Corriere dello Sport (Francesco Guerrieri) France-Italy, or rather, France-Rome, is a rarely trodden route. Grenier is just the 10th player to arrive in Rome from France. Who was the first? Vincent Candela, who is now an adopted Roman. When he first arrived in the capital in January 1997 though, “it was a shock” as he himself admitted. He was signed from Guingamp by then sporting director Perinetti, and after having issues with Zeman he was a key part of Capello’s team that won the scudetto. He acclimatised well both on and off the pitch, learning both Roman and then Italian from Di Biagio, Petruzzi and Totti. He left the capital after 8 years, but it was only an arrivederci – he returned to the Olimpico in 2009 to mark his retirement from the game. He wanted to retire there, his adopted home, because “Rome and Roma are close to my heart”.
In 2000 came Jonathan Zebina, who arrived just in time to win the title. He arrived as backup but ended up frequently starting in Capello’s 3-man defence because of an injury to Aldair. Don Fabio then took him (and Emerson) when he left to join Juventus in 2004. He had highs and lows with the Giallorossi, where he was known by everyone as the gazelle. It’s difficult (impossible, actually) to forget the 4-0 against Juventus in 2003/04. Reciting the goalscorers is like reciting a nursery rhyme: Dacourt, Totti, Cassano, Cassano. And here we are, Dacourt: a good midfielder, who came from Leeds on loan at first but after convincing Capello he was signed permanently. Roma beat Juventus to his signing in January 2003, but he missed out on winning the scudetto that season. It was just a matter of time for Dacourt though, as he would go on to win two league titles while playing for Inter.
Roma paid a high price when Philippe Mexes arrived in 2004: FIFA imposed a transfer ban on Roma for one transfer window and, due to the controversy surrounding the Frenchman’s registration, they also demanded Roma pay Auxerre €7m in compensation. The Giallorossi had been studying and watching him for 3 years, and when they made their move Manchester United were also showing an interest. Who did he choose? Roma. He was signed to replace Samuel, who had been sold to Real Madrid, but he scored almost as many goals as a striker. He won a starting place under Spalletti in 2006, partly thanks to Kuffour’s departure for the Africa Cup of Nations. He left to join Milan after 11 years in the capital.
In 2008 a magician arrived in Rome: Houdini. At least, that’s what many people at Trigoria called him. He was otherwise known as Jeremy Menez. He was a stylish player who loved playing with the ball, and although he had enormous talent he was also very hot-tempered. Some people called him the French Cassano. He stayed with the Giallorossi for 3 seasons before returning to France with PSG. Other players only stayed in Rome for a single season, like Ludovic Giuly (2007/08), Lucas Digne and William Vainqueur (2015/16) and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (2014/15), who won the hearts of the Giallorossi fans after scoring a decisive goal in the derby. Who knows, maybe Grenier will score against Lazio as well. Another Frenchman – the 10th – wearing the red and yellow shirt.