Ranking the Roma squad by how important they are for their countries

The international break is a difficult time for football fans – although to some, it means more than others.

The same goes for the players themselves, some of whom have different responsibilities when playing for their countries compared to their clubs. On the other hand, there are those who do not get to play for their national teams all that often.

Like any squad, Roma have a blend of players who feature to varying degrees for their countries. Here is an attempt to rank each member of the current squad by the importance they have back home.

1. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Armenia)

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Arguably Roma’s best player when it comes down to overall quality, Mkhitaryan occupies a similar role for Armenia. In fact, for his country, there is no ‘arguably’ about it.

Mkhitaryan has scored more goals for Armenia across their history than their next two highest scorers combined. His status back in his homeland is best summed up by the fact that he has won the award for the Armenian Footballer of the Year nine times over the past decade.

Captain of his country, the 32-year-old has transcended what would be expected of a player from his place of birth.

2. Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Like Mkhitaryan, Dzeko is his country’s top scorer, with his tally for Bosnia and Herzegovina putting him in the world’s top 35 international goalscorers of all time.

That record is even more impressive when considering the fact that Bosnia have only qualified for one major international tournament during Dzeko’s playing career.

Also their all-time leading appearance maker, the only reason he is trumped on this list by Mkhitaryan is because he has a slightly greater number of famous international teammates. But in Bosnia, he is revered, and has won the nation’s Sportsperson of the Year (not just for footballers) on two occasions.

3. Leonardo Spinazzola (Italy)

Italy have a lot of options at full-back, but many of those play on the right flank, as opposed to the left. Therefore, Spinazzola has less competition for his preferred role, which he is now trying to nail down as his own.

Already having done so at club level, he is having a good go at the task for his country too. He is not the outright first-choice yet, but his experience makes him a strong candidate to have that role when Euro 2020 comes around.

4. Nicolo Zaniolo (Italy)

One look at Italy’s record under Roberto Mancini in the time Zaniolo has been out with injury suggests they are doing just fine without him, but the attacking midfielder is destined to play a big role for his country.

In fact, Mancini even called him up to a senior Italy squad before he had made his Serie A debut for Roma, such was his faith in the former Inter academy player.

Last summer, the Azzurri boss called him up again even though he had only just returned from injury – with the 21-year-old going on to suffer another ACL tear as a result. But already the youngest Giallorossi player to score for Italy, both Mancini and Roma will be hoping he gets back to his best.

5. Marash Kumbulla (Albania)

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After making his name with Hellas Verona, Kumbulla had a tough decision to make regarding his international career. Should he have chosen his country of birth, Italy, or where his parents were from, Albania?

His decision to opt for the latter may be a smart career move. Italy have a wealth of options at centre-back, whereas Albania do not have as many household names in that position – or their entire squad, for that matter.

Still only young, he should have a lot of caps ahead of him.

6. Lorenzo Pellegrini (Italy)

Pellegrini might just miss out on a place in Italy’s strongest midfield, but he certainly warrants a regular role in their squad.

Just like for Roma, his ability to play in either an advanced or deeper midfield role makes him an asset. When squad sizes are limited for international tournaments, that kind of versatility can enhance a player’s chances of being selected.

7. Amadou Diawara (Guinea)

Guinea may have another famous midfielder in their captain Naby Keita, but besides the Liverpool man, Diawara is probably their most well-known player.

Somewhat surprisingly, he only made his international debut in 2018, one year before he came to Roma. But he has already reached double figures in terms of caps and should increase that tally significantly over the next decade or so.

8. Stephan El Shaarawy (Italy)

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Admittedly, Italy have better attacking options than El Shaarawy, but he retains his place in Mancini’s thinking. And given that he did so while struggling for form in China, he is only likely to remain in Italy’s plans now he is back in Serie A.

With different characteristics to some of the Azzurri’s other wingers, El Shaarawy has been a part of the senior national setup since 2012 and won’t be disappearing any time soon.

9. Gianluca Mancini (Italy)

For most of the past decade, Italy have relied on Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci at centre-back. There will soon come a time, though, when they will need to move on from the ageing Juventus pair.

Few players are better primed to step into their shoes than Mancini, who has elements of both of their playing styles to lesser degrees. There will be tough competition for the roles, but his form at club level has given him every chance of cementing his place in Italy’s future.

10. Bryan Cristante (Italy)

Cristante has performed well for Roma in 2020-21, but the thing that may work against him internationally is that he has been doing so in a role that doesn’t really exist in Italy’s system.

He made five caps in 2018 but hasn’t had too many chances either side of that peak. That said, like with Pellegrini, versatility could help his chances of making it at international level.

Had he chosen to play for Canada, as he was eligible to, he would likely have gone on to make more international appearances. Even so, he still has a good chance of adding to his collection of Italy caps.

11. Bryan Reynolds (USA)

For an American player to come to Europe at such a young age shows there is belief in that athlete’s ability. Reynolds was just 19 years old when he arrived at Roma, but was making his senior debut for the USA less than two months later.

