Late last week we delved once more into Roma's sometimes frustrating handling of their youth academies. The TL;DR version being, the club can't reap rewards from this impressive stockpile of youth if they don't get adequate playing time. Whether they're sent out on an ill-fitting loan or simply never given a chance to play, Roma hasn't always earned the greatest dividends on these investments. However, there is one young man with whom they seemingly played their cards perfectly, Genoa midfielder Andrea Bertolacci.
Bertolacci, a born and bred Roman, came up through the ranks of the youth academy only to be immediately sent on loan to Lecce, for whom he made 43 appearances and scored six goals over two years. So far, so good, but we've certainly read that story before.
After rebuffing Lecce's attempt to purchase 50% of his contractual rights, Roma did the unthinkable, selling that same stake to Genoa in exchange for Panagiotis Tachtsidis, leading to this current quagmire. As we've mentioned many times, the co-ownership paradigm has mercifully gone the way of the dodo, except for those deals struck prior to the rule change; a caveat for which Roma may pay dearly, as both Bertolacci and Radja Nainggolan are currently caught between two clubs.
While the stress of losing Nainggolan is easy to understand (he was arguably Roma's best player this year), prior to this season, letting Bertolacci walk wouldn't have been the worst thing to ever happen to this club. He always had potential, but Roma is seldom left wanting in midfield, so we could have solidered on while he was lighting it up for the Genoa Cricket and Football Club.
However, his time at Genoa was so productive that Bertolacci has emerged as a crucial element in Roma's long term plans. In 34 league appearances (a feat unto itself for anyone remotely connected to Roma), Bertolacci scored six goals and dished out eight assists, the latter of which led Genoa. Bertolacci was also active behind the ball, averaging 2.1 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per match, both of which were top ten figures on his club this past season.
Roma handled Bertolacci's development absolutely perfectly, bar the 50% for Tachtsidis swap, finding the perfect incubator for his talents; a place where he would not only play, but face top competition every week. His development and this loan was so perfectly executed that the thought of losing him has put our collective panties in a bunch; no longer is he merely a potential piece for the future, he may be an essential piece in the present.
And, wouldn't you know it, the rest of the league has taken note and made it their mission to make the redemption of his remaining 50% a real pain in the ass. With AC Milan, and even Atletico Madrid, sniffing around Berto, Genoa may be able to pry anywhere from €6m-€7.5m from Roma, as well as part of all of Colombian attacker, Carlos Carbonero.
At 24-years-old, Bertolacci now has the experience to match his talent, so this is no longer a matter of potential; he has the talent to contribute right away, so we shouldn't necessarily scoff at that asking price, nor should we worry about what his place on the roster would do to someone like Leandro Paredes or Salih Uçan. Bertolacci's career track is the model for those two players, so it would be foolish to keep him at bay for fear what it would do to Roma's other young midfielders.
Roma has mastered the first part of the equation, locating the talent and nurturing it appropriately, now all they have to do is find a way to bring him home.