Roma players who also had a spell with a club in Yorkshire

What connects Roma and Leeds United, or Middlesbrough, or Sheffield United, or Sheffield Wednesday, or Barnsley?

In some cases, it could be a member of the Giallorossi Yorkshire community, in the form of a supporter of both clubs. In other cases, it has been a player to represent both.

In chronological order of their Roma spells, here is an overview of the – wonderfully random – group of players to have played for Roma and any club in Yorkshire during their career.

John Charles (Leeds)

As far as Leeds legends go, they don’t come much bigger than John Charles. He had two spells with Leeds, either side of his first foray into Italian football with Juventus. When the second and shorter one ended in 1962, Charles returned to Serie A with Roma, where he made 13 appearances and scored four goals. It was a decent ratio, especially for a player already in his thirties, but paled in comparison to his 328 appearances and 157 goals for Leeds.

Gianluca Festa (Middlesbrough)

Initially establishing himself at Cagliari, where he was part of the side Claudio Ranieri took from Serie C to Serie A, Gianluca Festa earned a big move to Inter in 1993, but it didn’t quite work out for him. The defender endured a 23-game loan spell at Roma to build up experience before returning to Inter. After three more years there, he moved to the Premier League with Middlesbrough, where he would spend five years and made more than 150 appearances.

Olivier Dacourt (Leeds)

Olivier Dacourt flip-flopped between France and England at the start of his career, starting with Strasbourg, moving to Everton, returning to his native country with Lens and then joining Leeds in 2000, where he would become a Champions League semi-finalist. Dacourt played 80 times for Leeds before they loaned him to Roma in January 2003. The midfielder did enough to earn a permanent move, eventually falling just one short of a century of appearances for Roma.

Mido (Middlesbrough and Barnsley)

Mido had the honour of not just representing Roma and one Yorkshire club, but two. Sadly, although he was a reputable striker with Egypt, his time with Roma was an abject failure, as he didn’t score at all from 14 appearances. He next went to Tottenham and after his time there, moved up to North Yorkshire by joining Middlesbrough, for whom he scored seven goals. After spells with various other clubs, Mido inexplicably ended his career in South Yorkshire with a solitary appearance for Barnsley.

Abel Xavier (Middlesbrough)

Defender Abel Xavier had been inactive for six months when Roma took him in on a free transfer in the winter of 2005. His newfound attachment to a club didn’t give him too much of a return to action, though, since he made just four appearances. For the following season, he signed with Middlesbrough, where he made 26 appearances but also received a year-long ban due to testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Urby Emanuelson (Sheffield Wednesday)

Following on from his spell with AC Milan, Urby Emanuelson joined Roma in 2014. However, he only made two appearances before being loaned out to Atalanta halfway through his sole season with the club. A year later, after a campaign with Hellas Verona, the left-wing-back signed for Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, but he only made one appearance there due to injury.

Robin Olsen (Sheffield United)

It could be classed as a symbol of how catastrophic a choice Robin Olsen was for Roma that his subsequent spell in the Championship with Sheffield United isn’t looked back upon with fondness by their fans either. Olsen was a massive downgrade from Alisson when he became Roma’s new goalkeeper in 2018 and he didn’t even complete the season as first choice. Sheffield United were one of four clubs Roma loaned him out to and they gave him 11 appearances in the first half of the 2021-22 season before cancelling the deal as he joined Aston Villa, the club that would actually keep him, instead.

Diego Llorente (Leeds)

It was something of a surprise when Roma signed Diego Llorente on loan from Leeds in January 2023, but he was comfortable enough upon reuniting with Jose Mourinho – the coach who’d given him his senior debut at Real Madrid – that he earned a second season in Serie A. By the end of his second loan spell, Llorente had only made six fewer appearances for Roma than Leeds, who he had spent an opinion-splitting two-and-a-half years with. A dependable squad figure for Roma, the club’s likely decision not to keep him has confused many fans.

Rasmus Kristensen (Leeds)

Following Leeds’ relegation from the Premier League in 2023, an abundance of players left the club. One was Rasmus Kristensen, who’d only been in West Yorkshire for one year but reunited with Llorente in Rome. Kristensen was Roma’s most-used right-back in his sole season, playing once more than he had for Leeds, but rarely performed well and would be returned to sender upon the campaign’s conclusion.

Honourable mentions

  • Benito Carbone was bought by Roma in the summer of 1994, but never made an appearance for the club as he was flipped on just a few days later as a counterpart in the deal to bring Daniel Fonseca to the capital. Later, the forward would have spells with Sheffield Wednesday, Bradford City and Middlesbrough, and also worked briefly as an academy consultant for Leeds United.
  • Cafu is a Roma legend and former Scudetto winner with the club, but did you know he nearly ended his career in non-league with Garforth Town? A deal is believed to have been agreed for the Brazilian to come to east Leeds in 2009, but he never actually arrived. But that’s a story for another day.
  • Born in Kent but with Italian and English sides of his family, Dario Meadows came through the Roma academy and spent the 2016-17 season on loan with Leeds United’s under-21s. The versatile midfielder never made a senior appearance for any club and ended his career in 2018 at the age of 19.

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