Rudi Garcia presumably loves wingers because of the way they maneuver on the pitch, and thanks to that extreme admiration, Walter Sabatini has had to do some maneuvering of his own, frantically attempting to find homes for Roma's spare pacey parts. Among those left on the outside looking in, as Gervinho executes pointless run after pointless run, is Juan Iturbe, who is quickly becoming one of the most controversial purchases in club history.
You know the story by now, Roma snapped up Iturbe last summer after his move to Juventus collapsed in the wake of Antonio Conte's abrupt resignation, quickly throwing €22 million down on the 22-year-old winger. The early returns on this investment have been quite meager, as Manu struggled with injuries, inconsistencies and just plain poor performances, scoring only three goals and contributing three assists in all competitions last season.
As if his spot in Roma's rotation wasn't already on thin ice, the summer acquisitions of Mohamed Salah, Iago Falque and the inexplicable renewal of Victor Ibarbo's loan put Iturbe in an extremely tenuous situation. While he may have more raw talent and potential than any of those names, he clearly fell down Garcia's ladder and those moves seemed to indicate little hope of moving up a few rungs.
Something had to give in either direction. After being cajoled by his agents, it seems as though Iturbe has warmed to the idea of a season away from Rome. While several English clubs were after his signature, it seems as though Iturbe is destined for the Genoa Cricket and Football Club While the particulars of the transaction haven't been released, or even officially agreed to for that matter, it is believed to be a season-long loan with a right of redemption valued at a reported €20 million.
Given how much I've written about Iturbe over the past year, you can probably guess what side of the fence I fall on, but the bottom line has always been this; he needs to play. So if spending a season in Genoa is what it takes to achieve that end, then so be it, but if you've followed Roma for any amount of time, you know how Roma loans work; this kid will never wear a Roma shirt again, making this a colossal failure on the part of Walter Sabatini.
We'll never know the extent to which Roma tracked Iturbe prior to acquiring him from Verona, but as more time passes, the more this looks like a panic purchase. Iturbe was a walking highlight film during the 2013-2014 season, blowing past opponents, drilling shots into the back of the net and serving up goals to Luca Toni on a silver platter, so naturally he was bound for Juventus, until he wasn't.
The turn around from Conte's resignation to Roma securing Iturbe's signature was so sudden and so mind boggling, you really have to wonder how much analysis they put into this. What position would he play? how much would he play? would he jump right in or should Roma ease his transition? Could he jive with Garcia's tactics? Was he mature enough to buy into a team mentality or was he a big fish-small pond sort of player?
I'm a huge fan of Iturbe, his ceiling is as high as any prospect on this club, but a year on and this move looks like it was severely lacking in prescience or any shred of forethought and planning, both financially and tactically.
While loaning him to Genoa for some consistent minutes is probably a smart move at the end of the day, it sets Roma up for a potential calamity. Say he succeeds and Genoa exercises their right to redeem, Roma takes an immediate €2 million loss, but what if this mirrors Destro's spell at Milan, what if Iturbe stinks it up with Genoa? Sure, the Iturbe critics will be justified, but that would put an even larger dent in Roma's pocketbook, as they'd probably find him a difficult asset to offload, and would most likely end up selling him at an even more substantial loss.
We've probably seen the last of Juan Iturbe in Rome, but his time with the club will loom large, serving as a warning sign of what not to do. You don't invest €22 million in a kid without doing your doing diligence, and you certainly shouldn't shuffle him out of town after one year. He is a hellaciously talented but flawed player, but when you make that sort of investment in a kid, you have to...have to...set him up for success. Anything else is just poor planning.
The Juan Iturbe fiasco is a pock on the face of Roma, smacking of tactical, financial and developmental ineptitude at every level.