Walter Sabatini has a lot of redeeming qualities: he's every anti-tobacco person's worst nightmare because he looks cool as *%$& smoking, he has an eye for young talent and he generally does pretty well when selling Roma's assets. However, when it comes to assembling a defense the past few years, he approaches it with the same pragmatism I use when packing for a trip; just shove everything in there the morning of the trip and sort it out when you land, no biggie, you can get toothbrushes anywhere.
While we're still waiting for Lucas Digne to be liberated from Paris, Roma's first last-minute reinforcement is all but official. Stuttgart defender and German wunderkind—hey, look at that, that's the first time I was able to use that term in a linguistically correct manner—Antonio Rudiger has already landed in Rome to take his medical ahead of his loan spell with the Giallorossi. Given that he is recently removed from a knee injury, this won't be your standard pre-transfer exam, there's a lot riding on this.
Though, if things go according to plan, Rudiger will join Roma on an initial one year loan, which most outlets speculate contains an appearance-based clause that will trigger a mandatory buyout, believed to be €9 million. So, in effect, Sabatini swapped out Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who was probably already at his ceiling as a player, for an incredibly talented gamble, one who might make Big Walt look like genius.
Financially speaking it was a no-brainer, but what about tactically?
We talked about it at length last week, but in summation, this kid has all the physical tools and then some, it's simply a matter of fitness and minutes. Prior to his knee injury this past December, Rudiger's star was on the rise. After making 30 starts for Stuttgart in 2013-2014, Rudiger even managed to bust through Germany's impressive defensive corps, actually starting as a fullback during Die Mannschaft's Euro 2016 qualifiers in October 2014, and if you believe ESPN, all of this made him an €18 million commodity last winter.
At 22-years-old, Rudiger is prone to the typical mental associated with young defenders, frequently relying on his physical gifts rather than reading and anticipating the run of play, but make no mistake, he has all the makings of a top defender, having drawn comparisons to Jerome Boateng and Thiago Silva among others.
So, while he'll most likely remained sidelined through September, and will probably suffer some growing pains throughout the fall, this could turn out to be €9 million very well spent.
These are precisely the sort of gambles Roma should be taking, but seriously Walter, don't wait so long next time.