 11 assists in all competitions.

Pellegrini remains a key player for Roma. When he is at the top of his game, there aren’t many better in this squad. But to establish himself next year, he must produce his best more regularly.

Javier Pastore – 6

When Pellegrini was injured in the Autumn months, Javier Pastore picked up the pieces. Making four starts in a row, he produced his best spell of form in a Roma shirt.

For the rest of the season, though, Pastore barely made an impact. Suffering injuries of his own, he only managed one other start.

There were signs of improvement for the Argentine in a formation that suits him better, but with the price Roma paid for him, he wasn’t efficient enough.

Nicolo Zaniolo – 7.5

It was a season of maturity for Nicolo Zaniolo. After unexpectedly bursting onto the scene as a teenager last season, the Italian prodigy became more and more influential for Roma.

Having fully settled into his new home on the right wing, Zaniolo impressed with his dribbling, strength and eye for goal. His strike against Napoli in November was excellent, but he saved his best for the end of the season, when he finished off a run across half the length of the pitch against SPAL.

When Zaniolo suffered an ACL injury against Juventus in January, it was a huge blow for the team. He was sorely missed – but thankfully, he recovered in time for the delayed end of the season, and immediately brought Roma back up to their best.

Hence, even though he didn’t play as regularly in the end, Zaniolo took major steps forward in 2019-20. The boy had become a man.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 8

When Roma brought Henrikh Mkhitaryan in on loan from Arsenal late in the transfer window last summer, it was seen as a major coup. He had struggled in three years in the Premier League, but he came with a big reputation from his time at Borussia Dortmund.

Indeed, Roma saw the best side of Mkhitaryan all season. After scoring on his debut against Sassuolo with a left-footed strike, the Armenian continued to impress.

Graceful when dribbling, but also with the instinct to play a killer pass, Mkhitaryan was always reliable and effective. He drove Roma forwards at all times.

Only Edin Dzeko scored more goals for Roma in 2019-20 than Mkhitaryan. The agreement to keep him for next season as well is a huge boost for Roma, given how good he has been so far.

Diego Perotti – 5.5

Now one of the longest-serving players in the Roma squad, Diego Perotti should have assumed a role of greater responsibility this season. Indeed, he sometimes wore the captain’s armband when he played.

Sadly, he was not as decisive as he has been before. His gametime over the last two seasons has really dropped, due to his age and injuries hampering his progress.

For a player who has always split opinion in Rome, perhaps his struggles in recent years should make everyone appreciate how good he was in his prime.

Justin Kluivert – 6.5

One of many players who showed glimpses of greatness, but not on a regular basis, it was a rollercoaster campaign for Justin Kluivert.

The Dutchman came with high hopes in 2018, but his first season did not go to plan. In his second year, though, he has shown some signs of development.

Kluivert has become more composed in front of goal, scoring more often this season. One-on-one, there aren’t many better finishers. But the problem has been getting into those positions in the first place.

The 21-year-old is still lacking the decisiveness to beat players and make the right choices. He suffered after the formation change, as he no longer had a key role in the team.

Therefore, the jury is still out on whether Kluivert will succeed in the long-term. But he has shown a willingness to get better, and, in some cases, has delivered on that.

Cengiz Under – 6

In his first two seasons in Italy, Cengiz Under became a hot prospect. Scoring several flashy goals, the Turkish winger looked like he was only going to get better and better.

Unfortunately, the opposite happened in 2019-20. Injuries troubled him, and he struggled to get a regular run in the team. He didn’t do too badly when he did play – his goal against Genoa on the opening day was a moment of class, for example, while he starred in the second Derby Della Capitale of the season – but the feeling that he has lost his way slightly cannot be avoided.

Like Kluivert, he did not really fit in after the formation change, and there are now doubts about his future at Roma.

Carles Perez – 6

Barcelona fans were frustrated to lose Carles Perez when he joined Roma in January. At times for his new club, he has shown why, but is still waiting to become a regular.

Scoring his first goal for the club in the Europa League against Gent before the break, and netting an impressive first Serie A strike against SPAL after the re-start, Perez made an impact in particular moments. He just needed to do it more often.

The 22-year-old seems to be a player who needs the ball at his feet regularly to make things happen. But he has adapted fairly well to his new surroundings – also taking the change of shape in his stride, despite it changing his role as a winger.

Once he fully settles in, he could be an important player for Roma.

Mirko Antonucci – N/A

Fonseca clearly saw something in Antonucci during pre-season (he scored a hat-trick in the first friendly) that made him want to keep him around. However, he used him very little before allowing him to leave on loan in January.

That loan spell with Vitoria Setubal did not go particularly well, either. Antonucci has been on the fringes of the first team for a while now, so it could be a make-or-break summer for his development.

Edin Dzeko – 7

It wasn’t clear if Dzeko would even be at the club last summer, but after he signed a contract renewal, he embarked on a quest to carry on his outstanding scoring record for Roma.

Dzeko rose up the rankings to become the club’s all-time top foreign goalscorer, and joint-fourth leading marksman overall, by the end of a prolific fifth campaign in Rome.

The Bosnian managed 19 goals in all competitions, always working hard from the front. Taking on the captaincy full-time following Florenzi’s departure, he also became a true leader.

Dzeko, as always, scored all different types of goals. At 34 years of age, he has been as reliable as ever.

  

Nikola Kalinic – 6

Probably the signing that sparked least enthusiasm among the fans, Nikola Kalinic arrived as a striker who had lost his way in recent years.

In the first half of the season, Dzeko took on the bulk of minutes, with Kalinic having to firmly settle for a backup role. He missed a big chance against Istanbul Basaksehir in the Europa League, and had a goal frustratingly ruled out against Cagliari in the formative weeks of his time at Roma.

Those moments suggested Kalinic was not going to be a success for Roma. But credit where credit’s due, he has worked hard to put things right.

The Croatian had a positive second half of the season, scoring a brace to open his Roma account in the last game before the lockdown, and adding three more after the re-start. Overall, five league goals from just 565 minutes is an efficient return.

It may not be enough to persuade Roma to buy him outright, but Kalinic deserves praise for the way he applied himself in the last few weeks.

Coach: Paulo Fonseca – 7

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Finally, this set of ratings would not be complete without looking at the head coach. Paulo Fonseca’s first season in charge of Roma was a steep learning curve, as he got to grips with the most competitive league he has ever managed in.

For a first attempt, it was a decent effort from the Portuguese tactician. He showed awareness to change Roma’s formation in July, which salvaged a season that was starting to slip away.

Fonseca was sometimes criticised for Roma’s struggles in big games, but in the end, the Giallorossi drew twice with runners up Inter Milan, twice with fourth-placed Lazio, and finished the season by beating champions Juventus.

Overall, then, there were some positive signs, even if there is still the need for Roma to become more competitive next season. But the recent high turnover of coaches suggests Fonseca deserves faith. He hasn’t been perfect, but things like the tactical change show he understands his own flaws and is willing to rectify them.

Therefore, given that he was a newcomer to Italian football, Fonseca can be fairly happy with the season he led Roma to.

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