Walter Sabatini's admiration of wingers is now bordering on a Brony-level obsession. What started out as a cryptic tweet from Mohamed Salah last week, advising of a forthcoming profile picture update (bestill my beating heart!), has now developed into a boots-on-the ground scenario. While the framework of the deal was hammered out last week, Salah has now arrived in Rome and will reportedly take a medical examination as soon as tomorrow.
In case you'd forgotten or conveniently ignored the rumor, Roma and Chelsea have agreed to a loan with a mandatory purchase clause, believed to total €23.5 million, or roughly five million more than the deal they originally brokered with Fiorentina last winter; a deal which, depending on whom you believe, Roma could have struck themselves were it not for their puzzling move for Victor Ibarbo.
Now, in case you're new around here, let me clue you into how these things generally work; they don't. Roma seldom engages in tidy transfer business, there is always some sort of delay or last second drama.
Enter Fiorentina, the jilted party in this love triangle. The Viola, you may recall, have laid legal claim to Salah's contractual rights, paying Chelsea an additional fee in the spring to extend the loan for another year, thereby negating Salah's supposed opt-out clause, to which the player believes he is entitled and Fiorentina maintains is non-existent.
So, to recap...Fiorentina paid Chelsea to keep Salah, Chelsea doesn't want Salah and Salah doesn't want the Viola, so naturally Roma had to butt in and bid on a player they could have had in January for five million less.
However, lest you believe Fiorentina is c-blocking Roma, the Viola are fulfilling their half of the proverbial Serie a bro-code:
Our point of view has always been the same. We believe the player has a contract with Fiorentina, and now we'll find an adequate solution. Right now we're primarily talking with Chelsea, not Roma.
Clearly, until there's a solution, he can't play. Fiorentina has never said ‘Salah can't be in Italy', actually it's like I just said, Roma could be an option, but I repeat, we're mainly talking with Chelsea.
Source: Football Italia
I'm honestly at a loss for words here. Forget the fact that Roma has no shortage of wingers right now, why on earth would Walter Sabatini throw himself headlong into this quagmire, which has little to no hope of being resolved prior to the start of the season, and certainly not by Roma's open day, a friendly against Sevilla on August 14th, in which the new squad will officially be presented to the fans.
No matter how you approach this, signing Mohamed Salah makes no sense.
Tactically he's redundant. Yes, he's a slight upgrade over Gervinho, which is all well and good until you realize that, you know, Gervinho, along with Juan Iturbe, Victor Ibarbo, Adem Ljajic, Iago Falque and Alessandro Florenzi, remains on the squad. That's simply too many bodies to rotate among two-positions. If they can somehow offload Gervinho, this criticism will shrink somewhat, though they would have still paid way too much, more on that in a second.
Pragmatically and legally speaking, it's downright foolish. He has literally been the subject of an intractable legal battle for several months now, one that shows no signs of abating. He is, for all intents and purposes, the 21st century footballing equivalent of Elian Gonzalez. So, even if we erase the first point, it's not as if this is a cut and dry transfer, which barely exists in Sabatini's world anyway. If nothing else, this promises to be an extremely drawn out and frustrating transfer, one which will, if nothing else, come down to the wire. And we haven't even mentioned the possibility that he might be temporarily banned from playing as a result of the legal battle between Chelsea and Fiorentina.
Lastly, this move is a financial disaster. Between Salah and the equally priced Edin Dzeko, Roma could potentially drop some €50 million on two-positions that, if we're being honest, weren't in dire need of upgrading in the first place. If anything, they should just invest that money in one super striker, not split it between an aging veteran like Dzeko or a mindless runner like Salah.
Say this about Walter Sabatini, he's a man of convictions. Extremely expensive, myopic and frustrating convictions.