While we continue to calm our collective nerves in the wake of Monday's near-fiasco versus Udinese, we take our usual mid-week trip through the Roman rumor mill. In this week's edition, we focus on Federico Balzaretti's Transatlantic treatments, Francesco Totti's quest to play to age 40 and stoke the Eden Hazard to Roma fires.
In case you had forgotten, Federico Balzaretti remains an employee of Associazione Sportiva Roma. Balzaretti, 32-years-old, has been out since early November with a hernia, but has suffered several setbacks in his attempt to return to the pitch. In his absence, Roma has used everyone from Dodo to Vasilis Torosidis to Alessio Romagnoli at left back, but, chances are, none of those names will be the starter on opening day next season.
Balzaretti, however, is still signed through the end of next season. So, if Roma are to reap any value out of the remaining 12 months of that deal, they need to ensure he won't suffer any further relapses in his rehabilitation. Sending him to Boston for continued treatment is testament to the seriousness with which they are approaching his rehab.
Through his first 11 appearances in the fall of 2013, Balza was actually quite effective, hitting on 89% of his passes, while averaging 2.6 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per match. Then, of course, there was his game winning goal in the season's first derby. While he's not a spectacular player by any stretch of the word, Balzaretti remains more than capable of contributing to the Roman cause on both ends of the pitch. So, no matter what role he assumes, his return will be a welcomed one.
In an interview with Il Romanista, Francesco Totti touched upon a variety of topics, ranging from his son's relationship with the club to his goal versus Udinese on Monday.
Speaking to his relationship with the club, Totti remarked:
It's hard to say, it's not easy to find the words... I think my son will understand by himself when he grows up that supporting Roma gives you something more than the others. For me it's everything, passion, love, desire to bring the team as far as possible
The fact that you're reading this probably means that you can relate to Totti's sentiments. However, the simple fact that he acknowledges and appreciates that unique relationship contributes in large measure to his legacy with this club, which is really unlike any other player in the game today, or perhaps ever. Totti and Roma have been, are, and will forever be inextricably linked.
Totti also chimed in on the all but lost Scudetto race:
In the last four or five games, not before. We believed, we were first, then second, we were there. However, it's 99% gone. I'm keeping a 1% for the mathematics.
When prompted about regrets from this season, Totti lamented on his club crashing out of the Coppa Italia:
It's not about the league, it's about the Coppa Italia semi-final against Napoli. Not the second leg, but the first one. If we had won two or three-null it would have been a different game. We had beaten Sampdoria in excellent shape and Juventus and we were going to beat Napoli. Then the final match against Fiorentina would have been great, with many former players
It's really a fantastic interview with the Captain, he touches on everything from Didier Drogba rumors (he wants him), to Daniele De Rossi's suspension (understandable but not appreciated) and even the prospect of playing with Mario Balotelli (umm...yeah, no), but we'll close it out with his thoughts on Kevin Strootman:
He immediately fit into the group, he looks like a veteran. Formidable player. I did not expect him to be so strong, I did not know. 20 million euros? ‘Wow,' I said to myself, he must be a top player. The dedication to Kevin comes from the entire team. The number 6 is important, it has been worn by players who made history
This roughly translated piece gives some into the methods behind Totti's madness. Hoping to play until age 40, Totti has a four fold plan.
Step One: Focus training on areas in which he's already been injured, with the aims of reducing recurrence.
Step Two: Time management, as in, play when it matters. Looking ahead to next season, expect Totti to be exerted when it counts, the big domestic matches and the midweek European tilts.
Step Three: Eat Junk, Become Junk. As we saw during the summer of Zeman, limiting Totti, and presumably the rest of the squad, to a low carbohydrate (less than 70g) and high protein diet should ensure that his energy stores are at their peak week-in-week-out.
Step Four: Recovery. Early to bed, early to rise. No skydiving, no bungee jumping, just a regular Roman life.
Seems pretty reasonable, right? While Totti continues to astound us with his ageless performances, at some point in time, presumably next season, Roma will need to devise a conscientious plan on how to best utilize Totti's twilight years.
If you've been paying attention to the rumor mill, you've most likely noticed that Roma has continually been connected to a horde of top and near-top strikers, headlined by Karim Benzema and Mario Mandzukic, but the latest names mentioned with a move to Roma are somewhat more subdued.
First up, the man with two last names, Porto striker Jackson Martinez. The 27-year-old Columbian has 15 goals in 23 league appearances for Porto, adding three more in European play. So, while he may not be a household name, he's putting together a pretty impressive season, though it's a ways off from his 26 goal tally last season.
The other name mentioned in that link belongs to 26-year-old Greek forward, Konstantinos Mitroglou, who only recently signed with Fulham. Although he had a pretty decent run of form in the Greek league, it's hard to imagine what sort of impact he'd have on Roma beyond merely being a warm body, though he does have a pretty sweet beard.
We'll close this week's rundown with perhaps the least attainable name linked to the Lupi...
Chelsea standout and Belgian world beater, Eden Hazard, had some nice words for Rudi Garcia, saying " I've always known that Garcia is a great coach. He gave us a lot and I am pleased that he is having a great season with Roma this year"
With 13 goals and 7 assists in league play at only 23-years-old, you can sort of understand why his price tag may soar north of €40m, but that hasn't stopped Roma fans from dreaming of another Garcia reunion. After all, Hazard scored 50 goals and dished out nearly 60 assists under Garcia's tutelage.
While it's highly unlikely Roma will break their own transfer record this summer, Hazard is precisely the type of player on whom Roma should splurge: young, versatile and extremely dangerous.