Now that Antonio Conte has officially been named the next manager of Chelsea, we can expect the onslaught to begin. From the moment Conte was connected to Chelsea, rumors of a peninsular purge began to swell, with the former Juventus manager rumored to be eyeing several Serie A standouts. From Gonzalo Higuain to Paul Pogba, nary a Serie A star has escaped Conte's tractor beams.
Included in that horde of would be Chelsea players are Roma stalwarts Radja Nainggolan and Miralem Pjanic, who was rumored to be London this week. While we've discussed each of these rumors separately, taken with today's "news" that Kostas Manolas is Conte's latest object of desire, it seems as though Chelsea wants to pare Roma down to the bone--someone should tell him these guys are losers who can't ever rise above second place.
In all seriousness, what Chelsea wants, Chelsea gets (for the most part), so we may have to face a bitter truth this summer: Roma simply cannot pay these guys what they're worth, so the greener pastures of the Premiership will beckon louder each summer.
So, with that in mind, I pose a question to you: which player can Roma afford to lose?
To answer that question, let's go through the pros and cons of each player, starting with the latest name on that list, Manolas, and render a verdict on their possible sale.
Brief bio: Manolas was brought to Roma in the summer of 2014 as an ostensible replacement for Mehdi Benatia. Manolas, then 23-years-old, was fresh off a solid run of play with Greece during World Cup 2014. Manolas was five years into his professional career at that point and cost Roma €13 million; a pretty tidy sum considering how well he's played since then.
Pros: This piece from last March pretty much makes the case: Manolas is strong willed, agile, explosive and arguably the fastest central defender in the league. In the year or so since that piece was written, Manolas has shown steady improvement in most facets of the game, particularly in terms of his tackling and heading efficiency, both of which have grown by over 10% since last season, indicating that his judgement and timing are improving.
Cons: Greece Lightning is clearly on the rise, but as we've seen several times this season, his penchant for boneheaded mistakes remains intact, both in terms of costly errors and ill advised cards, but, much like his kindred spirit, Philippe Mexes, you take the good and bad with a player like this.
Verdict: Keep him. Sure, Roma has had luck in replacing central defenders lately, but it seems as though his understanding of the game is slowly catching up with his physical gifts. Two to threes from now, he may be worth twice as much.
Brief bio: Arguably Roma's best ever winter purchase (non Luca Toni category), Nainggolan fit seamlessly into the midfield, taking over for the injured Kevin Strootman in the winter of 2014. While the co-ownership/loan situation was a fiasco in the making, Roma managed to snare Nainggolan for a mere €9 million, almost an absurd figure in today's marketplace
Pros: Take your pick. He can run, he can pass, he can tackle and he can shoot. The only limit to Nainggolan's game is his imagination and, let's be honest, patience. Nainggolan's offensive output has increased every season since making the Captial switch, proving that he's much more than an enforcer or defensive safety valve. Not only that, he's slowly become a leader and burgeoning club icon.
Cons: The drawbacks to Radja's game really depends on what you see as his natural role. If he's a defensive midfielder, then there are few nits to pick, beyond his sometimes reckless tackling. However, if you view him as pure central and/or attacking midfielder, then his somewhat limited creativity becomes an issue. And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention his penchant for shooting at will, not so much in volume, but rather quality of chances--Nainggolan has only placed 37% of his shots on target this season.
Verdict: Keep him. He just does so many things on the pitch, and does them so well, that he'd be hard to replicate on the open market, let alone among Roma's current ranks.
Brief bio: Purchased on deadline day 2011, Pjanic was the jewel of Luis Enrique's summer, costing Roma roughly €11 million. Since then, Pjanic has become the lynchpin to Roma's attack, setting career highs in goals and assists (based on all comps) this year.
Pros: Passing, creating, dribbling, shooting from distance, and being among the world's most dangerous free kick specialists are all calling cards for Pjanic. He's suffered and survived Roma's managerial ebbs and flows over the past five years emerging as one of the game's best players and has absolutely come to life under Luciano Spalletti, flourishing in his new attack all the time role.
Cons: Again, you'll have to take these with a grain of salt, but the common refrains among Pjanic detractors is his tendency to disappear during matches (which is hard to precisely quantify) and his virtual non-presence on the defensive side the ball, which is, unfortunately, rather easy to quantify--he's a horrendous tackler is what we're getting at.
Verdict: Sell but lose a lot of sleep. Pjanic is the bee's knees, no one is debating that, but, and depending on where they sell him, there are viable replacement options. From in house names like Leandro Paredes and Gerson to market options ranging from Georginio Wijnaldum to Adrien Rabiot to even Eden Hazard, Roma can find a suitable replacement for Pjanic, though it would hurt in the short run.
So, what do we think, who can Roma afford to lose?