Outside of Italy potentially blowing their shot at World Cup 2018 with their 1-1 draw today against Macedonia—which, if this were an Italy blog we’d be raising hell—it was a pretty slow news day as far as Roma was concerned. There were some vague references to the club falling short of unnamed FFP guidelines, which may or may not have punitive judgments attached, and former Roma player turned world beating manager Carlo Ancelotti continued to tease about his future.
Tucked away in between those rather mundane stories (well, not the FFP one, that could sting) was some speculation about a bygone Roma prospect currently plying his trade in Spain. While it may seem as if Antonio ‘Tonny’ Sanabria has been mentioned around these parts for ages, you may be surprised that Sanabria is still just 21-years-old.
Sanabria’s career thus far has been an interesting one. After graduating from La Masia, only to find no discernible path for him at Barcelona, Sanabria soon found himself logging minutes for Barcelona B, as so many of their academy graduates tend to do. With a future a the Camp Nou far from guaranteed, Sanabria moved abroad, making a “move” to Sassuolo in the winter of 2014.
However, this transfer was more akin to a stop at a weigh station, as Sanabria was quickly flipped to Roma in July of that same year. With the club squarely focused on signing Edin Dzeko that summer, Sanabria was one again on the move, this time to Sporting Gijon on a one-year loan, leaving his Serie A career after only 70 minutes of action in six months.
Sanabria took to Gijon like a duck takes to water, scoring 11 goals in his lone season with the La Liga club. Despite that impressive return, Roma decided it was time to move on from Sanabria, selling the Paraguayan for €7.5 million to Real Betis last summer.
During his first season in thee green and white, Sanabria turned in a quiet four goals in 29 appearances. While it wasn’t necessarily a lost season, Sanabria missed 16 league matches with various injuries to his lower extremities. With those niggling little injuries seemingly behind him, Tonny has hit the ground running this year, already matching his goal scoring output from last season in only 300 minutes on the pitch, helping to keep Betis within shouting distance of the top four in La Liga.
Quite naturally, this has drawn the attention of Monchi, who is obviously no stranger to Spanish football. Monchi, it is believed, is considering exercising Roma’s right to buyback Sanabria next summer for €11 million. As we’ve discussed intermittently over the past year or so, while Dzeko is firmly established atop Roma’s pecking order, the battle for minutes behind him (and once he’s gone) is wide open and will be contested between similarly appointed twenty something strikers, so Sanabria’s record in Spain could give him a leg up on Marco Tumminello, Edoardo Soleri and Ezequiel Ponce.
Stay tuned, Sanabria might yet make a name for himself with Roma.