Roma’s most-used loan players ever who didn’t stay permanently

Don’t get too attached to loan players, they say. But with it being such a common method of business for Roma in recent years, that can be a challenge.

Sometimes, a player who arrives on loan can make an important contribution, whether in a handful of appearances or a more substantial amount of games.

Over the years, thanks to obligations or options to buy, or just fresh negotiations, plenty of key players have gone from Roma loanees to permanent members of the squad, such as Edin Dzeko, Mohamed Salah or Chris Smalling.

But not every player utilised heavily on loan ends up staying. Here are the 10 players to have made the most appearances on loan for Roma without ever being owned by the club.

Which of them did you want to keep?

1. Wojciech Szczesny – 81

Brought in from Arsenal in the summer 2015, Roma’s original plan for Wojciech Szczesny – at least according to a diplomatic Rudi Garcia at the time – was for him to rotate with Morgan De Sanctis in goal.

Fairly soon, though, Szczesny established himself as Roma’s outright number one, making 42 appearances between Serie A and the Champions League. After keeping nine clean sheets in his debut season, Roma renewed his loan for another year.

As was already evident from the second half of the 2015-16 season, Luciano Spalletti was just as trusting of Szczesny as Garcia had been. Ever-present in Serie A, Szczesny’s second season with Roma included 14 clean sheets from 39 appearances, and just 41 goals conceded. Much of the attention was on Roma’s record-setting exploits at the other end of the pitch, but they were just as solid at the back.

Szczesny even hosted his own popular chat show on Roma’s social channels, but did little to endear himself to the fans in the long term with his subsequent choice of next club by joining Juventus.

Yet Roma had an ace up their sleeve and replaced Szczesny from within with 2016 signing Alisson Becker, who over the following season proved to be even better.

2. Borja Mayoral – 56

Needing a new striker to replace another loaned-in forward, Nikola Kalinic, Roma returned to the Spanish market to equip themselves with Borja Mayoral ahead of Paulo Fonseca’s second season in charge.

Aged 23 at the time, Mayoral arrived on a two-year loan. On an individual level, the first went well, with a career-best tally of 17 goals from 45 games. At long last, Roma seemed to have their Edin Dzeko deputy.

Despite Dzeko’s departure that summer, things went downhill for Mayoral. Fonseca’s successor, Jose Mourinho, didn’t rate Mayoral as highly, effectively putting him third in the pecking order behind new arrivals Tammy Abraham and Eldor Shomurodov.

Ultimately, the loan was cancelled six months ahead of schedule after Mayoral had only scored one goal in 11 appearances under Mourinho. He has since revived his fortunes with Getafe.

3. Diego Llorente – 53

Diego Llorente ditched a sinking ship when leaving relegation-bound Leeds United for Roma on loan in January 2023. Due to the contrast between Leeds’ predicament and Roma’s ambitions, it was classed as a surprise move.

But Llorente, who had been shown faith before by Mourinho at Real Madrid, settled in well in Serie A, looking comfortable almost anywhere across the back three.

The Spanish defender earned a second season on loan at Roma following Leeds’ drop to the Championship. He added 41 appearances to his previous 12 for Roma, becoming one of their most reliable senior players.

However, Roma neglected the chance to keep Llorente as he turned 30, despite Real Betis being able to buy him for just €3m.

4. Romelu Lukaku – 47

Including the aforementioned Llorente, Roma had seven players on loan in the 2023-24 season. Among that group, the most high-profile was Romelu Lukaku.

Signing the striker was a huge statement of intent by Roma, even though his price tag meant a permanent stay would never be likely. There was major anticipation among the fanbase for how Lukaku – a former Scudetto winner with Inter and a leading striker within his generation, even if his prime had passed – would do in his new surroundings.

The answer? About on par. Lukaku played 47 times for Roma, scoring 21 goals. It was an output better than the centre-forwards of the previous season put together. However, only 13 goals coming in the league was underwhelming.

Nevertheless, he left Roma as the player with the most goals for the club in a spell spanning less than 50 games, and also the highest-ranked player on this list whose loan lasted just for one year.