The US selectors clearly have faith in the full-back, given that he is being involved in their setup before he has really got going in European football.

12. Rick Karsdorp (Netherlands)

There was a feeling among the Dutch faithful that Karsdorp deserved an international re-call ahead of the March set of fixtures. He was ultimately overlooked, but if he can keep up his form for Roma, he may well sneak back into their plans.

Now that he is entering his prime years, he may be hoping to be brought back in from the wilderness, having not featured for his country since March 2017.

13. Gonzalo Villar (Spain)

To break into Spain’s midfield is one of the toughest tasks in football, but Villar may be on the verge of doing so.

A key player for their under-21s, even though he has now turned 23, the time will soon come to see if he is capable of making the transition to the senior side.

14. Pedro (Spain)

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As a member of the excellent Spain squad that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, Pedro will always have an important role in his country’s footballing history.

However, he has not featured for Spain since 2017 and his mixed form for Roma is unlikely to have changed their minds.

15. Pau Lopez (Spain)

Before he joined Roma, Lopez was Spain’s third-choice goalkeeper behind David De Gea and Kepa Arrizabalaga.

However, he has not been able to capitalise on their losses in form, largely due to his own. There are now a few other players ahead of him in the pecking order.

16. Chris Smalling (England)

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Making more than 30 appearances for his country, Smalling had a decent international career, but that statement is very much in the past tense.

If England wouldn’t call him up when he was in the form of his life for Roma in 2019-20, they’re not going to now.

17. Roger Ibanez (Brazil)

Only having featured for Brazil’s under-23 team and at no other age groups, Ibanez has the potential to become a full international one day, but that seems to be on the distant horizon at present despite his decent form for Roma.

18. Jordan Veretout (France)

Not through any of his own shortcomings, Veretout simply cannot get a look in for France. The reigning World Cup holders are stacked with options in midfield, meaning that even when the 28-year-old has enjoyed his best season in front of goal at club level, he has not been able to add to the caps he gained at under-21 level.

There is an argument to suggest he is Roma’s most important player, but he is certainly not France’s.

19. Borja Mayoral (Spain)

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Mayoral was only one goal away from matching Spain under-21s’ all-time scoring record, but has been unable to progress into the senior ranks since his last cap at that level in 2019.

Given his decent form in the first season of his loan at Roma, though, he may begin to knock on the door at some point.

20. Federico Fazio (Argentina)

Argentina’s national options have always been imbalanced towards their attack, meaning a defender of a decent level such as Fazio in his prime could find the pathway to selection easier.

After sitting on the bench for most of the last World Cup, though, it became clear that Fazio’s days with Argentina were numbered – and a similar pattern has followed since at Roma.

21. Riccardo Calafiori (Italy)

Still only 18 years old, Calafiori is playing at under-19 level for Italy, and will have to grow in importance for Roma to begin to be considered for a more senior role.

However, as mentioned in the entry for Spinazzola, there are fewer options for Italy at left-back, so Calafiori could have a chance in the next five years or so.

22. Javier Pastore (Argentina)

Pastore is one of the most-capped players at international level among the Roma squad, but his last international appearance came in September 2017.

It’s also been a long time – although not quite as long as four years, even if it sometimes feels like it – since his last appearance at club level, so that doesn’t work in his favour either.

23. Davide Santon (Italy)

Santon’s last involvement with the Italian national team was way back in 2013. Like Pastore, he isn’t even featuring that often at club level.

24. Carles Perez (Spain)

Yet to progress from the Spanish under-21 team, whom he only played twice for anyway, Perez’s stock has fallen in recent years. Only a bit-part player for Roma, his chances of a senior Spain cap seem slim at present.

25. Antonio Mirante (Italy)

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Mirante came very close to becoming Italy’s oldest ever debutant when he was called up by Mancini in 2019, after a strong end to the season with Roma. Sadly, that looked to be his only chance, and he did not make a single appearance.

26. Juan Jesus (Brazil)

Jesus did make four appearances for Brazil earlier in his career, but having spent most of the past few years on the bench in Roma, he isn’t going to get back in contention any time soon.

27. Bruno Peres (Brazil)

Peres never even played for Brazil at youth level, and set to become a free agent at the age of 31, it would be quite a surprise if he ever featured for the Selecao.

28. Daniel Fuzato (Brazil)

Capped once by Brazil at under-20 level and called up to their senior squad (without playing) when he was Roma’s third-choice keeper in 2019, Fuzato is still third-choice at Roma and with only two professional appearances to his name at the age of 23, won’t be giving Alisson or Ederson too much to worry about.

29. Simone Farelli (Italy)

It seems a bit harsh to put Roma’s emergency, fourth-choice goalkeeper in this list, but he is still technically part of the professional squad, so is included for the sake of completeness.

Farelli doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page in his native language. The 38-year-old was never brought to Roma for the purpose of playing, and will never have that purpose for Italy either. In fact, his last appearance for any club was in Serie B and that came during the days when Francesco Totti was still an active professional footballer.

A retired, 44-year-old Totti still probably has a better chance of being called up by Italy!

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