Bentornato Pep




At the very same time I started my first season as a season ticket holder at Olimpico, Roma added my dream signing to its team.
I had grown up admiring Guardiola playing for Barcelona, awe struck by his off the charts intelligence. The football intelligence was the only one I had actual proof for, but I had no doubts he was as smart off the grass as on it. After twelve years in Barcelona, and an unlikely move to Brescia, of all places, Roma took him in after a year as the best midfielder in serie A. I was over the moon, and could not believe my luck; beyond Roma, I would see and experience the genius of Pep without the restraints and boundaries of the tv cameras. His genius would be exposed in plain view from the view in Distinti.

But even with Capello making an excellent evil foe, it was not to be a fairy tale. Rather, it was all very anti-climatic. Pep found no space in Capello's midfield, jam packed as it was with prime physical specimens who could run down a brick wall, but hardly spot out a pass playing with their daughters in the garden of their homes (fine, I'm talking to
you, Emerson). He got the football equivalent of garbage time, and after 6 months of heartbreak for me, he was pushed out the back door at Trigoria, and back to Brescia.

I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that the only real, lasting impression Pep ever made in Rome was that on a young Daniele De Rossi, who wide eyed used to talk about how Pep would tutor him in practice and embark some of what he had learned. While they are fundamentally different types of players, I like to believe that some of the advice Pep gave has helped form DDR into a better footballer, more prepared to face some of the things that overshadow player characteristics, and roles on a pitch.


At the end of this month, Pep will return to Rome to play the Champions League final at the Olimpico. I hope he gets the kind of good experience he, and I, envisagened when he moved to the city some seven years ago. Not because I necessarily want to deprive Man United another title; just because more than any non-Roma footballer out there, I wish him success.