In just over a month, the January 2017 transfer window will open for European teams.
While Roma sits at the almost-top of the table, this success has been due to not just quality players, but Luciano Spalletti’s master approach. To have recovered the defense after losing Lucas Digne, and major injuries suffered by Toni Rudiger, Mario Rui, and Alessandro Florenzi, is a remarkable feat.
Part of the resurgence has been down to certain players like Federico Fazio rising above any expectations, and the constant running and control of the midfield. Daniele De Rossi has been spectacular, in what is supposed to be his receding years. Nevertheless, Roma enters the mercato with three must-need positions: Left back, creative midfield, and right-wing forward.
Although Juan Jesus was brought in for a hefty sum of ten million euros, his inconsistent play has left much to be desired. And even with Rui returning from injury, it will surely take time for the Portuguese fullback to regain confidence and to play three games per week.
The creator in midfield has been sorely missed since Miralem Pjanic’s departure. It was evident in preseason when Roma travelled to face Didier Drogba’s Montreal Impact, and remains a gaping hole in the club’s “simpler” games.
Further along, the Lupi will have to adjust to life without ‘Momo’ Salah – the right sided creative outlet will be away for the African Cup of Nations tournament from the middle of January to the first week in February. Egypt has a strong chance of progression, meaning Mo can be expected to be out for at least three weeks – at a time when Roma will have to face Sampdoria/Cagliari (pending on Coppa Italia results), Udinese, Cagliari (Serie A), Sampdoria, and Fiorentina. No small objective in such a short amount of time.
A shortlist has mentioned names such as Alessio Cerci, Memphis Depay, Gregoire Defrel, Alejandro Gomez, and Ladislav Krejci from Bologna. Oddly, the majority of those mentioned play left-wing forward, and are right-footed players, whereas Defrel is a center-forward. Not direct replacements for the right-sided, and left-footed Egyptian.
Another name to be mentioned is a stretch, but the inquiry is worth a try – also considering the current sporting director’s emphasis on Italian talent. Federico Bernardeschi would be a fantastic option on loan with option to buy, although the chances Fiorentina are willing to depart with the player are very slim. He is from Tuscany, and is a hot commodity in Italian football, having already scored four goals and made one assist. Just two years ago though, he was on an expiring contract – a fact all Italian directors seem to have regretfully ignored.
The most realistic, and best suited option could be hiding within the long relationship just close to Florence though – Empoli’s Riccardo Saponara has had a slow start to the season, but a goal and assist in his last match against Pescara shows his play may just be a matter of confidence and submersion in a mid-level team. It was just two seasons ago he notched seven goals and three assists.
If the 24-year-old has the backing of a strong midfield, then there is no doubt his ball skills and blistering pace will be able to exploit most left backs, and supply Edin Dzeko with the dagger pass.
Supplying the forwards, the creative midfielder will have to be spritely – strong in the counterattack, and confident in possession. Very few names have been mentioned, so it is a mystery if Spalletti is still asking for such position. Though, it is likely, given the missed Borja Valero deal after crashing out of the Champions League qualification round.
Sardinia tends to hide gems – Daniele Conti, Marco Sau (don’t get me started on my love affair with Sau), and a player by the name of Davide Di Gennaro. Milan youth product, Di Gennaro is entering his prime now at 26-years-old, and is surely ready to return to a bigger club. When Roma faced Cagliari earlier in the season, he was unanimously rated as the best player on the field – constantly demonstrating his willingness to move the ball forward, and free the attackers ahead of him with long balls, or drag opponents onto him to liberate more space for the rest of them. These qualities could be exactly the tonic that Roma needs to make the big push for silverware.
In left defense, things become more tricky. While Matteo Darmian looks destined for a loan-move to Inter Milan, an interchangeable player such as him would be most useful. With just Bruno Peres accustomed to playing right wingback, the Giallorossi lack a truly find themselves short on this defensive flank. If the Italian international fullback could be persuaded, his impact would be most crucial. However, other alternatives like Jose Iglesias – otherwise known as Nacho – seem to be closer rather than further. With just four starts between all competitions for Real Madrid, the 26-year-old’s talent is hidden by the likes of Marcelo and Danilo. Sometimes, players in such scenarios just need confidence and continuous playing time in order to flourish.
Walter Sabatini was the Italian Chuck Norris – shooting from the hip, and hitting his target dead-on at times. We can agree that many of his selections and financial doings greatly impacted the club, yet, in the wake of amounted debt from Rosella Sensi and wrongfully rated players like Victor Ibarbo, Seydou Doumbia, and [insert failed player here], Roma’s budget remains constrained by the actions of the past generations. Only with sound decisions this January mercato, and that extra bit of luck, will Roma be able to capture some long-waited and needed silverware.