While the end of any decade is necessarily a time for reflection, for nostalgia, for taking stock of years gone by, it's also an opportune time to look forward, to anticipate what comes next. We've spent the past few days reminiscing on Roma greats gone by, but behind the scenes the club is working to further secure their future.
According to multiple sources, in addition to the club potentially changing hands in the next several days, it seems as though Gianluca Petrachi and the rest of the Roma brass are keen on signing Lorenzo Pellegrini and Bryan Cristante to new deals, locking down two key components of Paulo Fonseca's midfield for the forseeable future.
Cristante, Roma's 24-year-old central midfielder, only joined the club 18 months ago from Atalanta, a deal Roma later made permanent in February of 2019. In addition to forking over €20 million for Cristante, a figure that could potentially reach €30 million with certain performance-related bonuses, Roma signed the Italian international to a five year deal through June of 2023.
However, according to Il Temp (link via RomaPress), the club are keen on working out a new deal that would extend through June 2025. Neither source really expands on the rationale behind this move, but one would imagine it includes some sort of dance between a new salary and a higher release clause. Cristante hasn't exactly overwhelmed anyone during his 18 months with the club, but this is clearly a sign of intent from Roma—they see him as a building block of Roma 3.0.
There can be no debate, however, about the performance of Lorenzo Pellegrini, who has taken his game to an entirely new level under Fonseca Football this season. In only 943 minutes of league action, Pellegrini has notched six assists, good enough for third place in the league, while his 2.5 key passes per match rank fourth.
Pellegrini's contract, as you're probably aware, comes with a ludicrously low €30 million release clause, which runs through June 2022. On merit alone, Pellegrini has earned a longer term contract with his hometown club, but that incredibly-affordable-in-today's-market release clause seems to be weighing on Petrachi's mind.
According to the Corriere dello Sport, who I believe are still banned from communicating with Roma officials through the end of the year, Roma are not only prepping Pellegrini a new offer through 2024, one that would remove the release clause altogether (presumably via a new, fat salary) but have promised him future claim to the captain's arm-band annnndddd Francesco Totti's legendary number 10 shirt.
Now, there's an awful lot to unpack there. The captain's arm-band is a nice gesture, but if Florenzi sticks around, Pellegrini will simply be the new Capitano Futuro for several years, but the prospect of wearing Totti's number ten is an entirely different animal.
We've talked a lot about what to do with Totti's number ten in these spaces before, and while Totti himself thinks the number should be in circulation, in part to give players something to aspire to, shouldering that burden could be too much to bear, particularly being the first guy to do so after Totti.
Pellegrini is a natural born Roman and was once even a ball boy for the club, so we can presume he worshiped Totti like the rest of us, but would that make it more or less likely he'd jump at the chance to wear the number ten?
In all likelihood this is a symbolic gesture from Roma, an indication of how much they value and appreciate Pellegrini's talents, and won't make or break the deal, but it's definitely an eyebrow raiser, right?
No matter what happens or what number he wears, Pellegrini, along with Nicolo Zaniolo, is the foundation upon which Roma's next great team will be built.
So, give him a new contract, a fleet of sports cars, a personal masseuse, or whatever number he wants. Just do not let this kid go.