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The history of Roma in European Finals: will they lift back-to-back trophies?

On Wednesday, Roma will face Sevilla at the Puskás Aréna in Budapest in the UEFA Europa League Final.

This’ll be I Giallorossi’s fifth appearance in a European Final, with this article looking back at those previous matches.

Read all about the history of Sevilla in European Finals here.
Sevilla vs Roma betting tips: UEFA Europa League Final preview, predictions, team news and odds

Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final 1961: Roma 4-2 Birmingham City

If you’ve never heard of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, it was essentially the precursor to the UEFA Cup, starting in the late 1950s, just after the formation of the European Cup.

The qualification rules though were very bizarre, with only one club per ‘major’ city allowed to enter.

So, Roma would enter the 1960/61 edition, despite having finished ninth in Serie A the previous season, chosen to represent Rome, given that Lazio had ended up 12th.

Clubs such as Bologna, Padova, S.P.A.L. and Sampdoria, who’d finished higher, could not enter as they weren’t based in major cities; imagine that now!

They then beat a Köln XI in the quarter-finals and Hibs in the semis, with that tie going to a replay, following a 5-5 aggregate score.

In the third match, Roma cruised to a 6-0 victory, with their talisman at the time Pedro Manfredini scoring four.

In the final, they’d face Birmingham City, drawing the first leg 2-2 at St Andrew’s, Manfredini scoring both, before a 2-0 victory at Stadio Olimpico a fortnight later saw Alfredo Foni’s team pick up the trophy.

This remained Roma’s only European title for quite some time, but we’ll come onto that in due course.

European Cup Final 1984: Roma 1-1 Liverpool- Liverpool won 4-2 on penalties

In 1982/83, Roma were crowned Serie A champions, picking up their first Scudetto for 41 years.

Thus, Nils Liedholm’s team would make their debut in the European Cup, knowing that the final was to be played at their own stadium, with UEFA having chosen the venue in advance, as is still the case of course.

I Giallorossi swatted aside IFK Göteborg, CSKA Sofia and then Berliner FC Dynamo, winning the home leg each time.

However, their dream of a final appearance on home turf appeared over after losing the first leg of their semi-final 2-0 at Tannadice against the extraordinary Jim McLean’s Dundee United.

Two weeks later however, Roma pulled off the comeback, winning 3-0, thanks to an early brace from Roberto Pruzzo, before Agostino Di Bartolomei converted a second half penalty.

This though remains one of the most controversial games in European football history.

Two years later, Roma president Dino Viola was banned by UEFA for bribing referee Michel Vautrot 100 million lire, the modern equivalent of £50,000; the penalty Vautrot awarded is quite extraordinary.

The final itself saw Roma take on a Liverpool side who’d dominated European football across the previous decade.

The Reds had captured the UEFA Cup in 1973 and 1976 as well as the European Cup itself in 1977, 1978 and 1981.

Despite this, given their home advantage, Roma went into the match as slight-favourites, and the massive home crowd expected to see their team win.

It ended 1-1 after two hours of play, with Phil Neal and then Roberto Pruzzo the scorers, making it the very-first European Cup Final to be decided via a penalty shootout.

Steve Nicol took first, but he blazed his effort high above the cross-bar, making it advantage Roma, especially when Agostino Di Bartolomei then converted.

However, after that, the English champions scored all four of their spot-kicks, while Bruno Conti and Francesco Graziani both put their’s over the bar, the latter infamously distracted by Bruce Grobbelaar’s wobbly legs.

Alan Kennedy then scored his penalty past Franco Tancredi as Liverpool claimed their fourth European title.

Roma have not featured in a Champions League Final before or since, with their only subsequent run to the semis, coming in 2018, also resulting in defeat at the hands of Liverpool, ousted 7-6 on aggregate.

UEFA Cup Final 1991: Roma 1-2 Internazionale Milano

Fast forward to the early 1990s and Serie A is enjoying it’s heyday, with Italian clubs dominating European honours.

Between 1989 and 1995, six of the seven UEFA Cup Finals were won by Serie A sides, Torino losing in the other, three of which were all Italian-affairs.

One of these came in 1991, with Internazionale Milano facing Roma in a two-legged final.

To get there, Ottavio Bianchi’s team had eliminated some big-hitters, overcoming Benfica, Valencia, Girondins de Bordeaux, Anderlecht and Brøndby, winning all five home games.

Roma were hoping to achieve a cup-double, with a Coppa Italia Final, that they’d win, against Sampdoria to come.

In the UEFA Cup Final first leg though, it was Inter who ran out 2-0 winners at San Siro; Lothar Matthäus converted a penalty, before Nicola Berti tapped home a Jürgen Klinsmann pull-back from close-range.

A fortnight later, Roma couldn’t quite turn it round in the return leg, with Ruggiero Rizzitelli setting up a grand stand finish at Stadio Olimpico, but they could not find an equaliser.

32 years on, will Roma finally get their hands on this trophy, becoming the 30th different winners of this competition?

UEFA Europa Conference League Final 2022: Roma 1-0 Feyenoord

After those defeats in 1984 and 1991, Roma remained without any European silverware since the start of the 1960s.

In fact, when José Mourinho was appointed manager in May 2021, I Giallorossi were enduring a 13-year trophy draught, with their last piece of silverware the 2008 Coppa Italia.

To contextualise just how long ago that is, Inter’s XI for that final featured Patrick Vieira and a teenager by the name of Mario Balotelli.

Mourinho’s primary aim after arriving in the Eternal City was the change the club’s mindset, turning a group of nearly-men into winners.

The inaugural edition of the Europa Conference League would prove the perfect setting for this.

While others debated the merits of UEFA’s new third-tier competition, Roma took it very seriously, dispensing with Trabzonspor, CSKA Sofia, Zorya Luhansk and Vitesse Arnhem.

During the group phase, Mourinho did actually suffer his heaviest defeat as a manager, smashed 6-1 by Bodø/Glimt in the Arctic Circle, before a 2-2 draw the following matchday.

La Lupa were to be reunited with the Norwegian champions in the quarter-finals but, following a second defeat at Aspmyra, it was Roma had the last laugh, advancing courtesy of a 4-0 home win.

In the semis, in classic José fashion, they edged out Leicester City, with Tammy Abraham’s towering header the difference over two legs.

The final against Feyenoord in Tirana also ended 1-0, with Nicolò Zaniolo the hero, poking home on the half hour mark, before Mourinho’s men shut up shop and saw out the win; that’s not like him is it?

This makes Mourinho only the second manager to win all three tiers of UEFA tournament, after Giovanni Trapattoni, a fact he’s very proud of.

Overall, the Portuguese manager has won all five major European Finals he’s ever coached in, excluding the Super Cup, hoping to extend that perfect record in Budapest this forthcoming Wednesday.

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Ben Gray

Arsenal fan – follow them over land and sea (and Leicester); sofa Celtic supporter; a bit of a football '"encyclopedia".

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