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Keeping Up With Roma Primavera: January '19

A month owned by Ludovico d’Orazio, and news of Monchi’s moves on the mercato.

Italy U16 v Czech Republic U16 - U16s International Friendly Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

This is a longer update than I’d expected, as the January transfer window added some stories to Roma’s future on the final day of the mercato. But let’s look at the action from the pitch and Tre Fontane to kick things off.

The team didn’t drop a single point in the league - including an invaluable win away at Juventus - but crashed out of the Primavera Cup on the end of a thrashing at Atalanta, foreshadowing the fate of the Roma senior team. Stefano Greco and Zan Celar put in vital shifts during the team’s league run, but the stand-out man for January has to be winger Ludovico d’Orazio.

d’Orario not only showed up with goals and assists in Roma’s league games, but generally found the continuity to keep Roma ticking over during the difficult phases of games where his side came under pressure. There were also mixed fortunes for Freddi Greco, who got himself on the scoresheet one week and then suffered a suspected ACL tear the next.

Just as a reminder, most weeks you can watch Roma Primavera live on SportItalia’s livestream service. It’s free.

Matchday 14 - Juventus Primavera 1-3 Roma Primavera

This game was a story of two star performers at both ends for Roma. Stefano Greco’s return from injury is a godsend in goal, stringing together some top class saves and coinciding with Roma’s return to winning ways. Meanwhile, Zan Celar scored a brace at the other end.

Hitman-striker Celar let Juventus defenders run into themselves for his second goal here, propelling himself up to 17 league goals by the end of Week 14. Only one lapse moment in defence let Juve back into the game at 2-1.

Juventus’ second-half threat was quickly snubbed out by Roma’s Salvatore Pezzella trying his luck from distance, finding a gift of an error from the Juve keeper for 3-1.

Matchday 15 - Roma Primavera 2-0 Udinese Primavera

First off, an honourable mention to Francesco Semeraro. Roma’s left back keeps dominating his flank both offensively and defensively; here he puts in a great cross to assist Freddi Greco’s opener. But this was a tough game for Roma, who were often physically dominated by an unfancied yet imposing Udinese side.

Man-for-man, Udinese just looked bigger than Roma and reduced Alberto De Rossi’s side to playing counter-attacking football at home. Truthfully, hitting Udinese on the break would have been more than enough had Salvatore Pezzella been more clinical with his chances inside Udinese’s box. Instead it was left to d’Orazio to put himself about all areas of the pitch in the second half, and drag Roma across the line.

The winger constantly made himself open for the pass, carried the ball forward regularly from halfway and got on the scoresheet to wrap up the 2-0 win.

Primavera Cup QF - Atalanta Primavera 4-0 Roma Primavera

Travelling mid-week to the Primavera league-leaders Atalanta in a cup quarter-final was never going to be easy. But what is it with Roma getting thrashed in this season’s yellow away kit?

That kit will never see the light of day in a Roma collector’s wardrobe at this rate.

William Bianda’s return from injury was a miniature nightmare on the day. The French youngster looks as out-of-sync with his Roma backline as the first day he arrived in the capital.

Matchday 16 - Sassuolo Primavera 0-3 Roma Primavera

Yet another January week of d’Orazio in imperious form, this time coming off the bench in the first half, where Alberto De Rossi had to manage two early in-game injuries.

The most concerning event was Freddi Greco being stretchered off the pitch in tears holding his knee. With the state of Sassuolo’s Primavera pitch, that was always a risk. I’ve yet to read anything confirming how bad the injury to Greco is right now.

Nonetheless, d’Orazio turned up to score Roma’s first on the rebound then shrugged off being fouled to combine nicely with the Gianmarco Cangiano, the winger with who d’Orazio usually competes with for gametime. d’Orazio not only starts the move but finishes it with his second goal of the game.

After half-time, d’Orazio then put in a cross to assist Zan Celar for Roma’s third. William Bianda also played the entire game against Sassuolo and the match reviews said he looked in better shape without making any major errors (I wouldn’t know. I missed the game entirely).

Coming Up Next Month

This past weekend, Roma won their Matchday 17 game at home to AC Milan 4-0, and sit 3rd in the league just three points off leaders Atalanta. Celar scored against Milan once again, bringing his goal tally to 19 goals and just 4 goals off Torino’s Vincenzo Millico for the Capocannoniere title. Gianmarco Cangiano - ever the streaky player - exploded back into form with a hat-trick and assist against the Rossoneri.

