Roma finally secured Antonio Rüdiger's full contractual rights a mere 72 hours ago for a song--only €9 million--but as we cautioned upon reading that news, don't get used to Rüdiger's smiling face. Facing Financial Fair Play sanctions, Roma, as we all know by now, must come up with €30 million to balance to the books by the end of the month. While most have assumed Miralem Pjanic would be the man to move on (with Barcelona his latest suitor), Rüdiger's increasing popularity on the transfer market, coupled with Chelsea's dire need for a defender, could see the young German become Roma's sacrificial lamb instead.
So what are talking about exactly? While we've known for a few days that Chelsea were at least tangentially interested in Rüdiger, and really about 45% of Roma's roster at this point, there wasn't much traction to these rumors; they were simply that, rumors. And while we're miles away from an actual transfer, multiple sources are reporting that Chelsea and Roma are approximately €4 million away from making a deal.
@BlueBIueBlue Before 30th of June Rudiger will be the first player to leave Rome.— Angelo Mangiante (@angelomangiante) June 3, 2016
The deal is almost done with Chelsea, they are very close
Mangiante is a reporter for Sky Italia, and his Tweet echoes what we've heard in other papers, most notably Il Tempo, that this deal is excruciatingly close, with only a few million standing in the way (H/T to WAGNH for that Tweet). If you follow that link to our Chelsea site, they do a bit of semantical analysis, attempting to surmise what Mangiante meant by "first player to leave Rome", but I'm not going down that rabbit hole. Not yet.
While I have my doubts that Roma can get a full €30 million for Rüdiger, erase their FFP concerns and save Pjanic in one fell swoop, the prospect of this move brings up an interesting debate: how do you build a team? From the back, front or middle?
Hop on over to the GdS piece about Roma's annual defensive overturn and you'll see something shocking: Over the past five years Roma has "exchanged a staggering tally of 35 players in either the defence or goalkeeping department." If Rüdiger is sold and the loans of Lucas Digne and Wojciech Szczesny aren't renewed or retained in full, then 3/5ths of Roma's back line will be overturned this year, leaving only Alessandro Florenzi and Kostas Manolas as the incumbents.
While no one on earth would argue that Rüdiger is a better overall player than Pjanic, are Roma cutting off their nose to spite their face here? What should they value more, Pjanic's brilliance or the defensive cohesion and continuity they forged throughout 2016 thanks in large part to Rüdiger?
I hate the notion of losing Miralem Pjanic, I really do, but the in house options (Radja Nainggolan and Leandro Paredes) would soften the blow. The same cannot be said for Rüdiger--Leandro Castan is but a memory at this point, while Norbert Gyomber is, well, Norbert Gyomber.
Make no mistake, Roma and Walter Sabatini are stuck between a rock and a hard place. No matter who they sell, there will be backlash and second guessing. Voluntarily relinquishing a player of Pjanic's caliber isn't something to trifle with, nor is giving up a perfect defensive specimen like Rüdiger. It's an unenviable position, but ultimately, they dug their own grave here, so they'll get little sympathy from me.
If Rüdiger is indeed sold, I won't miss the awkward stroke of 'Alt+0252' for the ü in his surname, but in my eyes, his physical tools, his ceiling as a player and the continuity he brings to the defense aren't things to be sacrificed so easily. So while I'd credit Sabatini for finding a way to save Pjanic at the end of the day, I'm not so sure it's the best move for the long term health of the club.
What do we think?