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Where Are They Now? Sabatini’s Kids - Part 2

It’s grim stuff for some ex-Roma youths - from heart problems to a Belgian court case for multiple armed robberies.

Parma Calcio v AC Perugia - Serie B Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

In part 1 of looking at the youth players from last summer, CdTers drew on the valid theme of football business and football community clashing; not just on the future for young football players, but young people.

Only one third of the loans we covered in part 1 could be called successful for all involved, with every other 2017-18 loan move being a bust.

Don’t expect that grim theme to be any less apparent when we look at the turn of events for Ismail H’Maidat below.

Mustapha Seck (born ‘96) – Title Contender to Relegation

Remember Sabatini ‘poaching’ Seck from Lazio? Seems like a long time ago already. Seck turned out just 6 times in an Empoli shirt between last autumn and the January window, but the eventual Serie B champions didn’t have much faith in Seck sticking around for their promotion push.

In January, the Senegalese full-back moved on to Novara to taste very different fortunes: Relegation from Serie B with just 7 appearances to his name.

He has one year left on his Roma contract.

Andrea Paolelli (born ‘97) – From Primavera Champion Back to Wilderness

Paolleli was called back from the loan wilderness last spring, just in time to be a part of the Primavera Scudetto celebrations as he took to the pitch in that winning side.

Since then, the Italian right-back was loaned out to Gubbio in Serie C and played just 17 games all year in all competitions - even if he popped up with a goal.

He is another with one year left on his Roma contract this summer.

Pepin (born ‘96) – Full Senior International Dilemma

Formely known as Jose Machin but now mononymous as ‘Pepin’. An operation to his MCL scuppered some tender months of his career before his loan to Brescia. In Brescia he racked up 23 games with 1 goal and 3 assists from central midfield, not bad at all. But that didn’t stop him from being moved on mid-season to Pescara, where he took a while to earn the trust of getting games again.

At 21, he’s now a full senior international player for his country and a costly proposition for lower league clubs to buy outright. But Roma originally spent 350k bringing Pepin to the club, as a former Barcelona youth by way of Malaga, so there is an amount for his parent club to recover.

“I hope to stay at Pescara,” Pepin remained optimistic this past month. “I’ve found continuity here.” Just 11 games in a Pescara shirt haven’t deterred him from wanting to press on with his coastal adventure, finding 2 goals and an assist in that time.

Pepin has shown himself to be capable in the peninsula. This summer is likely the last chance for his parent club to recoup with a permanent transfer.

Christian d’Urso (born ‘97) – Injury-Hit Season

Another Roma youth taken under the wing of Serse Cosmi, the midfielder struggled for any continuity in the first half of this season gone by with injuries. “Cosmi told me he’d take me with him wherever he went if I wanted to leave Roma,” explained d’Urso. That’s exactly what happened. D’Urso is on a loan at Ascoli with an option to make the move permanent.

In 2018, he’d started to come into the first team fold and even scored a crucial goal in the season’s run-in but it wasn’t enough for Ascoli to escape a relegation playoff against Virtus Entella (and ex-Primavera team-mate De Santis).

Ascoli eventually survived to stay up in Serie B.

Ismail H’Maidat (born ‘95) – Football Purgatory Isn’t The Word

By far the least predictable turn of events goes to H’Maidat. The Dutch-born youth was originally taken on by Sabatini from Brescia in a deal worth just over 3 million euros, bringing him to Roma in 2016 (only 150,000 euros of this was cash in a player-exchange deal).

Since then H’Maidat had his loan away from Roma to Westerlo terminated prematurely for unprofessional behaviour away from the pitch. But no one expected that to turn into an arrest in Belgium on suspicion of five armed robberies, including stick-ups on a petrol station, casino and supermarket. H’Maidat is now detained on these charges and awaiting trial.

Matteo Ricci (born ‘94) – Lots of Games, Few Goals

Matteo is another one who found his way into the hands of Claudio Lotito at Salernitana. 35 games on loan produced 3 goals and 3 assists from midfield.

Matteo is now no spring chicken, in football terms, and his chances of joining brother Federico in Serie A are hanging by a thread this summer. He’s clearly not interested in staying in Salerno, having already wished the fans well and waved goodbye on Instagram.

His agent has talked up a move to Sampdoria. Makeweight for Praet? We’ll see. He’s also been linked with moves to Bologna and Chievo.

Jacopo Ferri (born ‘95) – Dead-End Loans

Ferri’s 2017-2018 season is another case of how loans can be a massive waste. Loan moves to Piacenza and Renate brought just a handful of sub appearances with minutes (and a lone assist) that Ferri could probably count on both hands.

It’s only been a year since Roma enthuasists were putting together highlights vids of Ferri on Youtube. At 23 years old, he’s probably going to be released on a free this summer rather than take up the overage slot in Roma’s B team next season.

Kevin Mendez (born ‘96) – Last Chance Saloon

It just hasn’t happened for Kevin Mendez in Italy. When he initially signed for Roma from Penarol, in a 1.8 million euro deal, he talked about having turned down Liverpool and PSG to come here. But 3 years is a long time in football and the Uruguayan forward is now languishing in Serie C, having been tried in all sorts of positions off the bench but only racking up two starts all season.

From being pushed back into midfield to being shoved on the right-wing as a wide forward, Mendez has delivered precisely 1 goals in 24 appearances (22 of them as a substitute) at his loan club this season. They’re still fighting for a promotion to Serie B through the playoffs, but Mendez is unlikely to play a key part.

He has one year left on his Roma contract and he hasn’t made an international appearance for Uruguay beyond the U-19s some time ago. It’s looking unlikely he would make it to Roma B for next season.

Abdullahi Nura (born ‘97) – Constant False Starts

It feels like eons ago since Nura was tipped by Sabatini to takeover the mantle from Maicon. Since then Nigerian-born full-back’s career has been destroyed by injury.

Nura suffered two recurring injuries to wreck his first half of the season just when he was in with another shot at Roma’s senior squad. By wintertime, the club thought it best for Nura to take a loan move to Perugia but he made only 3 appearances before he was advised by medical staff, in March 2018, to take a break with an enlarged heart problem.

Both Lorenzo Pellegrini and Patrik Schick have come back from that particular setback in their own careers but, for Nura, continuity in training - let alone game-time - has too long been a problem in key development years he can ill afford to watch slip by.

Perugia have an option to make the 20 year old’s stay permanent at the club while Roma retain a counter option until Nura turns 21.