Roma’s American ownership has gotten flak in the past with regards to developing homegrown talent, and for good reason: the only Roman academy graduate to break into the senior squad since 2011 is everyone’s favorite Wolverine impersonator, Alessandro Florenzi. It’s still painful for some Romanisti that Andrea Bertolacci and Alessio Romagnoli were shipped off to Milan, and the continuous stream of foreign youth buys makes it very hard for members of Roma’s high-quality Primavera squad to find playing time in Serie A, regardless of manager. As a result of this dearth of Roman talent at the Olimpico, Lorenzo Pellegrini’s steady development at Sassuolo has been a bright spot for those hoping for a more, well, Roman Roma, with many expecting that the club will exercise its €10 million buy-back option on the Italian Under-21 international this July.
However, with the winter mercato just around the corner and Roma in desperate need of midfield reinforcements, it appears that Pellegrini may be back in giallo e rosso sooner than expected. Gianluca Di Marzio reported today that Roma are already in negotiations with Sassuolo over the rights to both Pellegrini and Sassuolo’s French striker Gregoire Defrel, with the two most likely costing Jim Pallotta €25 million altogether. Other sources have long insisted on Roma’s interest in Pellegrini and Defrel, so Di Marzio’s report should be viewed as both a confirmation of this interest and a signal that Frederic Massara and the Roman big wigs are interested in making a splash this January.
We’ve already talked about Pellegrini’s season recently (spoiler alert: he’s been good), and considering that many have named him Italy’s best U-21 prospect, it would be crazy for Roma to not exercise their option on the midfielder. Factor in that Roma always seems to need more midfield depth and that Juventus looks increasingly likely to pick up Genoa’s Tomás Rincón in January, and it becomes apparent that this move makes sense from a Capitoline perspective. The biggest negative is that Pellegrini is already cup-tied to Sassuolo for the Europa League (as is Defrel), but this wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world - if Roma does go far in Europe, legs will get tired for Serie A matches and Pellegrini will fit well into Roma’s midfield rotation.
Bringing back Lorenzo Pellegrini was always a good long-term move; bringing him back as early as January might be an even better one.