Whether it's being spearheaded by Milan, Roma, or simply journalists with too much time on their hands, the Alessio Romagnoli to Milan rumors just won't die. What started off as an innocent oh isn't cute Milan offered €18m for one of the top young defenders in Italy transformed into a €25 million mega offer for a kid suddenly dubbed the new Alessandro Nesta. Given how quickly Andrea Bertolacci went from a Roman luxury to a mega million Milan necessity, those once innocent offers have taken on a decidedly darker tone, striking fear inside Roman hearts everywhere that Walter Sabatini has once again capitulated to his northern neighbors.
Not ones to sit idly by, Milan have reportedly upped their offer to €25 million plus a further €3 million in bonuses. While this isn't quite the €30 million price tag Roma reportedly issued to all Romagnoli's suitors, it's nearing the point of consideration. Can Roma really turn down that much money for a 20-year-old defender?
Making matters worse, the Gazzetta dello Sport has fueled speculation that Romagnoli is onboard with a move to Milan, where he would not only join his fellow Eternal City expatriate Bertolacci, but be reunited with Siniša Mihajlović, for whom he played last season in Sampdoria.
As die hard Roma fans we all naturally assume that kids who grow up kicking a ball around the Capital would naturally spurn all offers to remain in Rome. While there is a certain romanticism to that thinking, everyone has a limit, which got me thinking, why would Romagnoli suddenly crave a switch from the city of his birth? (yes, I know he's from just outside the city, but you get the picture)
So, let's try, to the extent possible, to replicate Romagnoli's thinking, bullet style:
- He made his debut at 17 under Zeman, a man who cares as much about defense as the Kardashians do about Geopolitics
- At 19-years-old, and in the midst of a title chase and playing for his second manager in as many years, he gets pressed into service as a fullback and does quite well
- At the end of 2014, he signs a three-year contract extension, binding him to Rome through 2018
At this point, things are looking good. In just two years, he went from an adolescent after thought under Zeman to a versatile and valued talent under Garcia. He wasn't exactly a starter yet, but his debut in the spring of 2014 foreshadowed a larger role with the club. Things were certainly looking up for Romagnoli, but then...
- Rather than keeping Romagnoli, Garcia opts for the Premier League castoff, Mapou Yanga Mbiwa, and the always adventurous Davide Astori, to battle for Roma's third centerback spot
- Romagnoli spent an entire season at Sampdoria, emerging as a key figure in Samps climb to 7th place, even scoring two goals and contributing two assists, statistically outperforming nearly all of Roma's central defenders across a host of categories
Following the 2013-2014 season, Romagnoli was projecting to be, at the very worst, a league average third centerback, which, for a kid his age, is astounding. However, rather than learning in Rome, he was banished to Sampdoria, while the men who took his spot, though both older and more experienced, cost more and actually played worse than him.
Considering what he accomplished under less than ideal circumstances in Rome, and how much growth he exhibited during his loan with Samp, not to mention Garcia's deplorable track record with young players, one can see how Romagnoli, in the face of constant transfer rumors, would start to entertain the notion of life in Milan.
Ultimately, selling Romagnoli for any amount is just bad business. Roma could never afford a €30 million defender on the open market, let alone one as young as Romagnoli, and while these monies could fund their purchase of Edin Dzeko, you have to ask yourself what is more valuable: two years of near-peak production from Dzeko or potentially 10 to 12 years of Romagnoli? In other words, which is the more precious commodity, or conversely, which one can be replicated easier with a league-average player: a forward who may grab you 12-15 goals a year or a kid around whom you can build your defense for a decade?
Romagnoli hasn't confirmed any of this speculation, of course, but it's reasonable to assume this is purely about playing time. Give the kid a consistent role, let him know you value his present and his future, and storylines like this will disappear once and for all.