For a while it seemed as though Mehdi Benatia and James Pallotta were ready to bury the hatchet. Two years after their acrimonious divorce, one in which Benatia fought for a new contract and became a "poison" (Pallotta's words), the two sides were ready to get back together. Make no mistake, it wouldn't have been a reunion borne out of romance, but rather the cold light of reality; Benatia needed a place to play and Roma, in the wake of Antonio Rüdiger's injury, needed a center back. It's not the stuff of fairy tales, but it would have been good enough to keep Roma afloat until Rüdiger returned. That was until Juventus got involved.
Just when it seemed Roma were ready to pounce, the Old Lady entered the fray and have apparently hammered out a deal with Bayern Munich for Benatia, believed to be a loan with a mandatory €18 million purchase clause, marking an eight million euro loss for the Germans.
While it's great that Walter Sabatini was ultimately able to dupe Bayern, Benatia moving to Juventus undoubtedly strengthens the five-time defending champions, so why should we feel even a shred of optimism?
Well, it's quite simple. With Benatia in the fold, Juventus has a sudden glut of center backs at their disposal, including the troika of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and the man of the moment, Leonardo Bonucci. All of this is simply to say, Benatia isn't exactly entering a team in dire need of his services as he will be, at best, the fourth choice, though he will undoubtedly afford Max Allegri ample opportunity to rotate his defenders.
So, what does this have to do with Roma you ask? Simple, the odd man out is an extremely young, extremely gifted and extremely promising talent. We're talking, of course, about Juve's 21-year-old center back prodigy Daniele Rugani, arguably the most exciting defensive prospect Italy has produced in a decade.
Rugani is tall, fast and intelligent, but has yet to really translate those skills into a permanent role with Juventus, though that's to be expected given who's ahead of him in the pecking order, and though he strung together some nice performances in the spring, as things currently sit he'll be relegated to bench duty behind Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini and now Benatia; not an ideal situation for a player in desperate need of significant match time.
All of this has led to speculation that Rugani will request a move away from the Juventus Stadium, putting him firmly in Roma's cross hairs, as the club reportedly asked about his availability during the Miralem Pjanic negotiations. While Roma would have to vie with AC Milan, and presumably every other Italian club, Rugani--based on his age, skills and potential--seems well worth the €20 million price tag.
Despite their rivalry on the pitch, Roma and Juventus are allies in nearly every other aspect, so one can hope that mutual respect might grease the wheels a bit if this rumor does indeed hold weight.
So what do we think--Is this possible? Is it the right move?