On the heels of Walter Sabatini’s exit from Trigoria, professional coaches, to football pundits, to tifosi have sounded off. The question is, from Sky Sport to Twitter, how will “#Sabatini” be remembered?
If we jump back to the summer of 2011, we can rekindle the ideas of the great revolution – John Arne Riise cut, Taddei out the door, and Marco Borriello, well, big Marco stuck around. But many of the Old Guard were forced out, and younger players brought in. However, one constant criticism of the Smoking Gun’s tenure was that he often, and almost exclusively sought talent abroad, rather than from within Italy; and more crucially, outside of Roma’s ever-winning academy and Primavera.
To just name a few, from Gianluca Caprari, to Valerio Verre, and onto Matteo Politano, seemingly promising prospects were sold for small change in consideration to the global market. When teams like Sunderland are paying over 16 million euros for 22-year-old Didier N’Dong, a player who picked up 11 yellow cards last season for Lorient with average-at-best statistics, the larger picture needs to be addressed.
The medium/long term growth of Roma’s prodigies cannot be compromised for measly sales and buybacks under a system which ships them throughout the peninsula. With the lack of “B teams” in Italy, our antiquated and outward structure of hoping that loanees emerge to become star players in a completely new environment is one of those major things the FIGC will have to revise.
This story plays on a ten million euro decision for Roma – to buyback, or not to rebuy Luca Mazzitelli. One of those chips sent out of Rome in order to raise quick cash, the 20-year-old midfielder left on loan to Brescia in Serie B last season, and was sold to Sassuolo this summer for 3.5 million euros.
While working his way up and becoming a constant starter for the Leonesse, he often found himself played in the centre, or on the wing in a 3-man-formation. For the same club where Roberto Baggio, Andrea Pirlo, and Pep Guardiola went through the ropes, the ambidextrous player showed his overall power matched by his size, and a peculiar amount of ball control.
Under Eusebio Di Francesco, Mazz will continue to improve within the Italian core, as well as gain European tournament experience in the Europa League. He is also surrounded by strong leaders on the field, such as Francesco Acerbi and Paolo Cannavaro.
It took me less than ten seconds of watching the player to say aloud, “this kid reminds me of Stroot.” Where analytics let us down, instinct kicks in – and although he’s averaging over two tackles and two interceptions in just four appearances, it’s more about the blatant potential. He always looks to drive the ball forward, and is relentless to make sure the ball ends up at its intended target. Mazzitelli’s understanding of the game and delivery will be essential to Roma for years to come.
With a ten million euro buyback option, the opportunity is there to retake him. He could be a star, or he could be another Caprari, as in a player who has lots of potential, but finds himself in the wrong environment to maximize his capabilities. In the next few seasons, he will need to enter into Roma’s first team, where he will be in the locker room of elite players, under a championship-contending mentality. Under revised and more promoting conditions, there is no doubt, Mazzitelli will manifest.