8 Years and Two Months Ago

Eight years and two months ago, roughly, Roma had played 31 and a half games of the 2000/2001 season. It was half time of the 32nd game, at home to Milan. Roma was down 0-1 due to a very late Milan goal. It looked bleak, a loss would open the table up again for Juventus to make a real challenge during the final two weeks.

We don't know what was said in that locker room at half time, but we do know that Vincenzo Montella entered it as a disgruntled substitute, wearing one of those eye wrenching neon vests. As if his face needed that garment of identification, as if any security guard in the city could fail to recognize Top Gun after that spring's performances. He was thrown into the game from kick off of the second half. Time to go to work.

In the twenty first minute of play during the second half, Montella cut in from the right, roughly halfway in to Milan's half, and looked up, centrally to locate everyone. He lifted his head for a fraction of a moment, but had ample time to register what he needed to know.

Totti, Bati, Rossi...got ya.

Federico Giunti applied pressure and closed down on him as he strutted forward; one decisive touch of the ball later and Montella was but a distant memory of a Giunti left in his wake. As he enjoyed the space left to him between Giunti and the edge of the penalty box, Maldini (still the very definition of a physical/defensive phenomenon) came rushing towards him from the right, lunging himself towards him with all his might. Montella did not care, by then he was seperate from all other 21 players on the pitch. All he had in his eyes was that far top corner, the one part of goal left abandoned. Perhaps it was done so arrogantly by Seba Rossi, who did not think anyone would have time to get of a perfect shot into that small corner before getting mauled down by Maldini, perhaps he overestimated his own agility and reflexes. Perhaps he was simply further out from the goal than he was aware of. No matter, because by then it was too late. At this point, he executed virtually everything perfectly; when he'd gotten a sense of blood in the water, it was already over.

As the shot curled its way into that top corner, beautifully, agonizingly slowly and flowing, the entire stadium cleansed itself of all worries that had been built up since Milan's goal in a cathartic celebration. This was realization that even though two more games remained, Roma would win lo scudetto er trukke-trukke. No collapse was imminent, Roma was too strong mentally.

But they needed Montella to remind them of it.

This was written in light of strong suggestions that Vincenzo Montella has retired as a player, and will possibly take up a coaching position within the club. Should this be confirmed, a more conclusive write-up will certainly follow.