Brazilians, Argentinians, French, Spanish, Greek, Serbian, Moroccan, Nigerian, ... You name it, Roma's got it. But while there were always inferior countrymen that came out of those countries, little Belgium never failed to disappoint us. It takes the crown. Roma struck gold when bringing in Radja Nainggolan a couple of years ago. One Belgian at Roma, one massive success. No other country does better. Of course, it's a bit foolish to compare since there were a ton load of South American or African players who joined the Giallorossi. But still. Maybe we're on to something here...
Brazilians tend to be party animals in their spare time, Argentinians may find themselves longing for their hometown so far away, some Africans have difficulties adjusting to the European weather, Serbian ones could act lazy from time to time.... It's always something. But Belgians? They work their ass off, don't complain, with both feet on the ground. Yes, we're a small pathetic country and that's exactly why we're so down-to-earth. We know where we come from, we're not the police officer of the world, we don't act superior.
Radja for example had a harsh youth, growing up in Antwerp. His father left him, his sister and his mother. He had no luxury whatsoever, football was his escape, even until today. Now, Radja is loving life in Rome. That's mainly the reason why he stayed and refused an offer from Chelsea. Radja and Roma, a special bond, a marriage made in heaven. So why not try to bring in a second Belgian after Il Ninja?
Okay, uhmmm, so which one? Lukaku, De Bruyne, Kompany, Vertonghen, Batshuayi, Hazard, Courtois? Too pricy. Fellaini, Dembele, Witsel? Perhaps but at midfield we're already pretty stacked, it's the least of our worries. A defender then? It's a shame Belgium doesn't really have stellar fullbacks these days. They mostly play centrebacks there (Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Lombaerts). Two others from the recent Euro 2016 squad are already sold. One rightback went to PSG, another leftback chose Lazio: Meunier and Lukaku's younger brother, Jordan.
Neither of them are game changers, nor a big name in the football world. And don't get me started about Belgian defenders in our own Pro League, it's hideous. It has to be a popular one, preferably from the national team. I guess that leaves us with very few options. Lombaerts and Vermaelen. Two left-footed CB's who can also operate on the LB. Both the same age (1985). Well waddaya know, exactly the type Roma was looking for!
Spalletti already worked with Lombaerts at Zenit, Nicolas sadly missed Euro 2016 due to an injury. Talking about injuries.... On to the next name: Thomas Vermaelen. With Lombaerts and Kompany out, Vermaelen was suddenly the first choice in the heart of our defence and he did a superb job in France. The injury-prone Vermaelen played all group games and the first knock-out game against Hungary. This was the kind of Vermaelen we all loved back in the Ajax and Arsenal days. Fast, skilled, confident on the ball, a good header, a calming presence.
He didn't play the quarter-final against Wales and we all know how that ended... Vermaelen was sorely missed. After a splendid tournament (for him, not for the NT), he had his mind set on Barcelona but perhaps Roma offers the perfect getaway, an opportunity to prove himself once more in Europe and keep his ticket for the NT of Belgium. He was never a starter for the Blaugrana and their transfer of Umtiti was a slap in the face for Thomas. In Rome, well, there he'll definitely earn his place if he keeps improving like 2 months ago in France.
He can fit in a backline of 3 or 4, and while he may be a bit rusty, he can act as a more defensive-minded leftback, as opposed to Emerson. With Florenzi already rampant on the right side, it's not a good idea to also play Emerson against bigger teams. We could use a more secure approach on the left side, someone who can also switch to a defence of 3 when needed. In Italy things go a bit slower than England or Spain, more tactical as well. Vermaelen might just be the Belgian we need thanks to his versatility and experience he brings along with him, remember he was the captain at Ajax AND Arsenal. One who also knows to score a goal on corners. Quite simply, the right solution for our problem on the left.
Yet, some might be afraid of this move because he only played a handful of games since joining Barca in 2014. You see, he's got a long history with injuries and AS Roma looks more like a hospital than a club right now, but one thing that Euro 2016 showed us is that he's back on track and highly motivated. It had a positive effect on Strootman, why not on Vermaelen?
Plus, we could benefit from his situation right now. A fully fit Vermaelen on top of his game easily is worth 15-20m if he's a regular for a team like Arsenal or Barca. Walter could find an agreement for a loan worth 2m until 2017. And maybe he stays longer, I wouldn't be surprised to be honest.
Why? Because Belgians love Roma. And Roma loves them back.