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Optimism at Roma, a new generation of homegrown heroes and Luciano Spalletti

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s Juventus close-in on a momentous fifth consecutive Serie A title, Roma fans can be forgiven for feeling like their side have missed a golden opportunity.

The Turin giants started the 2015-16 campaign slowly, allowing others to put forward a potential title challenge, but inconsistency across the board has allowed the Bianconeri to retake their place at the top of the table.

Ahead of the season there were heightened expectations around Roma, with Rudi Garcia having a prestigious amount of talent at his disposal.

When the capital city side beat Juve in the second game of the season, the Giallorossi faithful had widespread hopes that this could be their campaign.

However, despite an array of international-calibre stars in the Roma starting line-up, the Stadio Olimpico side lacked creativity and struggled to score goals.

As such, the home fans were fed up, disillusioned and vocal in their disdain for the manner of the team’s play.

A change was more than necessary and Roma moved to make it at the turn of the year. A familiar face was the man to replace Garcia.

Luciano Spalletti was head coach of the Giallorossi between 2005 and 2009, winning two Coppa Italia crowns in his first stint at the club.

The 57-year-old has returned to the Olimpico and found a much-more able squad at his disposal, with the former Zenit St Petersburg boss quickly getting the best from his team.

Roma have put forward a late charge up the table and have won their last seven Serie A games in a row, propelling them to third place.

If this heightened improvement continues it will be enough to secure Champions League qualification, but seems too late to challenge for the Scudetto.

One of the main issues that Spalletti may well have to negotiate is the transition from home-grown heroes Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti to their predecessors.

Umar SadiqThe club captain has not exactly seen eye-to-eye with Spalletti since their reunion, while De Rossi’s importance to the club he has served all his professional career has waned.

With these two club icons pushing towards the end of their impressive careers, Roma are in a position where they need new homegrown favourites.

Two stand out.

Alessandro Florenzi graduated from the Roma youth academy in 2011 and has played a part in the first-team squad since.

However, over the last 12 months the 25-year-old has come into his own and found his niche in the team.

Florenzi has been deployed in a host of different roles since being assumed into the squad, but now has pinned down the right-back role as his own.

The Italy international is one of the most able players in this role in European football and has been a real plus point for Roma this season, even when the team was not playing well.

The other is Umar Sadiq, who looks like a young player with a big future.

The Nigerian-born striker has quickly made a name for himself by filling his boots in the youth ranks with a glut of goals.

Sadiq, still only 19, has netted twice in Serie A in six outings and already has shown that he can play a role in the Roma first-team – probably as Edin Džeko’s understudy for now.

Finishing in the top three this season will be a positive return for Roma given the mid-season dip in form and subsequent managerial change.

With more gifted players signed in January and the promise of sculpting the playing squad further this summer, Roma fans will again start next season with sky-high expectations.

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