Monchi has only been on the job, what, a day, and already he’s facing a potential litmus test, both for his approach to dealing with talented prospects and the club’s true motivation, err need, to sell. While the big names have cramped Roma’s rumor headlines over the past few months, your Antonio Rüdigers, Kostas Manolases, and Radja Nainggolans, it looks like young Lorenzo Pellegrini will be the first name to test Monchi’s mettle.
You know his story by now. Pellegrini, a Roman born and bred, joined the club’s youth ranks at only nine-years-old, making his senior debut in March of 2015, coming on as a sub for, get this, Salih Ucan against Cesena. Sitting behind the likes of Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman, Radja Nainggolan, and later, though indirectly, Seydou Keita and William Vainqueur, it appeared as though there was no place for Pellegrini in his home town.
As mandated by EU law, all Roma prospects must make at least a spot appearance for Sassuolo, so it was that little Lorenzo made the switch, signing with the Neroverdi for €1.25 million, and, as we all know, Roma retained a buy back option on their young midfielder, one which is looking increasingly fortuitous.
And brother let me tell you, Pellegrini has taken to life in Sassuolo like a duck to water. Pellegrini’s debut season with Sassuolo was extremely encouraging, as he grabbed three goals in 19 league appearances. While that was all well and good, Pellegrini has taken another step forward this season, scoring six goals and contributing six assists in 27 appearances. Due to that balance of attacking and creativity, Pellegrini became the youngest player in league history to have contributed at least ten goals in Serie A play.
Pretty impressive and pretty hard to ignore. With Roma’s midfield in tact, rumors abound that once Roma exercises their option on Pellegrini, they’ll immediately turn around and flip him for a tidy profit. According to several Italian outfits of varying credibility, Roma have slapped a €30 million price tag on Pellegrini, drawing the eyes and wallets of Milan and Juventus.
Now, if you’ve been reading our site for any amount of time, you can almost write the diatribe for me. Why on god’s green earth would you relinquish one of the best midfield prospects in the league? Particularly when each of your current midfielders comes with enormous caveats of their own. De Rossi (getting up there in age), Strootman (to say he has a history of injuries would be putting in mildly), Nainggolan (talk about a tempting sale), Paredes (might not be suitable for Roma’s current tactics) and, of course, Gerson (take your pick) all have pock marks on their resume, so it’s not as if Pellegrini is hopelessly blocked from playing time.
Roma’s recent track record of enriching her domestic rivals hasn’t been pretty. Miralem Pjanic, though nowhere near as important to Juve as he was to Roma, has been his usual self, Alessio Romagnoli is slowly but surely blossoming into one of the league’s more reliable young defenders, Gianluca Caprari is blossoming, Lukasz Skorupski is emerging as one of the true up and coming keepers (yes I know he wasn’t sold...yet) and hell even Federico Viviani is turning into a solid player.
Point being, by selling a promising prospect and simultaneously enriching a rival, Roma are screwing themselves twice over. So, depending on which way the pendulum swings, we may be in for more of the same from Roma, Monchi or no Monchi.