I was hesitant to track every beat of the Radja Nainggolan transfer saga simply because I knew, based on experience, that all the twist and turns would ultimately amount to nothing; that the seemingly important incremental steps ultimately would have little bearing on the final deal. From €16m to €20m to €22m to €30m, the deal changed by the day. First It was Nainggolan alone, then Nainggolan + Astori, next Nainggolan + a mandatory purchase of Ibarbo, then Nainggolan + Ekdal, and finally Nainggolan + an Amazon Prime membership and James Pallotta's HBO GO password.
Whatever the case was, it was frustrating from both the fan and writer's perspective. It was almost as if they were throwing amounts on the wall and seeing what stuck; there was no rhyme nor reason to these rumors. Why was there such a disparity in the reported amounts in the first place? Why would the club want, given their glut of midfielders and recent acquisition of Andrea Bertolacci, Ekdal to begin with? It was cumbersome and pointless, so I wanted to shirk it as much as possible, but I couldn't resist.
I enjoy covering and reading about transfer rumors as much as the next fan, but writing about them, fully knowing that the first 90% of the story is bullshit, is very tiresome, simply because, as I mentioned, it seldom resembles the final deal, which was certainly the case here, though the final figures are probably a bit misleading.
In the case of Radja Nainggolan, the actual news part came today. And yes, we could've waited until this afternoon to mention it at all, but what sense would it have made to ignore such an intractable transfer involving the club's best player from this past season? None, so we carried on even though the variation among the rumors were utter nonsense; the amounts and throw-ins on the deal were completely arbitrary and so disconnected, it was all I could do to keep my eyes from rolling while typing them.
But that's the thing about transfer rumors, you know they're bullocks, but they get the ball rolling, they get us talking about what this club really needs and what is superfluous, and considering how essential he is to Garcia's set-up, we simply couldn't ignore the rumors, no matter how baseless.
According to the official statement, Roma has retained the remaining half of Nainggolan's contract for only €9m.
Now, here is where you're probably rolling your eyes. There is simply no way that is the final figure, not with the lofty amounts we discussed all week. The more likely scenario seems to be that, by some combination of performance bonuses for Nainggolan and a mandatory loan renewal of Victor Ibarbo, Cagliari will get their €20m out of Roma for these two players. Cagliari's officials would be excellent politicians; the way they tacked on that Ibarbo rider to this deal would play well on The Beltway, or Downing Street or Canberra, or wherever sleazy politicians congregate.
The Nainggolan piece of the equation is simple. With Kevin Strootman's return remaining uncertain and Daniele De Rossi's performance suddenly questioned, Nainggolan remains Roma's most important and dynamic midfielder, which makes determining a price point sort of difficult. Is he a €30m player? Probably not, but €20m? Certainly, and Sabatini seems to have fallen in that ballpark, though one could certainly make the case he cost the club several million by playing out the string so long.
As far as Ibarbo is concerned, well, that's a different ball of wax. With Gervinho on his way out the door, Iago Falque's brief resume, Adem Ljajic's not-quite-right-for-Rudi-skill-set, and Alessandro Florenzi's role perpetually up in the air, Ibarbo figures to log some heavy minutes this season, many of which figure to be as some sort of quasi-center forward. So his actual portion of this transfer is really irrelevant, but it may actually have more of a bearing on Roma's future, simply because we know what we're getting with Nainggolan and what he's capable of, while Ibarbo remains an athletic yet awkward commodity.
In any event, the saga is over, Nainggolan is 100% Roma's, and that's the best news we've had in months.