In over two months of campaigning, Rome has been imperious (though not imperial),1Despite ruling over vast territories, Caesar was only ever a dictator rather than an emperor. crushing much of the resistance laid before it and taking tributes from those who frustrated their progression.2It is highly unlikely that Rome levied gold from opposition forces in return for a share of the points, as they were not one of the five clubs implicated in the Calciopoli scandal (the same cannot be said of fierce rivals Lazio).
Only three foes dared to defy the will of the Romans: Internazionale and Sassuolo carved out goalless stalemates, while the men of Genoa became the first opposition to strike a meaningful blow against the legion, Nicola Dalmonte’s goal securing a 1-1 draw at the Luigi Ferraris. Caesar claimed Dalmonte as a prisoner in return for leaving Liguria, but was forced to hand the winger back in accordance with FIFA rules and international law.
Forces from Florence3Empoli and a rival Ligurian group4Sampdoria are dismissed with consummate ease. Rome triumphs by three goals on both occasions, with the back line – Kolarov in particular – performing admirably in the field. The triumphs are shared amongst the decani and decuriones – Cristantius continues to earn good favour with a brace against the Empolians – while the aquiliferi earn plaudits for their selfless work up top.5
The army is in good form and good spirits ahead of its toughest conquest yet: the pagan island of Britain.
Caesar does not have particularly fond memories of his excursions across the Channel, where ill fortune, inadequate scouting and gegenpressing natives prevented Rome from getting off Walmer Beach and conquering another territory.6The Anglo-Saxons wouldn’t appear on British shores for another five centuries. The only conclusion to be drawn is that the Britons invented their own rudimentary gegenpress strategy long before Germanic chieftain Jurgen Klopp. Now who’s the fraud? The reinforced legion made better inroads in the second leg, but still left empty-handed after a stubborn defensive display from Cassivellanunus’ men.7After failing to even make it off the beach in 55 BC, Caesar at lead made it into/onto mainland Kent, but was effectively repelled by British tribes. He also had an eye on Gaul for the winter, as provincial discontent was upsetting the Roman dressing room.
This time around, the legions will be heading further north than they ever did in Caesar’s earlier campaigns.8Caesar barely made it further than Hertfordshire, though Agricola did build a fort in Manchester less than a century later. Mamucium, once a Roman stronghold, is now a diverse and expansive host, led by legendary Hispanic general Josep Guardiola Sala, known as Pep the Great. The powerful leader, buttressed by wealthy Parthian benefactors, has used his war chest to draw the finest troops from Gaul, Belgae, his native peninsula and from lands beyond Caesar’s eye,9Had Caesar known of the riches of the South American continent – Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Messi, Aguero – he definitely would have tried to conquer it. We think he’d take one look at Federico Fazio and decide against the voyage. as well as nurturing the very best of the natives. The strategy remains attack versus defence, only now it is the invaders who must build barricades.
The First formation is dropped in favour of an adapted version of the Second. An extra line of support shall be provided by De Rossus behind the midfield ranks, wide cavalry in the form of Kluivert and El Shaarawian will marshal the flanks, and one lone aquiliferi – the in-form Patrick Schick ahead of Edin Dzeko – leads the charge.
The natives, however, perceive the design of the Romans. Even when the legion is 46 miles inland, it struggles to get off the beach.10The Romans would have actually approached from the opposite direction, so there would be no time to enjoy sunny Southport. Also, reminder: Roman miles are ever so slightly shorter. On unfamiliar terrain, and without the services of Under and Perottius, our men are wholly inexperienced to deal with City’s high-pressing, high-tempo brand of warfare. The fighting is fierce on both sides. Our men cannot keep rank on this field – wider than their accustomed turf11In the first invasion of Britain, Caesar blames the sandy and watery terrain for his army’s inability to win comprehensively. What’s more, the Etihad pitch (105 x 68m) is two whole yards wider than that at the Olimpico (105 x 66m). Fine margins. – but once the hosts establish a three-goal advantage, the troops stand firm, preventing further losses.12In truth, Aguero, Bernardo (x2) and Mahrez tear Rome apart in the first 30-odd minutes. Most of the goals are borne from individual mistakes or a failure to press the enemy, but Caesar won’t tell you that, instead blaming the conditions, bad luck and cheating opposition. He would’ve made a fine football manager.
Following the departure from Britain, Caesar took advantage of a two-week break from European conquest to return to the continent.
Parma Calcio 1913, who had been left by Caesar in a state of peace when he set out for Britain, were fired by the hopes of an upset. Our troops withstood the hosts’ meek assault, and fought with gallantry for 51 minutes. Howbeit, as soon as Edin Dzeko found his range, most of the enemy threw down their hopes of victory against the odds and fled back towards their own penalty box. The defence were defeated three times over, Dzeko netting twice, but the Crusaders did belatedly strike a blow of their own; the last act before surrendering all three points.
Ahead of a second encounter with the unruly Britons,13The Romans went back to Britain one year after their disastrous first attempt at invasion. against whom Caesar hopes to exact revenge and greatly improve Rome’s faltering goal difference, the commander-in-chief takes his legions north to the former Etruscan stronghold of Ferrara. The resistance comes not from a conventional band of hardened, restless locals, but a group of deep thinkers and culture vultures, more accustomed to the amphitheatre than the coliseum.14SPAL began life as an arts and culture club. Ironically, the ceiling of the Teatro Comunale features four scenes from the life of Julius Caesar: this encounter is not one of them. What’s more, the theatre actually hosted a production of Giulio Cesare in March 2011.
Our legions manfully attempt to break down the massed ranks, pressing further upfield but gaining more ground than goals. Then, strictly against the run of play, one plucky decanus, Federico Viviani, heaves a hopeful ball over the top of Rome’s high defensive line. Andrea Petagna is fortuitously lingering, and is on hand to draw first blood.15Historians believe that the ball sent behind enemy lines by Viviani was exquisite, and the finish from Petagna “worthy of winning any match”.
A rousing half-time talk from Caesar inspires confidence,16Caesar bollocks them relentlessly for the full fifteen minutes. and the fit-again Perottius strikes back on the hour to restore parity. Our troops hurl missiles from all sides – some strike the target, others are wayward – but S.P.A.L. hold their ground.
While on the march home, Caesar is informed that Pep the Great and his troops are but three days away, while Juventus are also preparing for war. He senses an opportunity for retribution, the greatest glory of them all.
After defeat at Gergovia came the awe-inspiring siege of Alesia; after Dyrrhachium, the decisive win at Pharsalus; from retreat at Ruspina to revenge at Thapsus. Caesar does not lose back-to-back engagements,17This much appears to be true, according to Caesar’s own writings – certainly in terms of key battles. and Mamucium City shall not break this tradition. To triumph over the encroaching Britons and the rising force of Turin will see Caesar crowned called the world’s greatest comeback king consul.18Caesar can’t be called a comeback king, as he explicitly refused the title and crown of king three times in quick succession. He should technically be called the comeback dictator, but frankly comeback consul is alliterative so we’re going with it.