We’ve spent most of the summer lamenting about sales—some necessary, some not, but all equally frustrating—so in order to lighten the mood around here, let’s shift the focus to a potential blockbuster move. With the news that Federico Bernardeschi has allegedly submitted his transfer request to Fiorentina, one of Italy’s hottest prospects is suddenly on the open market and Roma should, regardless of the cost, pounce on him.
While some may quibble with his exact ranking, Bernardeschi is one of Italy’s brightest burgeoning talents. At 23-years-old, Bernardeschi already has a handful of Serie A seasons under his belt, the most recent of which was undoubtedly his best. In 42 appearances (all comps), Bernardeschi was, for all intents and purposes, the Viola himself, turning in 14 goals and five assists, all while playing six different positions, ranging from holding midfield to forward.
Despite that tactical flexibility, Bernardeschi shines the brightest as sort of a hybrid winger/attacking midfielder. With his deft left foot, his vision, speed and ability on the ball, Berna is a walking smorgasbord of attacking football. Quite literally, this kid has it all. He can stay out wide and cut in, he can sit in the hole and make the final pass, and his work ethic and defensive acumen even allows him to excel from deeper positions. In a word he is the perfect modern footballer: poised, positionless and resplendently skilled. Oh, and if all that weren’t enough to convince you, Bernardeschi lists Francesco Totti as one of his idols.
And as one would expect, the usual suspects have come crawling out of the woodwork, with Juventus reportedly concocting a €40 million + bonuses + a player offer for the Viola. But you can rest assured, given his reputation, the season he just turned in and his performance at the U-21 Euros, Bernardeschi will have ample suitors, including some of the biggest, most well-heeled clubs in the world, including reportedly Chelsea and Manchester United.
Of course, Bernardeschi might not be in this mess were it not for the Viola entering a free fall. With the club itself for sale and reportedly moving Borja Valero to tears, folks are abandoning Fiorentina as quick as the wind blows, as Bernardeschi, Valero and Nikola Kalinic—or in other words, their most important players—have all submitted or (strongly insinuated) transfer requests. Fiorentina is, in essence, Roma turned up to 11; the perfect picture of instability.
So we’ve talked about what the kid can do, who wants him and why he’s even for sale to begin with, so what would prevent Roma from doing this deal? Does the name Mohamed Salah ring a bell to you?
Back in the summer of 2015, Roma did Fiorentina dirty, finagling a year-long loan with an option to buy Salah from Chelsea. In essence, Roma broke the fabled bro-code, mowing another man’s lawn. Where the Viola’s attempts to force Salah to stay and/or threaten other Italian clubs from signing him failed, Salah soared, becoming one of the game’s best wide players under Rudi Garcia and later Luciano Spalletti’s tutelage.
While Roma rejoiced in their newfound tactical wealth, Fiorentina teemed with anged. The problem, as Fiorentina saw it, was that Roma’s loan was illegitimate to begin with. The Viola, who took Salah on loan in 2014, believed they held an option to extend his loan past that season, thereby putting Chelsea in breach of contract and making Roma a somewhat unwitting and/or insensitive collusive party. Fiorentina was so perturbed they filed a complaint with FIFA, alleging some €30 million in damages.
While the Court of Arbitration for Sport ultimately found no merit in Fiorentina’s charges, one can assume they wouldn’t be thrilled to jump into bed with Roma again. But, and this is a big one, with the club up for sale and Bernardeschi making his wishes known, the Viola may have become a motivated seller. So if Fiorentina can forgive Roma for their misgivings, how much would this kid cost?
If we take Juventus’ offer as the market price, €40 million plus €3 million in bonuses or a player, believed to be Tomas Rincon or Stefano Sturaro, each of whom is valued at approximately €6 million, we’re looking at anywhere from €45 to €50 million for Bernardeschi, a price that would obliterate Roma’s record transfer fee in one fell swoop.
When you factor in all the completed and pending sales, as well as what the club has spent on new acquisitions and back end fees, they may have roughly €60ish million to spend right now, depending on what happens with Mario Rui, Kostas Manolas, Juan Iturbe etc. etc., so Bernadeschi would eat a substantial portion of that, if not the entire pot.
But make no mistake, he is undoubtedly one of the most talented U23 players in the game today, and players like that don’t come on the market that often. Grabbing Bernardeschi, particularly if Juventus are a player in this sweepstakes, would perhaps be the biggest statement purchase this club has ever made, and at least the most notable since Gabriel Batistuta.
Bernardeschi alone wouldn’t make Roma a Scudetto contender, but he is exactly the sort of player around whom dynasties are built. Certain players are worth breaking the bank for, and for Roma, the road to glory could start with the kid from Carrara.