Legendary striker Cristiano Ronaldo retired in style in the summer of 2025 but didn’t leave the club, staying on as under 20s assistant manager. His retirement left AS Roma with an exciting, youthful squad as they looked to defend the Serie A title for the second time.
Indeed, his departure left Benjamin Pavard as the oldest player at the club followed by Nicoló Barella (28) and Tammy Abraham (27). While half of the remaining squad were 21 or under and eight were teenagers.
We didn’t have loads of money to work with and I didn’t feel we needed many signings. We did add a bit of vital experience in Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid teammate Toni Kroos for £2m. That changed as Man UFC offered £53m for backup left-back Fabiano Parisi, who joined for £17m 12 months ago, so we had to accept. However, we didn’t have time to find a replacement and none of the youngsters we’d discovered were interested in signing, so had to loan in emergency backup Luciano Pronk. But we did snap up a promising centre-back as Austin Udeh joined for £5m from Bayern.
Very little has changed with the tactic, with Roony “The Onion” Bardghji still the first choice on the right and Abakar Sylla supporting Roger Ibanez at centre-back. And our tried and tested 4-3-3 approach now looks like this:
Quest for three in a row begins
The media still have Milan as 9/4 title favourites with us now second at 7/2, followed by Juventus (9/2), Napoli (11/2) and Inter (9/1). We also have Barella, Andreas Schjelderup and Abraham in the media dream 11.
Our second title defence began with a tough trip to Napoli and came away with a point in a tight 0-0. But we were much better in our first home game, dominating Brescia 4-0 led by Abraham and Schjelderup braces. Schjelderup kept that going with the only goal at Udinese, in which we had 20 shots but only one on target!
Abraham scored the 200th league goal of his career with both goals in a 2-0 win over Empoli. Then his replacement Matías García scored his first Rome league goal and made the other for Isak Jóhanneson in a feisty game at Spezia, in which both teams were down to 10 men after 52 minutes. But the good start ended at Sampdoria thanks to a horrendous refereeing performance. We led 2-0 through two Nicola Zalewski wondergoals, but the ref sent off Giacomo Faticanti and Sylla then gave Samp a penalty and two dodgy VAR goals.
The perfect pick-me-up was the Capitale Derby as Lazio came to town. We eventually responded well thanks to Barella’s 75th-minute free-kick before Abraham bagged a brace to seal a 3-1 win. We faced an early top-of-the-table clash at home to Milan, who hit the post after 10 minutes. But we grew into the game and moved in front thanks to a stunning finish by Bardghji. A beautiful curling strike by Dominik Szoboszlai confirmed the win before academy product winger Matteo Nardini created the third for Abraham. And that moved us top of the league for the first time this season.
Abraham seemed to be in another of his purple patches, bagging a hat-trick at Benevento. But tiredness caught up with us and we struggled in a few away games, including an absolute howler by Pavard gifting an equaliser to Verona, before finishing the year by battering Genoa with 31 shots to four and winning 3-0.
That takes us into 2026 trailing Milan by a point and leading Napoli and Atalanta by four. Surprisingly, we have the best attack with 34 goals in 16 games and we’ve only let in 11, but Milan have conceded just six!
Second taste of new Champions League format
Our second taste of the new-look Champions League, which we’re an unlikely 150/1 to win. We faced a slightly less difficult draw with some tasty home games, difficult away games and, for some reason, clashes with four English teams.
Our campaign kicked off at home to West Ham (not a typo, West Ham are in the Champions League!), who scared us twice early on as Fornals and Scamacca smashed free-kicks against our bar. But we grew into the game and scored through homegrown midfielder Giacomo Faticanti then had Marco Carnesecchi to thank for a ridiculous point-blank save after shocking defending. Shjelderup cut inside to score a second then created another for Faticanti, which doubled his goal tally all of last season!
Next up was, you guessed it, another English team as we hosted Chelsea. Pavard got himself sent off after 33 minutes but his teammates defended heroically for a 0-0 led by eight saves by Carnesecchi. Two away games and we had Abraham to thank for a brace to seal a 3-0 victory at Rosenborg then rescuing a point from an awful game at Salzburg.
Things got really tricky as we went to Liverpool, who got an early nonsense penalty that Carnesecchi saved from Salah. They inevitably took the lead, we struck back through Nardini’s first Champions League goal and Jordan Henderson scored an 85th-minute winner. We should have nicked a point as García missed a late sitter, but a narrow loss at Liverpool is fairly impressive. We then went to Man UFC with an exhausted squad so I fully rotated (because we weren’t going to beat them anyway) and we got battered but only lost 3-0. That leaves us slightly on the brink in 20th place with eight points from six games. And I’ll reiterate, I hate this new format.
Young prospects update
This feels like a good time to reflect on the progress of some of our younger players. The best place to start is Faticanti, who won his first cap for Italy in October, has progressed massively over the last two years and recently played his 100th league game for Roma. Also progressing nicely is Bardghji, who got three goals and five assists before getting injured. Schjelderup scored three of his four goals in the first two matches of the season and finished the year well with two assists at Genoa, but also got injured and suffered some dreadful form inbetween. That saw Nardini step up to the first team and perform fairly well.
Less impressive has been Endrick, who trains well but plays pretty terribly and picks up loads of injuries – indeed, he’s had more injuries (6) than goals (5) since we signed him! While backup striker García, who along with Nardini apparently has more potential than Endrick, has struggled when called upon. But all three of them have plenty of room to grow.
Those youngsters have the best player in the world to learn from as Abraham won the 2025 Ballon d’Or (World Golden Ball without the name fix) after a ridiculous 45 goals in 38 games. He backed that up by winning the Goal 50 award then the Footballer of the Year and World Player of the Year awards and was our only player in the World Team of the Year. This season he already has 18 in 21 games and is our only player to have scored more than four goals!
Can AS Roma take the fight to AC Milan in the Serie A title race? And can we pick up our form in the Champions League? Join us next time to find out!
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