Jose Mourinho’s second season in charge of Roma was a marathon to test the emotions – but which players can hold their heads high from it?
Roma finished sixth in Serie A for the second consecutive season and also reached a European final again. This time, though, there was to be no trophy at the end of it after Sevilla won the Europa League on penalties.
It was an exhausting season on the whole, with some players showing signs of decline. However, there are a few who are worthy of being highlighted for their positive contributions too.
As is now customary, here are the Giallorossi Yorkshire end-of-season awards for Roma players in 2022-23.
Signing of the season – Paulo DybalaEmbed from Getty Images
Not all of Roma’s big-name signings from the summer of 2022 lived up to expectations, but the one who got the biggest reception from the fans went on to produce the best output.
Roma had to work hard to secure the signature of Paulo Dybala on a free transfer after his exit from Juventus, but somehow they managed to bring him to the capital.
Dybala was Roma’s top scorer in the 2022-23 season, despite only being able to start 21 matches in Serie A due to some slight knocks. But his effort when available allowed him to repay the faith shown in him by the club and their supporters who had flocked to see his presentation.
In terms of the calibre of the player, Dybala was one of Roma’s biggest signings in recent memory. Quickly becoming ingrained into the club, the Argentine attacker justified why they pushed the boat out to capture him.
Most improved player – Gianluca ManciniEmbed from Getty Images
Last season, Gianluca Mancini was something of a hot head, picking up 15 bookings from 33 Serie A appearances. This time around, although his record wasn’t spotless, the defender matured significantly, only getting seven yellow cards from 35 league games.
Justifying his place in Roma’s leadership hierarchy, Mancini still battled from the back, but showed some signs of settling down.
Now 27 years old, Mancini has become the authoritative figure that he should be at his age. Even if Chris Smalling remained Roma’s best defender this season, his Italian colleague was increasingly dependable.
In fact, Mancini made more than 50 appearances in a single season for the first time in his career – and could point back to his less chaotic discipline record as one of the factors that allowed him to.
Most consistent player – Chris SmallingEmbed from Getty Images
Well it’s certainly not Roger Ibanez, bless him. You could probably make an ironic case here for someone like Andrea Belotti or Rick Karsdorp being consistently poor, but that’s not what this is for.
Instead, the player who was perhaps the most consistent for the right reasons was Chris Smalling, who enjoyed the busiest season of his Roma career to date with 47 appearances.
Standards rarely slipping, he was the core of the defence that allowed the second fewest expected goals against in Serie A, behind only the champions Napoli.
After winning the man of the match award in the 2022 Europa Conference League final, Smalling again excelled in the 2023 Europa League final, in which it was between him and Nemanja Matic for recognition as Roma’s best player.
Unfortunately, it did not end in a trophy, but for the third of his four seasons at Roma, he at least earns a Giallorossi Yorkshire award for his overall endeavours.
Young player of the season (u21) – Edoardo BoveEmbed from Getty Images
To those in the know, Edoardo Bove’s potential has been apparent for a while, but for more casual observers, it has taken some time for him to express it.
This season was the breakthrough year Bove was waiting for to express his talents on a wider scale. Making 33 appearances in all competitions, he started 10 Serie A matches as he earned the increasing trust of Jose Mourinho in the second half of the season.
Most notably, Bove scored the goal that sent Roma into the Europa League final, which he would sadly only get a brief cameo in when it came around.
But he can expect plenty more opportunities next term if he continues to apply himself with the same dedication in the middle of the park.
Experienced player of the season (o30) – Nemanja MaticEmbed from Getty Images
When Roma signed Nemanja Matic last summer, it seemed like a smart stop-gap solution for a problem position in their ranks.
It was always likely that Matic was going to be dependable, but the extent to which he showed it as the season progressed was phenomenal.
Despite being 34 years of age, Matic often dominated the midfield territory. As a natural defensive midfielder, he gave Roma something they had been lacking since the 2019 departure of Daniele De Rossi.
