When Federico Fazio first signed for Roma in 2016, there was quite a bit of hesitation concerning his ability to perform at a top-flight level. The Chiesa was rather lukewarm on the loan signing from Tottenham, and even the Roma hierarchy didn’t seem to expect much. When you’re described by the club that just secured your services as a chance to have “another body in defense”, well, that’s not exactly the best sign.
Yet Fazio went on to prove all the doubters wrong in his first season at Roma. The Argentine defender turned out to be the perfect balance to Kostas Manolas’ brand of defensive insanity, the Leandro Castan to the Greek’s Mehdi Benatia, if you will. Add in the fact that he was signed for only €4.4 million, and one could certainly argue that barring Marquinhos, Fazio was Walter Sabatini’s greatest gift to the Giallorossi.
Unfortunately, Father Time catches up to the best of us, even Captain Caveman. Now halfway through his third season with i Lupi, Fazio has lost more than a couple steps. He was never the fastest center-back, but as he approaches 32 years of age il Comandante could also be called la tartaruga (the tortoise). His positioning is still quite solid, but more and more defensive lapses this season have caused many Romanisti to cool on Fazio.
Which brings us to the main point of this article: should Roma move on from Fazio? He’s currently on a contract that runs until the end of next season, which despite his drop-off was still an excellent decision by management. He is still the second-best center-back at Roma behind Manolas, but that’s more an indictment of Roma’s current lack of defensive depth than anything else. It’s also important to note that Fazio is both a leader in the side and one of the Giallorossi’s more senior players, and given the youth of many of the key characters in Monchi’s Roma, that shouldn’t be minimized.
Given all these factors, if I was in Monchi’s shoes I would slowly transition Fazio to a bench role while actively look for a long-term replacement for the Argentine. Fazio certainly isn’t the player he was in the 2016-2017 season, but he can still have a role to play in a Champions League-contending Roma side, particularly as a teacher for his long-term replacement. A signing like Gianluca Mancini could learn the ropes of Roma’s defense from Fazio for at least one season, working with the Argentine instead of being thrown into the deep end from day one. If things go well and this signing proves himself to fit just as well into Roma’s defense, the young signing will eventually take over for Fazio.
Maybe I’m a little sentimental towards Fazio, but I would argue that’s warranted. The story of the signing presumed to ride the pine becoming a key part of a club’s plans is definitely a heartwarming one. For a club like Roma that qualifies as “big, but not huge”, treating players right is a key way management can show they’re a worthwhile destination. Fazio has won points for Roma time after time while playing at the Olimpico. Just because he’s starting to show signs of age doesn’t mean that he should be thrown to the curb. In fact, giving Fazio the respect he deserves by slowly transitioning him to a bench role would be the smartest move Monchi can make as he looks to strengthen Roma’s defense.