We’ll cover that game and more in the February update.

Incoming Signings: Persson and Estrella Arrive

Monchi finished the January transfer window by bringing in Swedish youth striker Joel Voelkerling Persson, who’s young enough for there to be only this lone March 2018 interview with him here.

I imagine if anyone gets a hold of Robin Olsen to translate, it goes something like:

‘Do you realise you’ll be signing for Roma in just under a year’s time?”

Persson: “The guys who lose 7-1 all the time? You’re having a laugh, mate.”

Persson will train with Roma at the U-17 Allievi level, not quite ready to compete with the Primavera just yet. One young man who is ready for the Primavera squad, however, is fellow new arrival Felipe Estrella Galeazzi. Call him Felipe Estrella for short.

Brazilian striker Estrella looks like a no-nonsense target man in his highlights video. I hope he stays that way, as lately Roma have a habit of needlessly complicating a striker’s life in their search for total football.

Matheus Guedes to Follow This Summer?

Several football sites report Monchi’s business in Brazil isn’t done, claiming in-demand defender Matheus Guedes was destined for the Italian capital some months ago. That rumour has only intensified this January, with Guedes’ contract running down in the summer.

Guedes is the potential signing that I’d look forward to the most. Left-foot centre halves are hard to come by (here’s hoping Bianda still works out), much less ones who have the confidence to play the ball like Guedes.

(Note: If anyone could tell me what music is used in Guedes’ video linked above, I’ll love you forever).

The Brazilian has yet to play a senior professional game, leading Santos’ U-20 side with the captain’s armband and his imposing height.

Inevitably for such a tall figure, his leggy tackling when going to ground makes you nervous for his disciplinary future in Italy. Either way, an arrival to Rome isn’t official yet.

Only Santos’ president Jose Carlos Peres throwing Guedes under the bus this January comes as a half-confirmation that Guedes is ready to pack his bags for Rome (some sites say Peres directly claimed Guedes’ pre-contract agreement is with Roma, others do not) and provoking the anger of Guedes’ agent for ever-so-blatantly trying to turn Santos fans against the kid.

It’s half understandable that Santos are annoyed at having to let Guedes go for free. Just two summers ago the Brazilian centre-back was being openly touted by his agent for a 5 million euro move to both Milan clubs.

Instead it looks like Monchi has beaten all three other parties to the punch.

Feelgood Story of the Window: Ebrima Darboe

Who is Ebrima Darboe? The 2001-born Gambian first arrived in Italy as a completely unsupervised legal minor, looking for an all-or-nothing shot at putting together some type of life in the Peninsula with the amateur football school of Young Rieti.

This kind of story is so common that it was no guarantee of a fairytale ending for Darboe, once Roma took notice and signed him on trial from August 2017. Just ask Bakary Jaiteh, Darboe’s once-Roma teammate who turned at Trigoria under similar trial circumstances but was let go by the club this year. Since his own arrival in the capital, Darboe has trained with Roma at all levels, even photographed training with the Roma first team on occasion.

Darboe was finally signed permanently this January and, though he once fancied himself as a striker, its understood the club see his future as a central midfielder. As a matter of fact, Darboe played the full game against AC Milan in midfield just this past weekend, filling in for the loss of a Primavera player we’ll get to below.

Outgoings: Masangu, Buso and Marcucci Say Goodbye to Trigoria

2000-born Keres Masangu spent over a year and a half in Rome and scored in a UEFA Youth League match against Atletico Madrid last season. The midfielder now moves to Sassuolo permanently, with Roma retaining a buyback option.

Another 2000-born striker, Nicolò Buso was initially taken in by Roma after Cesena went bankrupt last summer. After only six months, Buso leaves to ply his trade at Venezia.

But the most significant departure was Andrea Marcucci. The ‘99-born deep-lying midfielder was a serious talent, but moved into the over-age quota this January. Marcucci would have played alongside Nicolò Zaniolo during Italy’s run to EURO U-19 final last summer, if not for Sandro Tonali keeping Andrea on the bench.

Italy U19 v Finland U19 - International Friendly
Marcucci (#6) celebrates scoring for the Italy U-19s in late 2017
Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Marcucci waves goodbye to eleven straight years with Roma, winning titles at every level along the way, and will now try his hand at senior football with Zdenek Zeman’s old club Foggia.

The transfer to Foggia is permanent, though Roma stand to make 30% of any future sale.