Admittedly, Matic only started 16 Serie A games, but the way he excelled as the season went on – when others, including younger players, were fatiguing – was extraordinary. Eventually, he hit the tally of 50 appearances, proving his importance under Mourinho yet again.
Assist of the season – Leonardo Spinazzola to Ola Solbakken v Hellas Verona
January signing Ola Solbakken opened his account for Roma during his first Serie A start, netting the winner against Hellas Verona.
Yet he had Leonardo Spinazzola to thank for the way he was teed up. The wing-back, who had earlier provided some impetus to the attack in a prior phase, flicked the ball behind his standing leg after a forward pass by Bryan Cristante.
Spinazzola’s instinctive chop instantly opened up some space for Solbakken to exploit. There was still work for the Norwegian to do, but the angle was such that he could strike the ball first time once he arrived on its path.
Goal of the season – Gianluca Mancini v Juventus
There could have been any number of Dybala goals to choose from here, but if there’s one goal that can immediately put a smile on a face when thinking back over the season, it is Mancini’s thunderbolt against Juventus.
Mancini doesn’t get goals often. Three of his four seasons with Roma have ended with him just scoring one goal – and this was his for 2022-23.
Not only was it an absolute barnstormer, it won Roma the game in one of their most tensely contested encounters of the campaign.
Mancini’s face was a picture once he realised what he had just done, before the euphoria took hold as his celebrations began.
And rightly so – without that win, not that it was known at the time, Roma wouldn’t have finished above Juventus in the last Europa League qualification place. Yet this goal had the perfect blend of its wider significance and its intrinsic pleasure to witness.
Italian player of the season – Bryan CristanteEmbed from Getty Images
It was a mixed season for Roma’s Italian players. Lorenzo Pellegrini started poorly but became consistent again as time went on, battling through the pain barrier; Stephan El Shaarawy became an impact player again, popping up with some vital goals and assists; and as stated, Mancini matured and Bove began making a name for himself.
But the standout player of Roma’s Italian contingent was Cristante. Over the past four seasons, he has split opinion, but at the fifth time of asking, the midfielder demonstrated consistency and functionality.
Emerging as a leader, he scored a penalty in the Europa League final, but before that, had outlined himself as one of Roma’s most committed players over the course of the season. No player in Serie A averaged more tackles per game than Cristante.
The errors that had held him back before began to seep out of his game as he became a more well-rounded option, finally proving why so many of his coaches have always believed he was capable of putting together a season like this one.
Foreign player of the season – Paulo Dybala
Dybala already had 10 years of experience in Italian football when he joined Roma last summer and the Argentina international lived up to expectations.
Other contenders for this award could have been Matic or Smalling, but Dybala’s impact was evident for all to see.
Furthermore, he became a World Cup winner with his country in December – even if it was as a bit-part player for Lionel Scaloni’s side – making 2022-23 a campaign that will long live in Dybala’s memory.
Player of the season – Paulo DybalaEmbed from Getty Images
Indeed, judging everything as a whole, Dybala’s status as Roma’s best player of 2022-23 was deserved.
The quality he would bring was obvious upon his arrival and it didn’t take long for him to establish himself as one of Roma’s most important players.
When Tammy Abraham’s goal output drastically reduced (in fact, only Stephan El Shaarawy, Edoardo Bove and Nicola Zalewski scored more in 2022-23 than 2021-22 from the players to make 10 appearances or more in both campaigns for Roma), there was an extra emphasis on the value of the contributions Dybala was making.
His repertoire contained a plethora of fine goals from a technical perspective, as well as those that carried additional significance for their impact on the outcomes of matches.
It was Dybala that scored Roma’s goal in the Europa League final, allowing supporters to dream for a while – just as he had been doing as often as he could throughout the season.
Without Dybala, Roma’s season could have looked a lot different – and it is no surprise that one of the club’s main tasks this summer will be to try and keep him.
Hopefully, that will be the case. Dybala has become, as expected, a figurehead to build around and made the thrilling first impression that not all players of his pedigree actually live up to. He was exactly what Roma expected him to be.