Let’s talk about a shock result. Barcelona led 4-1 going into the match with AC Roma. The Italians pulled off the upset city of the year a three nil win over Barca at Roma’s house to win on away goals four all on aggregate to advance to the semifinals of the Champions League.
The Guardians Paolo Bandini:” Not even in a moment of shared exhilaration could Italy’s football writers find consensus. “Miracles, in football, do exist,” ran the opening line of La Repubblica’s match report for Roma’s Champions League triumph over Barcelona. Corriere della Sera had a different take. “This isn’t a miracle,” wrote Luca Valdiserri. “It’s something bigger than that.”
The front pages told their own story, Gazzetta dello Sport hailing a new Roman empire, while Corriere dello Sport declared that this Roma would go down in legend. Wittier might have been the cover of France’s L’Equipe, which played off Barcelona’s “Remuntada” against Paris Saint-Germain last season to define this instead as a “Romantada” instead (though variations on the gag were already doing the rounds last night …).
“Maybe impossible is only a mental construction,” pondered La Repubblica’s Maurizio Crosetti. “Maybe it’s a limit that men put on themselves to fight fear … In 90 minutes, the grand narrative of us and them: we, the poor fallen Italians and they the rich Spanish – masters of technique, tactics and finance – were reduced to ashes. Lies, because only the pitch can tell us a story worth listening to. It is written by people, not algorithms.”
Of course, it was these same newspapers who had been pushing the inferiority narrative just 24 hours before. Monday’s Gazzetta featured a two-page spread illustrating countless ways in which Spanish football had left the Italians behind, from on-pitch success through to sponsorship deals and social media following. Luigi Garlando reminded us of that context in his editorial for the pink paper on Wednesday.
“Roma turn over Barcelona and burst triumphantly into the semi-finals, in the face of bank balances, academy systems, tiki-taka and Messi’s five Ballon d’Ors. We are still alive, there will be a little bit of Italy among the best four teams in Europe. Three goals against the legendary armada who rewrote the rules of modern football and who have won three of the last 10 Champions Leagues.
“A night which will become history, epic and to be retold as such. There were Romans (De Rossi) and Greeks (Manolas), there was that giant Dzeko who put Roma on his shoulders like Anchises did with his son Aeneas. Messi might have sanctified the idea of the ‘false nine’, but when a ‘true nine’ does everything that Edin did yesterday, with or without the ball, with strength or with his touch, by running or standing still, it’s a joy for the eyes, the glorification of football.”
Dzeko was singled out for praise across the board, his decision not to leave for Chelsea in January celebrated anew. “He harpoons balls and turns them into nightmares,” was the verdict accompanying his nine out of 10 in La Repubblica’s player ratings. “A goal, a penalty, a thousand other things.”
Corriere dello Sport could not bring themselves to rank any Roma player higher than another, instead awarding every one of them 10 out of 10. The manager, though, merited, a special mention, as did the people in the stands.
“This was an authentic masterpiece by Di Francesco, who did not make a single mistake,” wrote Alessandro Vocalelli. “He earned with full marks the right to be considered a manager of an exceptional international level. But this was also, and above all, the great victory of the fans, who dragged Roma on against the Spanish superstars, as well as against a referee who tried to block the way with an endless series of back-to-front decisions.”
In Turin, they hoped that this result could serve as an example to Juventus, who need a miracle of their own at the Bernabéu after losing 3-0 at home to Real Madrid. “To believe is a bit stupid, in the circumstances,” wrote Guido Vaciago in a front-page editorial. “But to believe is also a moral duty, given the feat pulled off against Barcelona by an enormous and moving Roma.”
More broadly, there was hope that this most defiant of victories could serve as a new rallying point for football in a country still recovering from its failure to qualify for the World Cup. “Thank you Roma, thank you Di Francesco, thank you for this example,” added Sebastiano Vernazza in Gazzetta. “Si, se puede. Yes, we can.”