FFT's Italy expert Adam Digby assesses the versatile Brazilian born who'll help the Old Lady's Champions League charge this season...
The 60 second story
- Full name: Rômulo Souza Orestes Caldeira
- Date of birth: May 22, 1987
- Place of birth: Pelotas, Brazil
- Position: Midfielder/right-back
- Club: Hellas Verona, on loan at Juventus
- National: Italy (uncapped)
Italo-Brazilian utility man Rômulo arrives in Turin hoping to find a home, having endured an incredibly nomadic career to date. Born in the southern city of Pelotas in Brazil, the 27-year-old spent his formative years in the youth ranks of local side Caxias before being sold on to Juventude, the biggest club in the region. It was there that his life as a journeyman began.
He would spend just a single season with the Periquito, quickly moving on to spend single-season spells with five other clubs, including Cruzerio and Atlético Paranaense. With the latter he was spotted by scouts working for Fiorentina’s then-sporting director Panteleo Corvino, who had been monitoring the player for some time.
An incredible ability to spot talent and a reputation as a shrewd negotiator had earned Corvino huge respect throughout the footballing world, and he brought Rômulo to Florence in June 2011. But the player struggled to adapt during a difficult first campaign in Italy, featuring in just 10 league matches and earning only four starts. His impact improved the following year as he doubled his appearance tally and seemingly secured himself a place in the squad.
He would move on once again, however, to newly promoted Hellas Verona last summer, where he showed a newfound maturity to his game at the Stadio Bentegodi. Rômulo was largely deployed on the right of midfield in Andrea Mandorlini’s 4-3-3 formation, and helped catapult the Gialloblu to an impressive 10th-place finish upon their return to the top flight.
Why you need to know him
After registering six goals and eight assists last term, Rômulo has changed the perception of himself on the peninsula. He may still be a journeyman, but he's now on the cusp of being part of the Italy squad – only injury prevented him from being named in Cesare Prandelli's 23 at the World Cup. Now, after securing his place among the Serie A elite, he has joined Juventus on a season-long loan.
The Bianconeri, who have already agreed a €6 million fee to make the move permanent next summer, sent Mauricio Isla to QPR on loan confident that their new signing can have far more of an impact than the Chilean. Rômulo will be a vital addition for Juve, with his ability to fill in at various positions likely to make him a crucial figure as the club look to improve on last season’s poor showing in the Champions League.
Allied to that versatility, Rômulo has displayed excellent tactical awareness since arriving in Italy and showed intelligent instincts last term. Averaging 2.5 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per game, he made a sound defensive contribution, while also managing to have an impressive impact in the Hellas attack.
On the opening day of 2013/14, it was his corner which gave the Gialloblu a lead as they went on to record a famous victory against Milan. Over the rest of the campaign, Rômulo would carve out a reputation as a fearsome dead-ball specialist; only two of his eight assists came from open play. His ability from corners should improve an area where Juventus are notably poor, while his pace breaking into the box and finishing attacks must also be noted.
Standing only 5ft 10in, Rômulo is understandably weak in the air and won just 13 of the 46 aerial duels he contested last year. Allegri will need to guard against him being overwhelmed when defending dead-ball situations. He also committed an average of 1.2 fouls per game last term, and was perhaps too eager to win back the ball in Mandorlini’s fast-paced system. A much calmer approach will be required when he plays in Europe this season.
“This is the chance of a lifetime for him,” Mandorlini told Sky Italia when the player’s move to Juventus was confirmed, adding that Rômulo had “a great season and many clubs wanted him”. Prandelli meanwhile, explaining his reasoning for naming the player in his preliminary World Cup squad, identified “pace, technique and consistency” as his key attributes while once again noting his ability “to cover various roles within the team”.
- Shooting 6
- Heading 4
- Passing 8
- Tackling 7
- Pace 8
- Dribbling 6
- Creativity 7
- Work-rate 8
Did you know?
The only reason Rômulo didn't go to the World Cup was because he was honest enough to admit he wasn't fully fit. “Prandelli had included me in the 23,” the player told the Corriere della Sera on the eve of the tournament. “I told him that I was at 70 per cent, and it did not seem right that a team-mate would sit out while being fine.” He later confessed that the decision had been a painful one, going on to say that “the World Cup was a dream, especially in Brazil, but Cesare Prandelli kept asking me how I felt and I couldn’t lie to him. He thanked me for my honesty.”
What happens next?
The loan deal is likely to be made permanent, and Rômulo appears ready to become a Juventus player given his steady improvement throughout his time in Serie A. He may have only featured in 62 matches in the Italian top flight, but at 27 he seems set to become a mainstay for both club and country in the coming season.