I have gone out on a limb before in these spaces, suggesting players Roma should purchase and those they should never sell, no matter the circumstances. With the troubling depth at center back beyond Kostas Manolas and Leandro Castan, my pitch for Shkodran Mustafi is looking better by the day; he lit it up this past season for Valencia, in case you weren't aware. And while I cautioned that Roma should never, ever, ever sell Mattia Destro, I'm beginning to think there's life after Mr. Right; Roma's midfield, when fully functioning, can make nearly any striker look like the second coming of Dennis Bergkamp.
But I'm here to tell you, fellow churchgoers, that the prospect of selling Alessio Romagnoli is about the stupidest notion this club could ever entertain, even dumber than that time we signed Julio Baptista and Adriano.
Set aside Roma's lack of depth on the backline, there is simply no plausible reason why they should acquiesce to Milan's overtures for the 20-year-old defender, which has now risen to €18m plus bonuses.
Romagnoli, our ninth rated prospect last summer (that will surely change this time around), is fresh off a remarkable season (for a young defender) at Sampdoria. In 31 matches for the Blucerchiati, Romagnoli averaged 1.7 tackles, 2.1 interceptions and 6.3 clearances per match, each of which placed him among Samp's top five performers in those categories.
Furthermore, when we last spoke of Romagnoli in these spaces, we lamented that, to date, the biggest blemish on his resume were the mental aspects of the game--positioning and timing. Well, based purely on his disciplinary records, fouls, and offsides per match, we can safely say that he's made gains in this department. Romagnoli's 0.5 offsides per match and 1.1 fouls committed per match were better than any of Roma's centerbacks last season.
Offensively speaking, Romagnoli was just as solid. Over those 31 appearances, Alessio scored two goals and contributed two assists, while completing 83% of his passes and winning 1.7 aerials per match, wining an impressive 61% of those. You might remember how solid Romagnoli was when pressed into service as a fullback in the spring of 2014, so its not as if he's some sort of lumbering behemoth back there; he's the total package.
And all of this came from a 20-year-old kid starting on a seventh place side. Much like Andrea Bertolacci's time with Genoa, Romagnoli's year at Sampdoria was an ideal incubator for his talents; he's years ahead of where he should rightfully be.
Hey, speaking of Bertolacci...
Those who would favor Roma selling Romagnoli have, in part, based their arguments on the parallels between these two Romans. Whether he was a lifelong Milan fan or not, the fact remains, Roma could spare the depth in midfield, where Bertolacci was blocked by a host of players, so grabbing the money and running may have been the best course of action, local ties be damned.
The defense, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. With Leandro Castan's status still in doubt, Roma has little beyond Manolas and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to protect the net. All of this is to say, Romagnoli has every chance to earn some serious minutes for Roma this season. Moreover, as we just discussed, the kid is legit, already outperforming some of Roma's current central defenders on both sides of the ball.
But then there's the emotional aspect, which has already spawned untold amounts of vitriol in Roma' s general direction. Less than a month after pawning off a local boy to hated AC Milan, is Walter Sabatini really ready to relive that nightmare with the arguably more talented Romagnoli? Can a fanbase that prides itself so much on being Roman really abide by that once more?
For my money, and if for no other reason than Romagnoli may be the best centerback prospect Italy has to offer, this would be the death knell to Sabatini's tenure as Roma's Director of Sport. There is simply no explanation, rational or otherwise, that could justify this sale, least of all to Milan.