Mario Rui was always a controversial signing for Roma, if for no other reason than he replaced the incredibly popular Lucas Digne, a fact made worse considering PSG had lowered Digne’s sale price to a reasonable figure. But that’s in the past, and no matter how highly you regarded Rui, his ACL rupturing represents a huge loss for Roma; to lose your starting left back twenty some odd days out from the start of the season is a tremendous set back. Yet, here we are, and Roma are once again left scrambling in their quest to build a defense.
With that in mind, let’s do a quick rundown of Roma’s post-Rui options at left back. We’ll start with an in house option.
Emerson was a bit of an afterthought last season, brought on loan from Palermo via Santos FC to serve as Digne’s backup, which is precisely what he was; the problem, at least for Emerson, was that Digne played nearly every minute so he barely saw the pitch.
Despite the lack of playing time, Emerson caught on in the spring, earning semi regular minutes down the stretch, even scoring a goal against Milan. Based on what little we’ve seen of him during the preseason, it seems as though Luciano Spalletti has aims of turning him into an attacking player, so this might not be the best fit.
Aside from Juan Jesus shifting over to left back for several months, Emerson is really the only other inhouse name of note, so let’s check the market.
Darmian, the darling of last summer’s full back transfer market, has reportedly already fallen out of favor at Old Trafford, particularly now that Jose Mourinho is in charge. While Darmian’s first season in England wasn’t as successful as he’d hoped, his versatility—he can play on either side and in midfield—would seem to make him a perfect fit for Spalletti’s increasingly positionless system.
The problem, of course, is his current employer, Manchester United. Despite the prospect of losing his starting gig, Darmian might be loathe to take a paycut to move back to Serie A. However, were Roma able to swing this, he would be an ideal fill-in (and let’s face it, replacement) for Rui.
Mattia De Sciglio
With seemingly everyone in the footballing world hot on Carlos Bacca’s trail, and with the sale of the club currently in flux, one of Bacca and/or De Sciglio may have to go in order to facilitate Milan’s other market moves, making Milan’s misfortune Roma’s great gain.
De Sciglio feels like he’s been around for ages, but is still two months or so shy of his 24th birthday. MDS, like Darmian, offers remarkable positional flexibility, as he’s capable of playing either full back spot as well as holding/defensive midfielder.
De Sciglio is young, experienced and solid in virtually every aspect of the game, and as such would represent perhaps Roma’s best option at fullback, one that would, much like Darmian, potentially relegate Rui to the bench, though his versatility would certainly give Spalletti numerous options.
The problem, despite Milan’s desperate need of cash, is that De Sciglio is already drawing the eyes of some well moneyed clubs, most notably Liverpool.
The No Namers
Now onto the lesser options. In the initial wake of Rui’s injury, our dear old friend Dodo was connected with a move back to the Eternal City, but...umm...he’s Dodo and we’ve been down that road, so hopefully we’ll be spared that nightmare.
Beyond that mop headed mistake, Liverpool’s Mahamdou Sakho, Tottenham’s Federico Fazio and Palermo’s Lazaar have all been mentioned as fill ins for Rui, though some of them are merely centerbacks capable of temporarily playing left back rather than like-for-like replacements.
Left Back Likelihoods
While these are just a few of the names mentioned as Rui replacement, it’s an interest list nonetheless. Darmian and De Sciglio are the pie in the sky options, ones which, quite frankly, should have been considered before they even signed Rui, while Dodo, Lazaar, Sakho and Fazio are all, at best, lateral moves from Rui.
For my money, De Sciglio is the best choice. He’s young, versatile, familiar with the Italian game, and unlike Darmian, doesn’t come with a bloated British salary. MDS earns a relatively paltry €1.5 million salary and is under contract through 2018. Following his turn at Euro 2016, Milan reportedly turned down a €15 million offer from Napoli, so we can safely assume De Sciglio would run at least €18 million.
So what do we think? Who among this list is our best choice? Will Roma go big or just patch up the cracks?