We spend an awful lot of time around here patting ourselves on the back, self-righteously proclaiming that Roma's youth system is beyond reproach, second to none; a direct pipeline from which Walter Sabatini can pluck Roma's next golden god. I say self-righteous for a reason; despite all the coverage (here's several hours of my life dedicated to propagating the lie), Roma's field of fledgling footballers often lies fallow; for every Alessandro Florenzi there are dozens of Alessandro Crescenzi's (FFS, he's only 23!) who are either thrust into untenable circumstances, forced to play well before they're ready, or they become perpetual loanees, tantalizing us with what might bes and whatever happened tos. Even when we factor in the law of averages in prospects becoming pros, Roma's ROI looks pretty shabby.
So, while we wait we wait with baited breath for Walter Sabatini to wrap up the Radja Nainggolan fiasco (I'm not even touching that one until it's done), let's shift our focus to Roma's latest would be wunderkind, Federico Viviani.
Viv, that's what I call him, followed in the same footsteps as Crescenzi and Florenzi before him, towing the middle ground between his two fellow Romans; exhibiting enough promise early on to avoid the Crescenzi career path—eight straight loans—but not nearly enough to crack the first team in his early 20s like our deal Ale. In other words, he's good, but he's not that good.
Viviani made some huge strides since he moved to Serie B side, Latina in January of 2014, scoring 11 goals in just over 50 appearances, eight of which came this past season. This, quite naturally, has drawn the attention of many a middle sized club looking to capitalize on the Capital's impatience.
After shirking the advances of several English sides, it appears as though Walter Sabatini is ready to capitulate, with rumors of a €4m sale to Palermo in the works, as Rosanero President Maurizio Zamparini confirmed that negotiations are in an advanced stage.
Your level of anxiety about this potential sale largely depends on your view of Miralem Pjanic and your subsequent level of optimism about Roma retaining him long term. Quite simply, with Pjanic's role growing in importance by the year, not to mention the presence of Radja Nainggolan (fingers crossed), Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman, Salih Uçan, Leandro Paredes and possibly Andrea Bertolacci, there is simply no room for Viviani at the moment, no matter how you define his role.
Of course, the flipside to that argument is precisely what we alluded to at the outset; you can't reap rewards from your youth academy if the players are never allowed graduate to the senior side in any meaningful way. I'm not saying Viviani is or will be anything special (a quick search reveals he's the next Andrea Pirlo), but where do you draw the line in the sand? These matters are further complicated when you consider the extent to which Roma plucks kids from other countries (Uçan and Paredes, to name two) and refuses to play them....it's like a Catch-22 but opposite.
If Roma were Chelsea or PSG and could afford top of the line studs at every position, it wouldn't matter, but they're not, so at some point youth must be served, and if nothing else, Viviani's sale represents another opportunity wasted, regardless of how he pans out.