In what has been a season of contrasts for Roma, none stand out quite as much as the two penalties the club have been awarded this week. The first, awarded in the first half against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, offered Roma a way back into the tie. The second was a way to seal the result against Lazio and once again rub salt into their rivals’ wounds. Marco Borriello missed the first and Roma crashed out of the Champions League, Francesco Totti scored the second and Roma sprung back into contention for fourth place. So slight is the difference between success and failure that Borriello’s penalty miss in Donetsk is threatening to define his Roma career.
At the beginning of the season, such an idea was almost unthinkable. Upon his arrival in the Eternal City, the Neapolitan forward was given a hero’s welcome by Giallorossi fans. A quick look at the statistics suggests that he has done exactly what he was brought in to do, with his ten goals in 22 starts including a winner against Milan and two strikes against Lazio. But these statistics, as is so often the case, do not tell the full story.
While Borriello has been hitting the back of the net fairly regularly, he has also failed to create any kind of rapport on the pitch with Roma’s other forwards, particularly Francesco Totti. In the past, this would have been enough to ensure a swift end to his time at the Stadio Olimpico, but Borriello has benefited from the indifferent form of Er Pupone this season and had regularly been preferred to the talismanic forward under Claudio Ranieri.
With the arrival of Coach Vincenzo Montella though, Borriello seems to have fallen down the pecking order. Montella prefers a quick brand of football based around movement from midfield and a single striker working almost as a playmaker, a role that Totti revels in and Borriello struggles with. While his qualities are undeniable, he is strong in the air and a good finisher, a handful for any defence; he simply doesn’t fit in at Roma anymore.
His recent spat with David Pizarro regarding the late penalty he won against Lecce was made to look even more ridiculous after his botched kick against Shakhtar, and things seem to be mounting against him. Totti’s performance in the derby has almost certainly consigned Borriello to the bench for the foreseeable future and his only hope may be an injury to the notoriously fragile captain. Even that may prove only a temporary reprieve though, as Roma look likely to have new owners by the end of the season, and with new owners will come greater funds to invest in new players.
Borriello himself is certainly not keen to be cast as the villain and he recently hit out at what he called “shameful” criticism of his performances. Despite his protests, though, his fate may already be sealed and a new club, possibly Juventus, could be just around the corner for the nomadic striker.