Feature: Roma academy products who never played for the first team

Roma have historically had a rich success rate with their academy products, as evidenced by the fact that their two most-used players of all time – Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi – came through their system.

In the present day, Roma are captained by another of their academy graduates, Lorenzo Pellegrini.

Pellegrini returned to Roma in 2017 after having to spend two years at Sassuolo to prove himself, before his buyback clause was activated. In other cases, though, some players have slipped through the net after leaving the club, never to return.

Here, Giallorossi Yorkshire looks at a few notable players who came through Roma’s academy but left without ever setting foot on the pitch for the first team before making more of a name for themselves elsewhere.

Angelo Di Livio

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Joining his hometown club Roma at the age of 15 in 1981, Angelo Di Livio was part of a successful youth sector that won the prestigious Torneo Di Viareggio in 1983 and the Campionato Primavera in 1984.

A year later, yet to make his senior debut, Di Livio was loaned out to Reggiana to get experience in the third tier, where he stayed the following season with Nocerina.

After that latest loan, Di Livio left Roma permanently in 1987 for Perugia. After a couple of years there and four with Padova, he earned a transfer to Juventus, where he enjoyed the longest and most successful stint of his career. In that time, he also became an Italy international, going on to earn 40 caps.

Di Livio retired in 2005 after finishing his career with Fiorentina. Just over a decade later, his son Lorenzo did what he never had by making his Roma debut in Serie A under Rudi Garcia – though unlike his father, the younger Di Livio has remained around the third tier for the bulk of his subsequent career.

Marco Storari

Marco Storari was so young when he left Roma that few may realise he was once among the ranks. The goalkeeper was in the academy from 1987 to 1991, though, leaving for Ladispoli at the age of 14.

His senior debut came in the 1994-95 season in the fifth tier, before he won consecutive Campionato Primavera titles with Perugia.

It took him until 2004 and the age of 27 to reach Serie A (with Messina), but he eventually became a notable veteran option, enduring several spells with AC Milan and a five-year stint at Juventus that included four Scudetti.

Marco Amelia

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Born in Frascati on the outskirts of Rome, Marco Amelia joined Roma’s academy in 1991. At the time, he played outfield, but soon he would start learning the trade he would become known for: being a goalkeeper.

Amelia spent a decade in Roma’s academy, up until their Scudetto win in 2001, before leaving on loan for Livorno, where he embarked on his senior career. Later, he was ultimately sacrificed by Roma as a counterpart for the dual-registration of Giorgio Chiellini, which the Giallorossi unfortunately never really benefited from.

In 2006, five years after leaving Roma, Amelia went on to become a World Cup winner with Italy, acting as one of Gianluigi Buffon’s backup options at the tournament in Germany.

Spells in Serie A with Palermo, Genoa and Milan also followed before he wound his career down as a backup for various clubs, including Chelsea.

Such is the dearth of standout goalkeepers in Roma’s history that after retirement, Amelia was even able to feature for a ‘Roma Legends’ XI in an exhibition match in April 2019, which in a roundabout way finally gave him his chance to represent the club as a senior player.

Daniele Galloppa

From 1994 onwards, Daniele Galloppa spent a decade in the academy of his hometown club Roma, whom he joined at the age of nine.

However, he was sent to Triestina in 2004, after the Serie B had successfully developed Alberto Aquilani into someone capable of playing for Roma’s first team the season before.

Galloppa spent two seasons with Triestina and then six months in Serie A at Ascoli before earning a permanent move to Siena, initially via a co-ownership arrangement. In 2009, the same year he earned his only two senior caps for Italy, the midfielder joined Parma, where he would enjoy the longest spell of his career.

Between Ascoli, Siena and Parma, he spent nine consecutive seasons in the top flight, but injuries caught up with him and his career ended at Cremonese – for whom he never played either – in 2018.

Galloppa has since gone into coaching and has coincidentally been tipped to succeed Aquilani as the coach of Fiorentina Primavera.

Simone Pepe

Graduating Roma’s academy after the first team won the Scudetto in 2001, Simone Pepe endured loan spells with Lecco and Teramo before moving to Palermo in a co-ownership deal in 2003.

The winger helped Palermo win promotion to Serie A before they bought out the rest of his rights. From 2005 onwards, Pepe played in Serie A until his retirement in 2017, taking in clubs like Udinese, Cagliari, Chievo and Pescara.

Most notably along the way, he won four Scudetti with Juventus – although he was injured for the bulk of two of those seasons – and also earned 23 Italy caps. During his time in Turin, he even earned comparisons to a certain Angelo Di Livio.

Matteo Politano

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In terms of sold Roma academy products not returning to the club in later years, few could have come closer than Matteo Politano.

In January 2020, he arrived back in his home city to undergo a medical with his boyhood team as part of a proposed swap deal with Inter involving Leonardo Spinazzola. However, a problem on the other end put the whole deal at a standstill.

Politano, whose photos with the club’s scarf had been posted (and subsequently deleted) on Roma’s social media channels, ultimately left Inter for Napoli instead, where he would become a Scudetto winner in 2023.

Earlier in his career, after an eight-year spell in Roma’s academy (between 2004 and 2012), in which he won league titles at under-17 and under-19 level, Politano had embarked upon spells with Perugia, Pescara and Sassuolo.

He scored against Roma in his first appearance against them for Sassuolo and later repeated the feat with Napoli.

Amato Ciciretti

A player who grew up idolising Totti, Amato Ciciretti formed in Roma’s academy between 2004 and 2012. His career never quite took off, though; if you look on his Wikipedia page, you will see the word ‘loan’ next to his list of clubs more than 10 times.

