If you ever needed proof that the transfer rumor cycle is an irrational and insatiable beast, get a load of this. With their director of sport walking away from the club—the very epitome of directionlessness—the papers would have you believe that Roma are actually working the phones, already angling to upgrade their squad this winter.
So, just who is this young man that we’re supposed to get excited about before ultimately calling him shit three weeks later? Well, it’s none other than Xherdan Shaqiri, everyone’s favorite smug Serie A failure.
If that name sounds familiar to you, particularly in these spaces, it’s because we heaped effusive praise upon him over two years ago, when he was reportedly Roma’s Mr. X for the summer of 2014, not the mid year replacement player he’s since become.
At that time, Shaqiri seemed like an ideal change of scenery candidate; a talented young player with the misfortune of being buried on the bench of super club. His underlying numbers just screamed give him a chance and he’ll explode!
Moreover, when we look at his per 90 minute numbers, a dynamic talent begins to emerge; one who creates and scores with deadly efficiency.
Shaqiri averaged 0.69 goals per 90 minutes (3rd on the club), 0.23 assists per 90 (9th on the club), and 3.45 dribbles per 90 (6th on the club), while his 2.65 key passes per 90 minutes actually led Bayern and were fifth overall in the Bundesliga. Once again, when we consider his age and inconsistent minutes, these numbers are quite impressive and seem to fit his billing as the new Arjen Robben.
At the time, Bayern valued the young Swiss attacker at roughly €20 million, and while Roma weren’t able to close the deal, Shaqiri did get his long rumored move to Italy, making a €15 million move to Inter Milan, for whom he made all of 18 appearances, scoring two goals along the way.
After his wasted year in the north of Italy, Shaqiri traded the glitz and glamor of Milan for, well, for Stoke. And while he hasn’t quite transformed into Arjen Robben, he has settled into a nice niche with Stoke, grabbing three goals and chipping in six assists in league play last season, and at only 24-years-old, he still has a little room for growth.
All of this, of course, leads us back to Roma, who, as Calciomercato would have you believe, are interested in grabbing Shaqiri as sort of a bulwark against fatigue once Mohamed Salah is away on AFCON duty in January. Aside from the sheer numbers game, this rumor is partially fueled by Luciano Spalletti’s prior admiration of Shaqiri, whom he tried to bring to Zenit a couple years ago.
Shaqiri may not be the world beater many imagined just two short years ago, but he can play all over the midfield and even out wide and can do virtually anything with the ball at his feet. That versatility and uptempo style would seem to make him an ideal fit in Spalletti’s squad, and certainly an upgrade over Juan Iturbe, who is Shaqiri’s equal in athleticism, but is still lacking in the finer points of the game.
Granted, this is still miles away from fruition, least of all because we don’t really know who’s running Roma’s show now, but this seems like an ideal and sensible winter reinforcement.