Giallorossi | Part 5 | Cristiano Ronaldo At Roma

AS Roma came into 2024 sitting pretty at the top of Serie A but with lots of games remaining due to a strangely lop-sided season in Italy. And, despite dropping points in three games, they only had a narrow lead at the top.

Our plans to stay at the top weren’t helped by selling club captain Lorenzo Pellegrini. However, PSG came in with a derisory £35m bid, we demanded £80m and they said yes. That felt too good to turn down as it far surpassed Roma’s previous record sale of £54m when Alisson joined Liverpool. We also allowed son of a legend Cristian Totti to move to Verona for £500k as he was nowhere near his dad’s talent and hadn’t scored in 18 matches.

To replace Pellegrini, we moved for two exciting young midfielders. First, we returned to Scandinavia and Kovenhavn to sign 20-year-old Isak Bergmann Jóhannesson, who looks just as good as he was on FM22, for £12.5m rising to around £25m. We then looked a little further afield to bring in exciting Spaniard Alberto Moleiro for £15m rising to £35m from Benfica.

I thought we were done there but, on deadline day, an intriguing opportunity arose. I spotted a legendary striker on the transfer list and, in light of lacking support for Tammy Abraham, we managed to negotiate a cheeky deal. We paid £1m up front with £3.5m due after 50 league games for… Cristiano Ronaldo! He’s now 38 and hadn’t scored in eight games since joining PSG in the summer – but he still looks decent and it felt worth the gamble. We also sold Gianluca Mancini, who was constantly whinging, to Milan for £7.25m and loaned another of my favourites Eduardo Quaresma from Sporting in his place.

Can Roma maintain their form?

We began the new year by losing star midfielder Nicoló Barella for a month. But we kicked off by dominating Frosinone with 29 shots to 3 but only winning 2-1 as the visitors scored their only shot on target. But a big test saw us take on our nearest challengers in quick succession.

First up was Lazio away and we were a little unlucky to suffer a first defeat of the season 1-0. But we responded in style by demolishing champions Milan 4-1 led by an Abraham brace, Szoboszlai running the show in midfield and Jóhanneson scoring his first Roma goal with a late 25-yeard screamer. That kept us three points clear of Napoli, who were next up. Both teams had plenty of chances but settled for a 0-0, with Marco Carnesecchi our hero for a massive one-on-one save from Osimhen.

There was a buzz in the air as AS Roma fans travelled to Florence debating whether newly acquired Ronaldo would make his debut. I resisted, keeping him on the bench and we were superb. Loanee Dominik Szobozslai scored a lovely low drive and Abraham a cheeky chip before Justin Kluivert and Andreas Schjelderup made it 0-4. So that seemed like the right time to bring on Ronaldo, who took just two minutes to tap home a debut goal and send the Roma faithful wild!

The goals continued to flow as Ronaldo scored again off the bench as we dominated Bologna 5-0 and Brescia 3-0. He also scored and made the other in his first start as Abraham was carrying a knock for a trip to Udinese – which is exactly what I signed him for! The rest did Abraham the world of good as he returned to bag a brace in a 4-0 thumping of Spezia and the only goal at Atalanta.

That took us to nine successive league wins and 10 unbeaten, which was tested by two tough fixtures. First up was Inter, who were eighth, and we battered them with 11 shots in the first 30 minutes and 18 in the first half! Abraham scored one of them, Jóhanneson teed up Schjelderup for a late second and Inter scored a consolation from two shots, one on target and 0.18 xG… Abraham was at it again next time out at Juventus, who we restricted to two shots, none on target and 0.39 xG, to claim a massive 1-0 win.

Champions League knockouts

We got a decent tie in the first knockout round against Besiktas. The Turks the lead in their home leg but Abraham equalised two minutes after half-time. I handed Ronaldo a start for the return leg and he delivered by finishing off a lovely move in the 16th minute, creating the second for Schjelderup and smashing home the fourth in a 4-1 win.

The quarter-final got trickier as we drew Barcelona. A daunting trip to Camp Nou saw Barca batter us but somehow only win 1-0 after 29 shots to our five. We were better in the second leg but Barca scored just before the break and ran away with it 4-0. But my concerns were elsewhere.

