The European Cup final is supposed to be the pinnacle. For Agostino Di Bartolomei it was the start of a tragic downfall. On the 30th May 1984, Agostino Di Bartolomei led his boyhood club Roma out at the Stadio Olimpico for the European Cup final against Liverpool, fulfilling an ambition that every young football-obsessed child dreams of. On the 30th May 1994, Agostino Di Bartolomei took his own life by firing a bullet through his heart.Di Bartolomei was Roma’s best player against Liverpool. A tall and elegant playmaker, the Giallorossi captain ran the game from deep, turning defence into offence quickly by launching long, accurate passes forward for wingers Bruno Conti and Odoacre Chierico or strikers Roberto Pruzzo and Ciccio Graziani. Despite his shirt bearing the number ten, Di Bartolomei played his best football as a regista; stationed just in front of the back four, he would routinely collect the ball from the centre-backs and instigate Roma attacks. It is a mystery that his career passed without a single Italy cap: long-serving manager Enzo Bearzot may have preferred the energy and industry of players such as Gabriele Oriali and Marco Tardelli in his starting eleven, but it is scarcely believable that someone of Di Bartolomei’s quality never even made an international squad. After 120 minutes of action, the scores remained level. Phil Neal had given Liverpool a twelfth-minute lead after a fortunate ricochet fell the full-back’s way eight yards from goal, but Roma responded before the interval through Pruzzo’s looping header from a Conti cross. Neither team managed to get the all-important winner in normal time, and the additional thirty minutes passed without event, neither Roma nor Liverpool willing to take unnecessary risks in search of a winner. As such, the European Cup would be decided on penalty kicks for the first time in its 29-year history. When Steve Nicol fired the opening effort over the bar, Roma had a great opportunity to take an early advantage. The responsibility fell to the skipper and Di Bartolomei made no mistake, smashing the ball straight down the middle after his customary single-step run-up. Things quickly turned, though, with Conti striking his penalty high over the bar and Liverpool converting their next three spot-kicks. When Graziani failed to score, Alan Kennedy was given the chance to seal the game and secure Liverpool’s fourth European Cup, an opportunity he duly took by side-footing the ball to goalkeeper Franco Tancredi’s right. Nils Liedholm’s fantastic Roma side of Conti, Falcao, Carlo Ancelotti and Di Bartolomei had lost the European Cup final in their own stadium. Those players knew they may never get a better chance. Liedholm departed that summer to return to former club Milan, and his successor Sven-Goran Eriksson soon decided that Di Bartolomei was not part of his plans. The then 32 year-old joined up with Liedholm at the San Siro but was extremely open with his feelings about the transfer, stating in numerous interviews that he could not understand why Roma were prepared to let him go. After all, Di Bartolomei had been born in the city, joined Roma at the age of fourteen and gone on to play 308 games for the club, wearing the armband on 146 occasions. This was not a player past his best, either; Di Bartolomei was an essential member of the 1983 title-winning team and had continued his excellent form throughout 1984. Notwithstanding Eriksson’s personal midfield preferences, Roma’s decision to authorise their captain’s departure remains difficult to explain.
THE FALLEN CAPTAIN - Di Bartolomei