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Grading Roma’s Summer Transfer Window

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With news that Walter Sabatini is about to “graduate” from AS Roma high school, we offer up what may be his final report card

AS Roma v Udinese Calcio - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Imagine for a second that AS Roma—players, staff, directors, the entire club—was a collection of high school students. What role would each man fill? Francesco Totti would obviously be the Zach Morris of this Bayside High (or perhaps AC Slater because he was an athlete who played every single sport the school offered), Kevin Strootman would be the quiet jock, Daniele De Rossi the senior stuffing nerds into lockers, while Juan Iturbe would be the kid who claims he can dunk a basketball, but just not when everyone is watching; he probably also has a girlfriend “in Canada”.

But what about Walter Sabatini, what adolescent stereotype would he fulfill? Besides smoking out back with the custodians, he’d probably just been a run of the mill kid. Some good grades, some bad grades, a detention here and there and perhaps even a pregnancy scare with his girlfriend, but all around, just a kid who blended in.

So with rumors that Sabatini is about to leave the halls of AS Roma behind him, we ran the numbers on what might prove to be his final report card, this summer’s transfer season. For the sake of expediency, we’ll just limit this assessment to actual new incoming transfers, no carry overs from the winter.

Juan Jesus

Oh boy, Walter did not start out the school year on a strong note here. Rrruan is the footballing equivalent of finishing your homework during the morning announcements. Sure, it may not be completely wrong, but it’s rushed and you know what your teachers will say, We expected so much better from you.

Rrruan may very well prove to be a decent rotation piece at some point, and yes this move looks worse because of injuries to other members of the defense, but parting with any legal tender for this guy was a huge mistake

Grade: F

Mario Rui

The Rui signing sort of reminds me of being in college and whipping up a brilliant paper, only to lose it because that sweet Dell you got from CompUSA froze when you tried to save it, and as much as you protest to your teacher about your paper’s brilliance, there’s simply no way to prove it.

Rui could be a huge piece of the puzzle when he returns in the late winter or early spring, but there’s simply no way to tell that, no way to extrapolate last season’s performance into this squad.

Grade: Incomplete

Thomas Vermaelen

The Vermaelen move was sort like lifting substantial portions of your work from Wikipedia. Sure it’s correct and logical, and yeah, your teacher is probably too old to really understand what Wikipedia is anyway, but there’s still a substantial chance the whole thing blows up in your face, casting a pall over your entire future.

At this stage in his career, Vermaelen is probably your ideal third center back. Due to his injury history and the simple effects of time, Vermaelen’s first step probably isn’t as explosive as it once was, but his skill on the ball and insight into the game should keep him hanging on for years.

Vermaelen’s name recognition, fueled by his years on the Premiership stage, served to confuse the true nature of this transfer. Few among us had delusions that Vermaelen could turn back the clock, but thanks to an impressive Euro 2016 performance, Vermaelen represented Roma’s best bet to replace the production of Antonio Rüdiger for several months, after which he could morph into one of the league’s best third center backs. So in some ways, Vermaelen is a victim of circumstance, so we’ll cut Big Walt some slack here.

Grade: B-

Federico Fazio

Fazio, in some ways, reminds me of myself in high school: started off great, hit puberty early and looked destined for huge things, but then stumbled for some reason. Fazio to Roma is sort of like my last gasp senior year, when I did just enough to save face and have some semblance of a future.

Fazio’s loan fee was relatively paltry, so it really was a low risk move. If he can recapture some of his earlier Sevilla form, we’ll have a pretty productive and useful bench player on our hands, but if not, no harm done.

Grade: C +

Alisson Becker

Alisson is, in every way, shape and form, the withdraw pass on this report card. It was exciting at first, the class that you thought would change your very life, but it was tough and you were being a little GPA conscious that semester, so you hedged your bets with a fluff course and ended up dropping the class before your grades tanked. No shame, we’ve all been there.

Having said that, it’s hard to fault Sabatini here. Heading into the season with Alisson and Bogdan Lobont as your only keepers would have been a bit dicey, so keeping Wojciech Szczesny, the very definition of a replacement player, on board was a solid move.

Alisson may very well come good some day, but this season is already shaping up as a lost one for him, as it looks like Woj will earn the lion’s share of the starts.

Grade: WP

Bruno Peres

Now that’s what I’m talking about, the good stuff. This is sort of like the paper you write that initially gets a B, but you finagle your way into a rewrite and fucking nail it. Peres’ first few matches in a Roma shirt haven’t exactly been gangbusters, but the forward runs, the long balls and the crosses have given us glimpses into a much brighter future. He just needs to shore up that defense.

Peres was just an absolute perfect fit, so Sabatini gets full marks on this one.

Grade: A

Finally Summary

The summer 2016 transfer window, like so many before it, was really a tale of ups and downs. While the final and official signings of Mohamed Salah, Stephan El Shaarawy and Gerson were welcome and expected developments, later enhanced by the late captures of Peres and Vermaelen, these were ultimately dragged down by the questionable signings of Juan Jesus and Mario Rui (which depends on your opinion of Lucas Digne), the sales of Miralem Pjanic, Antonio Sanabria, Adem Ljajic and the loans of Ervin Zukanovic and Leandro Castan, both of whom would come in quite handy right now.

So if this truly is Walter Sabatini’s last go around with the club, it’s a fitting end, as Roma is neither markedly better nor demonstrably worse for his work this summer, or his entire tenure really.

And doesn’t that just say it all?