Sometimes, something good can come from something bad. In this instance, Roma will be hoping that is the case when Ola Solbakken signs for them, just over a year after tormenting them for Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League.
Roma have agreed a deal for Solbakken to sign for them as a free agent in January 2023 after he caught their attention in the inaugural Conference League. Of course, Roma won the competition, but not without an infamous hiccup along the way.
Here, Giallorossi Yorkshire looks back at how Solbakken stood out in front of Roma and earned his transfer – before turning back the years and telling the stories of the other players to have signed for the club in the season after playing against them in a UEFA match.
Ola Solbakken (2023)Embed from Getty Images
Bodo/Glimt’s squad was made up of relative unknowns, but caused plenty of problems for Roma when they first faced off in October 2021.
The journey to northern Norway resulted in a humiliating 6-1 defeat for Roma, in which Solbakken scored a brace. It was one of the lowest moments the club has experienced in Europe.
Solbakken scored again when the two sides drew in the return fixture in Rome, before they would meet again in the quarter-finals of April 2022. This time, the Giallorossi won 5-2 on aggregate, without conceding to Bodo/Glimt’s number nine (who was unavailable for the first leg but started the second).
With his contract expiring at the end of that calendar year, Roma began looking at ways to sign him. Solbakken ultimately wanted Roma as much as they wanted him, so he held out and agreed to join them on a free transfer at the start of the new year.
Already capable of making an impact at Stadio Olimpico, Solbakken has generated some degree of anticipation before being able to make his Roma debut.
Maxime Gonalons (2017)Embed from Getty Images
Prior to Solbakken, the most recent player to play against Roma in a European match before joining them for the next season was Maxime Gonalons.
The defensive midfielder had spent his entire career with Lyon when he led them out as captain against Roma in the round of 16 of the 2016-17 Europa League.
It was to be the final hurdle for Luciano Spalletti’s side in that season’s competition, since the French outfit won the first leg 4-2 and only lost 2-1 to Roma in the return fixture.
Gonalons made the first transfer of his career a few months later, precisely to Roma, but it didn’t work out for him. He struggled for form and was offloaded after just one season in Serie A, in which he played less than half of the possible games.
Thomas Vermaelen (2016)Embed from Getty Images
Likewise, another high-profile player to disappoint at Roma was Thomas Vermaelen, who was at the club on loan from Barcelona in the 2016-17 season.
The two clubs have been involved in some memorable Champions League meetings over the years – some for good reasons, and others less so.
In the group stage of the 2015-16 campaign, for example, Roma suffered a 6-1 defeat at Camp Nou. Vermaelen played the whole 90 minutes after sitting out the previous matchup in Italy.
The Belgian defender was not getting a great deal of gametime in La Liga, though, so switched to Roma for the following campaign. His situation didn’t change much, however, and he only played nine times in Serie A.
Needless to say, Roma didn’t keep him on a permanent basis.
Edin Dzeko (2015)Embed from Getty Images
A more successful story – by a long distance – was that of Edin Dzeko, who became one of the greatest goalscorers Roma have ever had.
Dzeko needed no introduction when he led the line for Manchester City against Roma in the 2014-15 Champions League group stage. Starting both legs, the former Bundesliga and Premier League winner failed to score against the club who would employ him the next year.
After he was pushed to a new challenge, Dzeko’s time with Roma got off to an underwhelming start. But in his second season, the Bosnian forward was sensational and began breaking records.
Ultimately, he would spend six seasons with Roma, ending up on their podium of goalscorers having only been bettered by Francesco Totti and Roberto Pruzzo in those stakes.
And perhaps fittingly, he often made the most of his experience in European matches. For example, Dzeko was the joint top scorer in the 2016-17 Europa League, and then scored in every knockout round of Roma’s best ever Champions League run, to the semi-finals in 2017-18.
Mohamed Salah (2015)Embed from Getty Images
Mohamed Salah is a unique case in this list by virtue of the fact that Roma didn’t sign him from the club he played against them for in the previous season’s European competition.
Indeed, Salah was on loan at fellow Serie A side Fiorentina from Chelsea when he starred against Roma in the 2014-15 Europa League.
A month after Fiorentina knocked Roma out of the Coppa Italia, Salah’s side defeated La Magica again, this time in Europe. There was a 1-1 draw in Florence and a 3-0 defeat in Rome.
Salah started both legs, lasting the full 90 minutes in each. Although he didn’t score for Vincenzo Montella’s men, he was a thorn in Roma’s side.
A few months later, Roma had the last laugh by beating Fiorentina to Salah’s signature for the 2015-16 season. The winger would go on to spend another campaign in the capital – hitting double figures of goals in each of his two seasons with the club – before earning a big move to Liverpool.
Julio Baptista (2008)Embed from Getty Images
Perhaps one of Roma’s best ever achievements in Europe was to do the double over Real Madrid in the Champions League round of 16 back in early 2008.
In both the Italian and Spanish capitals, Spalletti’s side won 2-1. Earning the same positive result twice against a side featuring the likes of Raul, Fabio Cannavaro and Iker Casillas was an accomplishment.
One player who featured for Real in both legs – as a substitute in the first and starter in the second – was Julio Baptista. The Brazilian forward would end up at Roma that summer, going on to memorably score in his first Derby Della Capitale.
He hit double figures in his debut season in Italy, but failed to replicate that in his second and was offloaded halfway through his third.
Ricardo Faty (2006)
The 2004-05 season had been a disaster for Roma, but they still managed to qualify for Europe as runners up in the Coppa Italia. Consequently, they participated in the 2005-06 UEFA Cup.
After beating Aris in the first round, they qualified for the group stage, where they would face four opponents once each. In November, Strasbourg visited Stadio Olimpico, returning to France with a 1-1 draw.
One of their starters that day was a teenager named Ricardo Faty. The midfielder would become a Roma player the next year after a transfer worth less than half a million euros, enjoying an employment with the club until 2010.
He only managed 26 appearances in all competitions, though, either side of loan spells with Bayer Leverkusen and Nantes.
Coincidentally, his next club after Roma would be Aris, whom the Lupi had overcome to set up their clashes with Strasbourg and their other group opponents.
After various other ventures, Faty returned to Italian football with Reggina in Serie B between 2020 and 2022, although his spell there was dashed by injuries.
John Carew (2003)
In 2002-03, Roma were competing in the Champions League for the second time since its rebranding from the European Cup. In those days, there was a first group stage (Roma came second in theirs to advance) and then a second.
In that subsequent phase, one of their opponents was Valencia. Each side won their away fixture, with John Carew the goalscorer responsible for the Spaniards’ 1-0 triumph in Rome in February 2003.
Carew came to Roma on loan a few months later, scoring eight goals from 29 games in his sole season with the club. Only three teammates outscored him, but his move did not become permanent.
Cristian Chivu (2003)
Another opponent in that second group stage of the 2002-03 Champions League was Ajax, whose side included Romanian defender Cristian Chivu.
The left footer captained Ajax in the second leg (playing in front of future Roma goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont; coincidentally, it had been another later La Magica keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg, in goal for the Dutch side in the reverse fixture), which was a 1-1 draw at his future home ground in Rome. Chivu had not taken part in the first leg, which Roma lost 2-1.
The Giallorossi would win the race for his signature despite some financial concerns in the summer of 2003. Chivu went on to surpass the 100-appearance landmark for Roma before leaving for Inter after four seasons.
With the Nerazzurri, he would go all the way to win the competition in 2010, part of the famous treble overseen by a certain Jose Mourinho.