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Combined XI: Roma v Lazio (21st century)

Although the clubs are a long way from their peaks in the early 2000s, Roma and Lazio have had some of the best players to have graced Serie A over the last 25 years.

Roma v Lazio

Italy’s capital clubs won the first two titles of the 21st century, the first either won since Roma won Serie A in 1983 and Lazio won Serie A in 1974.

Ahead of their clash this weekend, we’ve put together the best combined XI from Roma and Lazio in the 21st century.

Read more:
The Greatest Serie A Players: Ronaldo
The Greatest Serie A Players: Pavel Nedved
The Greatest Serie A Players: Kaka
The Greatest Serie A Players: Francesco Totti
The Greatest Serie A Players: Gabriel Batistuta

GK: Angelo Peruzzi

While it was at Roma where Alisson made his name, catching the eye of Liverpool, the Brazilian only spent one season with the Giallorossi, compared to Angelo Peruzzi, who spent seven years in the capital.

Peruzzi was the first-choice goalkeeper for the great Juventus side of the 1990s, but the arrival of Edwin van der Sar saw Peruzzi move to Inter, joining Lazio the following season.

Although Peruzzi joined Lazio after their title win, he’d still win a Coppa Italia and would be named Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year for a third time in his final campaign as a professional.

RB: Cafu

Who else? Arguably the greatest right-back in football history, Cafu spent six seasons with Roma and was part of their 2001 title-winning team. Through his time at Roma, Cafu would play in his second and third World Cup final (becoming the only player in history to do so) with Brazil, winning in 2002.

Blessed with speed throughout his career, Cafu was still able to operate at a high level well into his 30s owing to his supreme football intelligence, where he could operate in defence and attack. After spending six years at the Stadio Olimpico, the Brazilian moved to Milan at the age of 33 where he’d add a Champions League to his list of honours.

CB: Alessandro Nesta

Undoubtedly one of the greatest and most graceful centre-backs of his generation, Alessandro Nesta was at the heart of Lazio’s title winners.

When comparing players of different generations, there’s a tendency to wonder how well the older player could adapt to the modern game, but even now, peak Nesta could slot into the defence of any team in world football.

Nesta wasn’t just quick, but had excellent reading of the game and was supremely elegant on the ball.

When considering the best ball-playing defenders we’ve seen in the Premier League, Rio Ferdinand and Virgil van Dijk are often two of the first names to crop up; there’s an argument Nesta was better than both.

CB: Walter Samuel

And where would any graceful, ball-playing centre-back be without his pitbull partner alongside him? Enter: Walter Samuel.

Samuel was the ultimate uncompromising defendee; unforgiving in the tackle, and despite not being the talent centre-back, he was a giant in the air.

When Roma were looking to mount a title challenge on the back of Lazio’s win the previous season with the signing of Gabriel Batistuta, compatriot Samuel was drafted in from Argentina to shore things up.

To give an idea of the esteem Samuel was held in, after four years in Italy, Samuel was signed by Real Madrid as part of their Galacticos project.

LB: Sinisa Mihajlovic

Of all the players featuring in this mythical XI, the one opponents would perhaps least like to face is Sinisa Mihajlovic. A fearsome defender, the Yugoslavian was part of Red Star Belgrade’s European Cup winners of 1991. From there, Mihajlovic would spend two years with Roma and four years with Sampdoria before becoming one of the few players to play both in Roman blue and red.

It wasn’t his ferocious defending Mihajlovic was best remembered for, however, but his deadly free-kicks. Mihajlovic described them as his favourite part of football, and said that if it wasn’t for free-kicks he probably wouldn’t be a footballer.

Forget Alessandro Del Piero, Roberto Baggio, Andrea Pirlo and Francesco Totti, Mihajlovic (who holds the record for the most free-kick goals in Serie A history), was the best of the lot.

CM: Daniele De Rossi

One of the few players from long after these two clubs’ title wins, but an immovable part of Roma’s history nonetheless: Daniele De Rossi.

The heir to Francesco Totti’s throne, De Rossi has the second most appearances for Roma and was the blindingly obvious choice to take the armband once Totti hung up his boots.

A complete midfielder, De Rossi could help screen a defence while contributing in attack, retiring with a goal or assist every five games throughout his entire career.

Though De Rossi wasn’t quite in the elite calibre of some of his compatriots, he’s one of eight players to have played more than 100 times for Italy and the three players capped more than him were all defenders.

