Rome has fallen. Not to Senones or Goths or even Vandals,1390BC, 410 and 455 respectively. In antiquity, Rome was sacked more times than Zdenek Zeman. but to mediocrity.
No leagues subjugated in seventeen years. Defeated on the continental stage by intransigent Britons. Living in the shadow of provincial forces from Augusta Taurinorum and Mediolanum, and no longer able to call on the talents of talismanic centurion Francesco Tottius. A rival faction in the region, steadfastly resistant to becoming part of the great
Empire Republic, cause trouble on a biannual basis.2A.S. Roma was the product of a city-wide merger initiated by Italy’s Fascist regime in 1927; S.S. Lazio was the only club that resisted assimilation.
This will not do. Gaius Julius Caesar will restore Rome to its former glory; vanquishing its foes, conquering domestic and European opposition, and becoming the most feared power on the biggest stage: the World Club Championship.
Caesar is announced as the new ruler at the Olimpico on an initial one-year contract – warily forgoing the offer to become manager in perpetuity3In 44BC, Caesar effectively appointed himself dictator in perpetuity, only for his contract to be terminated just one month later when he was stabbed 23 times in the Theatre of Pompey. He definitely didn’t depart the role by mutual consent. – and introduces himself to the Senate.
The aristocratic statesmen want to bring a new generation of players through the academy system. Caesar is not surprised; the Senate granted £73m to the previous consul, only for him to squander it on work-shy flair performers and ageing central midfielders from the Gallic provinces. Nevertheless, Caesar is also keen to draw on the younger ranks; they are hungrier, eager to progress and easier to mould.
Expectations are modest; aiming to defeat colonies like Florence and Bergamo, then falling heroically on the battlefield to the Teutons or the barbarous tribes of Hispania.
Is this not Rome, conquerors of Gaul, invaders of Africa, rulers of half of Europe?! It should be aiming for the quarter-final of the Champions League, and the final of the Italian Cup. The Senate begrudgingly agrees; the men, however, are generally enthusiastic; they are quick to believe that which they wish to be true.
The squad is less homogeneous than Caesar anticipated. A small core of homegrown legionaries is augmented by a host of non-Roman citizens; three apiece from Germania4Rick Karsdorp, Justin Kluivert and Patrick Schick and Dalmatia,5Ante Coric, Silvio Anocic and Aleksandar Kolarov and immigrants from Macedonia,6Kostas Manolas Illyria,7Edin Dzeko Hispania,8Ivan Marcano Asia,9Cengiz Unger Svealand,10Robin Olsen Gaul11Steven Nzonzi and Africa12Abdullahi Nura. Five more hail from lands hitherto unknown, but speak a language not entirely dissimilar to Latin.13Federico Fazio, Diego Perotti and Javier Pastore all hail from Argentina, while Daniel Fuzato and Juan Jesus are Brazilian. Neither country would become known to Europeans until 1500 years after Caesar’s death.
This is far from typical of a Rome side in Caesar’s image, but these are exceptional circumstances, and Rome needs to steal a march on the opposition.14In usual circumstances, only Roman citizens could be drafted into Republican legions. However, in times of civil war, Caesar did draw troops from Gaul, which was technically illegal under Roman law (then again, his march on Rome itself was pretty illegal, too). Caesar will allow it for the time being, but may send them back to the provinces once the war is won.
In place of public proclamations and decrees, it is members of the media who will carry Caesar’s messages forth across the land. Caesar always preferred the public rostra, but an executive room full of journalists will suffice. The new ruler tells the waiting press that he cannot wait to get stuck in, firmly believes that the Senate has Rome’s best interests at heart,15Caesar definitely does not believe this. and will be looking to go on the attack whenever possible.
The methods of conveyance have changed, but Caesar’s oratory skills have not dimmed through the millennia.
The final introductory meeting is held with his magister equitum, Francesco Tomeius. Caesar has learned, both through personal experience and contemporary examples, not to trust those immediately below him in the chain of command. Old friend Claudius Ranierus led his Britons to unprecedented glory, only to be usurped in an armed revolt just nine months later to be replaced by his deputy. Caesar never was a fan of Shakespeare.16In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (1599), the eponymous character is portrayed as weak, superstitious, arrogant and overly ambitious.
According to Tomeius’ report, Rome is full of young, technically astute warriors who look strong on the flanks and can create problems for any opposition. However, the triarii – the legion’s last line of defence – badly needs strengthening.17In short, Rome’s goalkeepers are crap. Most concerning of all is the lack of mental fortitude. Poor concentration, determination, commitment, work rate and leadership – the antithesis of a
n Imperial Republican side.
This will change once Caesar’s brutal new training regime is implemented, and the Senate passes decrees allowing for adjustment of the wage budget.
But for now, the new ruler is content to be gazing out across the Trigoria, looking at what will become the fledgling foundations of his all-conquering