5. Pietro Vierchowod – 43

Thanks to his role in Roma’s second Scudetto, Pietro Vierchowod is remembered as one of the club’s best ever loan signings.

Having just won the World Cup with Italy, he swapped places with Dario Bonetti upon arriving from Sampdoria – where he was yet to officially debut – after a similar temporary spell with Fiorentina. The defender featured in all 30 of Roma’s league games as they won the 1982-83 edition of Serie A.

In fact, taking into account cup competitions too, the only players to make more appearances for Roma that season were goalkeeper Franco Tancredi, captain Agostino Di Bartolomei and defender Sebino Nela.

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At the end of the season, Vierchowod and Bonetti both returned to their parent clubs. Vierchowod would later become a Scudetto winner again and a four-time Coppa Italia champion with Sampdoria, as well as a Champions League lifter with Juventus.

Bonetti, meanwhile, twice won the Coppa Italia with Roma but didn’t last as long in the capital as his counterpart did in Genoa. Ironically, he became teammates with Vierchowod at Sampdoria in the 1991-92 season.

6. Lucas Digne – 42

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After Ashley Cole failed to live up to his reputation and Jose Holebas was sold after one season, Roma found themselves in need of a new left-back for the 2015-16 season.

They chose someone Garcia had worked with before at Lille, reuniting the head coach with Lucas Digne, who had featured in fewer than half of Paris Saint-Germain’s league games across two seasons there, but at the age of 22 retained high potential.

Digne adapted well in Serie A and established himself as Roma’s first-choice left-back ahead of fellow summer signing Emerson Palmieri, although that hierarchy started to shift when Spalletti succeeded Garcia.

With three goals from 33 league appearances, Digne functioned well for Roma, so it was surprising when they decided not to activate their option to buy him – especially after the defender openly declared his desire to stay.

Instead, Barcelona bought him in July 2016, the same summer he represented France at the European Championship as a reward for his form with Roma.

7. Fernando Gago – 32

As a new era got going for Roma in the summer of 2011, there was a heavy emphasis on bringing in Spanish players or ones with La Liga experience to work under new coach Luis Enrique.

After four-and-a-half years at Real Madrid, Argentina international Fernando Gago was brought in to strengthen Roma’s midfield.

Gago, then 25, matched Daniele De Rossi as Roma’s most-used midfielder that season, but the club chose not to use their option to buy him for €7m and he ended up at Valencia for half that fee.

He would never again make as many appearances in a season as he did in his campaign with Roma.

8. Daniele Massaro – 32

Daniele Massaro was on the books of AC Milan for nine years, but his third season since joining them was spent at Roma.

In 1988, Roma acquired the former Fiorentina forward’s services for a season, in which the 27-year-old went on to score five goals from 30 games.

He would return to Milan at its conclusion and end up doubling his tally from the same number of appearances in the following season.

9. Rasmus Kristensen – 31

Following in Llorente’s footsteps, Rasmus Kristensen left Leeds for Roma in the summer of 2023, having spent just one season in west Yorkshire.

The right-back had been on Roma’s radar before and they spotted something in him that they thought they could salvage as they aimed to find a more reliable right-back.

While Kristensen ended the season as Roma’s most-used player in his position, just ahead of Zeki Celik and Rick Karsdorp, he didn’t perform well enough to earn a permanent stay.

10. Davide Astori – 30

After losing defenders like Medhi Benatia, Rafael Toloi and Alessio Romagnoli in the summer of 2014, Roma needed to reinvest in their backline. In that regard, a couple of loan deals helped.

In addition to the permanent signing of Kostas Manolas, in came Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa from Newcastle and Davide Astori from Cagliari. While the former technically became an outright Roma player midway through the season – thus denying him the chance to earn a place in this top 10 – both of them only spent the 2014-15 campaign in the capital.

Astori played 24 times in Serie A and six times in cup competitions, leaving Roma with a decision to make. They were already negotiating with Cagliari about buying out Radja Nainggolan’s co-ownership, but they decided to pass on Astori.

He transferred to Fiorentina instead and ultimately became their captain, before he tragically passed away at the age of 31.

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