8 games from unexpected glory

We headed into the final eight games of Serie A with a 10-point lead over Milan and 15 clear of Napoli, who had a game in hand. We were 15 games unbeaten and our run-in was much kinder than last season.

Game 1 – Genoa (15th, away): We started nicely as Szoboszlai’s free-kick was head home by Abraham, who went on to bag a first-half quadruple! A wild match with a combined 44 shots and 5.97 xG finished 2-4. Milan played twice before us, drawing at Empoli then beating Bologna, putting us nine points clear.

Game 2 – Frosinone (20th, away): Frosinone looked doomed to relegation and it didn’t take long for us to assert our dominance. Giacomo Faticanti fired home after five minutes, they had a man sent off two minutes later and Abraham tapped home after great work by Kluivert two minutes after that. I made four subs at half-time and the game died but we still racked up 28 shots and centre-back Abakar Sylla added a late third. Milan drew with Bologna to move us 11 points clear.

Game 3 – Lecce (19th, home): We battered Lecce with 18 shots in the first half then, 10 minutes into the second, won a penalty that Abraham converted for his 40th of the season. That settled us down and Szoboszlai smashed in a second then Roony Bardghji and Ronaldo scored late on.

Game 3 – Lazio (3rd, home): Our first chance to wrap up the title came at home to our city rivals, who we hadn’t beaten in three previous meetings. We got the best possible start as Abraham’s towering header bounced off the post to Kluivert to tap home from a yard and he did the same from a brilliant Szoboszlai strike that bounced down off the bar a minute later! Ronaldo came off the bench to bag a third and I can confirm league title on-pitch celebrations are back in FM because…

AS Roma were Champions of Italy for the fourth time and the first time since 2001!!

We concluded with a 0-0 at Milan, a 2-0 win at Napoli in which last season’s youth intake star Matteo Nardini made his debut and a 4-0 win over Torino led by Abraham’s first-half hat-trick. Then on the final day, we beat Fiorentina 3-1 with Abraham breaking the all-time Serie A record for most goals in a season and Nardini scoring his first goal for the club.

That saw us surpass 100 points, setting new club records for most points (101), wins (32) and goals (95), surpassing the previous records of 87 and 28 and 90 all set in 2016/17, and we only conceded 14! I think this is one of the best seasons I’ve ever had on Football Manager?!

Abraham led the way with 37 goals in 33 games, which won him the European Golden Shoe, an average rating of 7.88 and 11 player of the match awards. Szoboszlai got a league-high 17 assists and Carnesecchi kept 25 clean sheets. But the numbers behind this season are so dominant. Roger Ibanez win the most headers (641, which is 142 more than anyone else) and the most possession (878, 161 more than anyone else), Szoboszlai had the most key passes and key passes per 90 minutes and Schjelderup the most open play key passes. While Abraham scored every 68.46 minutes followed by 39-year-old Ronaldo every 71.84 minutes!

2023/24 Season Review

This has been a ridiculous season for AS Roma. We lost our club captain for a club record sale then went on to record the best season in club history!

Abraham was our star man with an incredible 44 goals in 39 games and 7.86 average rating. The next most was Kluivert’s 13 followed by Schjelderup’s 12 and Ronaldo’s eight in 22, 19 of which were as a sub. Szoboszlai got 20 assists in 44 games, which convinced us to meet his £21m loan deal clause, followed by Schjelderup’s 12 with Barella and Kluivert getting six. While several youngsters like Bardghji, Jóhanneson, Nardini and Faticanti have shown impressive improvement.

Schjelderup confirmed his talent by winning NxGn 2024 with impressive homegrown midfielder Faticanti third ahead of Endrick! Bardghji (18th) and Riccardo Pagano (41st) also made the list.

Our form this season saw the Roma board hand me a new £50k-a-week contract until 2028, so it looks like we’re sticking around for a while. The challenge now is to defend our Serie A crown – although it seems unlikely we’ll be able to match the impressive success of this season! – and improve in Europe. But several areas of the team, particularly right-back, need to be addressed in the summer.

Can we further strengthen this promising Roma side? Join us next time to find out!

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