Skill, strength, athleticism, and the will to win are qualities one looks for in any footballer, but when you're sketching out your reserves, you have to add a different layer to the design. When you're talking about a backup, suddenly you have to consider traits like experience, patience, self-motivation and, if you're lucky, a track record of success. In that sense, Nikola Kalinic was nearly an ideal second-choice striker for Roma.
At 31-years-old and with a proven track record in Serie A (27 goals for Fiorentina in two seasons), Kalinic had the right blend of age, experience, and success to slot in behind Edin Dzeko. And while he assured us all he could play alongside Dzeko, Kalinic wasn't exactly a superstar, nor was he riding a crest of positive PR after World Cup 2018, so in that sense, being a reserve for Roma was probably the best he could do at this point in his career. It wasn't a dream scenario for either party, but I think most of us felt comfortable with Kalinic filling in for Dzeko when needed.
Fortunately for Roma, Kalinic wasn't really needed all that much through the first two months of the season, garnering only 182 mostly innocuous minutes by late October. And before Paulo Fonseca could really figure out what he had in his second striker, Kalinic suffered a rather serious injury, breaking his fibula; an injury that has (or soon will) effectively wipe out the remainder of his 2019.
And potentially even his Roma career...
#ASRoma could cut Nikola Kalinic’s loan spell short and return him to Atletico Madrid in January, claims Spanish paper Marca https://t.co/JTbCHShWy4 #SerieA #Atleti #AtleticoMadrid pic.twitter.com/QyStnlg6cz— footballitalia (@footballitalia) November 17, 2019
According to Spanish outlet Marca, who are actually just citing the Corriere dello Sport, Roma are considering cutting Kalinic's loan short, sending the Croatian back to Atletico Madrid six months early. While I'm sure there's some sort of financial penalty (or at least a security deposit Roma will likely lose for breaking his leg), Roma likely deem that more acceptable than keeping Kalinic on the roster.
Sending Kalinic back to Madrid would also, at least theoretically, free up some cash for Roma to pursue a different striker, be it Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Moise Kean, Mariano Diaz or someone else entirely.
Couple this with stories that Roma are looking to ship out Juan Jesus, Diego Perotti and possibly even Alessandro Florenzi, and we could be looking at a busier January than usual.
Time will tell of course, but even if Kalinic never plays another minute for Roma, you can't fault Gianluca Petrachi for taking a chance on the former Fiorentina striker. On the surface, Kalinic seemed to fit the role to a tee, but thanks to a lack of opportunity (which was rendered moot once he broke his leg), we'll likely never know if Kalinic could have grown into the role or not.