Part of the Campionato Primavera-winning squad of 2011 (which was led by future club captain Alessandro Florenzi), the attacking midfielder was eventually given up by Roma in 2015 to Benevento. In 2017, after helping them to promotion from Serie B, Ciciretti exclaimed that his dream would be to return to Roma.

It never happened; instead, Napoli picked him up in 2018, without ever using him. More loan spells followed, mainly in Serie B. In fact, despite his previous potential, Ciciretti – now owned by Pordenone -has never completed a full season in Serie A.

Andrea Bertolacci

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In the end, Andrea Bertolacci perhaps failed to fulfil his potential, but two factors make him worthy of inclusion on this list.

The first is that he has more than 200 Serie A appearances to his name, and the second is that Roma were able to sell him for a €20m transfer fee – one of their top 20 transfer windfalls ever in terms of the gross sum.

Bertolacci was born in Rome and joined their academy in 2006. From January 2010 onwards, he spent two-and-half years developing on loan with Lecce, before being sent to Genoa in a co-ownership deal.

By 2015, at the ideal age of 24, Bertolacci had five seasons of Serie A action under his belt, prompting Roma to reacquire his full rights for €8.5m. There was a theory he could carve out a role for himself in their own midfield there and then, but under Financial Fair Play scrutiny, they managed to turn a healthy profit on him when selling him to AC Milan.

Bertolacci eventually got to experience Europa League football with Milan, but lost his way and ended up in Turkey by 2020.

Federico Barba

Arriving at hometown club Roma as a 15-year-old in 2008, Federico Barba became part of the successful setup that conquered the Campionato Primavera in 2011.

Classed as one of Italy’s best defensive prospects at the time, he went to Grosseto in Serie B in 2012. Roma kept some control of his career, sending him to Empoli the next year. After two seasons, including one in the top flight, the co-ownership was resolved in Empoli’s favour.

Barba went on to play in Germany for Stuttgart and Spain for Sporting Gijon and Real Valladolid. In his native Italy, he played in Serie A again for Chievo in 2018-19 and helped Benevento to promotion in 2020-21, but their stay in the top tier was for a solitary season and he has been back in Serie B (most recently with Pisa) ever since.

Luca Antei

Another member of Alberto De Rossi’s victorious Primavera squad in the 2010-11 season, Luca Antei had joined his hometown club two years earlier.

The defender spent the subsequent campaign on loan at Grosseto before getting six months to prove himself to his parent club. No appearances followed, though, and he joined Sassuolo in January 2013.

Featuring only twice as they earned promotion, Antei stayed at Sassuolo for four seasons in Serie A before being relegated with Benevento in 2017-18. He announced his retirement in 2023 after two years of inactivity marked the end of an injury-stricken career.

Matteo Cancellieri

Matteo Cancellieri became newsworthy while in the Roma academy when he was pushed over the advertising boards by Shakhtar Donetsk player Facundo Ferreyra during a 2018 Champions League match, in which he was acting as a ball boy.

The attacker never made the breakthrough to Roma’s first team, though, and was sacrificed a couple of years later to Hellas Verona as a counterpart for Marash Kumbulla. It brought an end to a spell within the Roma system that had begun at the age of nine back in 2011, alongside some developing in the Polisportiva De Rossi sporting school.

In a twist of events, a few weeks after making his international debut for Italy in June 2022, Cancellieri returned to Rome – but by joining Lazio on loan.

Gianluca Scamacca

Scamacca joined Roma from cross-city rivals Lazio in 2012, subsequently spending three years in the Giallorossi youth ranks before uprooting to the Netherlands to join PSV.

He only ever played for their reserve team until coming back to Italy with Sassuolo in 2017. The striker had to be patient after a few loan spells, the last of which was in Serie A with Genoa in 2020-21.

Scamacca was reintegrated by Sassuolo the following season, scoring a career-best 16 goals before earning a big move to West Ham in the Premier League.

After a disappointing debut season in England, which nevertheless ended with a Europa Conference League medal, Scamacca has since become a target on loan for Roma to cover for Tammy Abraham’s long-term injury. It is a move Scamacca would be keen on, so perhaps he will actually get his chance to represent La Magica eventually.

Davide Frattesi

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Although Davide Frattesi joined Roma’s academy from Lazio’s in 2014, the Giallorossi were always the club of his heart. He spent three years developing in his boyhood team’s setup, in the same age group as Scamacca, before being sacrificed to Sassuolo in 2017 as a counterpart for Gregoire Defrel.

Patient for his chance at Sassuolo after a few loan spells elsewhere, Frattesi eventually became a key player in Serie A for the Neroverdi and progressed to the Italy national team too.

Rumours of a return to Roma lingered throughout his early career, even beyond a buyback clause in their favour lapsing, without a deal ever getting over the line. This summer, he has instead moved to Inter, which will come as a blow to the chances of ever seeing him at Roma in his prime.

Whereas in years gone by Frattesi – who usually wears the number 16 shirt in honour of Daniele De Rossi – had openly admitted a preference of returning to Roma, after the 2022-23 season he confessed he was choosing a different route, perhaps with head over heart.

Nemanja Radonjic

This feature has mainly served to shine a light on some Italian prospects Roma once had, but in recent years, clubs have increasingly broadened their horizons to bring in foreign players at youth level too.

As always, success rates are mixed, but one that has gone on to enjoy a decent career away from Roma would be Nemanja Radonjic, who joined the Primavera in 2015 from Empoli.

After just half a year, the winger was sent on loan to Cukaricki in his native Serbia. By the end of that season, Red Star bought him. Since then, Radonjic has had spells with Marseille, Hertha Berlin and Benfica, before finally getting his Serie A chance with Torino in 2022.

Which of these players would you have liked to have seen playing for Roma’s first team? Let Giallorossi Yorkshire know in the comments or on social media.

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