Only 22 at the 2006 World Cup and the youngest member of Italy’s squad, De Rossi was a member of the starting XI for the Azzurri’s first two games before a red card that saw him suspended until the final. De Rossi would come off the bench against France, however, scoring in the penalty shoot-out and becoming a World Cup winner.

CM: Diego Simeone

English fans may recall Diego Simeone’s antics at the 1998 World Cup and his approach as a manager and think he spent his playing career as a proponent of the dark arts.

While that’s not entirely unfair – Simeone was a combative defensive midfielder – the Argentine was more than capable of contributing going forward.

Part of Inter’s UEFA Cup-winning team, Simeone was perhaps the final piece in the puzzle for Lazio. The Biancocelesti would win Serie A in Simeone’s first season in Rome, where he’d go on to spend three more terms.

CM: Sergey Milinkovic-Savic

Another player from long after Lazio’s golden era is Sergey Milinkovic Savic. Owing to Juventus’s dominance and Lazio still not having the resources to repeat their 2000 success, Sergey’s eight years with Lazio resulted in just one Coppa Italia.

On an individual level, however, the Serbian was twice named in the Serie A Team of the Year and once Serie A’s Best Midfielder.

Although never the quickest, Milinkovic-Savic was supremely gifted technically with a wonderful touch and range of passing, capable of scoring every type of goal.

Linked with a move to the Premier League for so long, it’s only a shame we never got to see the Serb on these shores.

AM: Pavel Nedved

Perhaps the first name in the Roma/Lazio combined XI and the only Ballon d’Or winner: Pavel Nedved. Signed on the back of the Czech Republic’s Euro 96 run, Lazio were all too happy for Nedved to take up one of the club’s precious non-EU slots, and despite initial difficulties settling in Italy, Nedved quickly became one of the division’s best players.

Nedved would win the Coppa Italia with Lazio, being denied a double in the UEFA Cup by Ronaldo’s Inter. But Lazio were building and Nedved was at the heart of things. The squad was strengthened further and Nedved, with his 100mph style, helped Lazio to the Serie A title in 2000.

The following year, Nedved was named in the ESM Team of the Year, but his time at Lazio came to an abrupt end. With the club facing financial difficulties, both Nedved and Juan Sebastian Veron were sold. While Veron would never hit the heights in England, Nedved would win two more league titles with Juventus as well as the Ballon d’Or in 2003.

ST: Ciro Immobile

Although both Lazio and Roma have been blessed with a number of top-quality strikers over the years including Gabriel Batitstuta, Hernan Crespo, Claudio Lopez and Marcelo Salas, none have had the long-term impact of Ciro Immobile.

After a series of loan spells and an underwhelming season with Borussia Dortmund, Immobile finally found his home in the Italian capital.

Across his first six seasons with Lazio, Immobile scored 150 goals, winning Capocannoniere three times, memorably going on to win the European Golden Shoe in 2020 thanks to his mammoth 36 goals.

Like Milinkovic-Savic, Immobile’s time with Lazio hasn’t been blessed with winners’ medals, but he’ll retire as the club’s top scorer, and it’s a record he’ll likely hold onto for as long as he lives.

ST: Francesco Totti

Where to begin? The boyhood Roma fan who became the club’s greatest ever player, Francesco Totti.

By his early 20s, Totti was one of the best players in the league despite being shifted out onto the wing, a move that actually worked wonders with Totti finding the net more regularly.

By the turn of the millennium, Roma were chasing Lazio’s success and hired Fabio Capello as manager. Despite a disappointing end to the season that saw Lazio crowned champions, Totti was named Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year and Serie A Footballer of the Year, going on to put in a Man-of-the-Match performance in the Euro 2000 final. But for wasteful finishing by his supporting cast, Totti would have a European Championship medal to his name.

A sumptuous footballer who could do it all, Totti’s most admirable trait was perhaps his loyalty, turning down moves to Real Madrid in order to remain at Roma where he’d retire with just one league title.

Although it’s futile to reduce Totti’s careers to records and numbers, they’re remarkably impressive. He retired as Serie A’s second highest goalscorer and won’t be displaced any time soon; he also has the third most Serie A appearances and was twice in the Ballon d’Or’s top 10, despite being bafflingly overlooked for the award, winning the European Golden Shoe in 2007 and five times winning the Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year.

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