If you’re a fan of Roma, you’re used to sales. The nature of Roma’s place in the footballing world is that we’re blessed to watch quite a lot of fantastic players come through the ranks, yet the siren song of the Premier League or a Petro-Club often pulls those same players away at the peak of their powers. That may eventually change with the development of the Stadio della Roma or the end of Financial Fair Play, but for now, that’s the way it is.
This expectation of summer sales is only compounded when the Giallorossi miss their goals in Serie A. Since it looks like the Champions League might be out of reach for next season (yes, I’m trying to reverse jinx Roma, what of it), let’s take a look at some of the wolves that might be out of Rome by the time next season begins.
#5: Nicolo Zaniolo
Yes, Roma’s Wonder Boy is without a doubt the signing of the year for the Giallorossi, and there are repeated rumors that a new contract is in the works. That doesn’t mean that he’ll definitely be wearing a Roma kit in the fall. There are already piles of rumors linking the 19-year-old midfielder to every club from Real Madrid to Juventus, and with the price tag looking to be around €65 million. you’d have to be even more of an optimist than I am to believe that Roma’s new Director of Football won’t at least pick up the phone.
If I were in charge at Roma, I’d sign Zaniolo to a rich new contract and lock the doors to Trigoria. Zaniolo at 21 will probably be even more of a hot commodity than Zaniolo at 19; he’s an excellent prospect now, but he still has plenty of room to grow. Let him grow at Roma, let the fans enjoy him play. I hope he’s here for a while, but I can say confidently that now is not the moment to sell Nicolo.
#4: Edin Džeko
Ever since his move from Manchester City, Džeko has been the fulcrum of Roma’s attack and arguably its biggest star since the retirement of Francesco Totti. Even if he never played another match at the Olimpico, he should rightfully be viewed as one of Roma’s best forwards ever. And yet, cracks are starting to show. There are rumors of fights with Stephan El Shaarawy, a general unhappy look on his face in most matches, and rumbles of a hope to return to the Bundesliga before he retires. Whoever takes over from Claudio Ranieri may want to leave their mark on the club, and bringing in a new star forward would probably come with that.
Much like with Zaniolo, I don’t think this is the right move; I’d like to see Džeko retire in Rome, in all honesty. However, I do think that if Džeko wants to leave, he will most likely leave this summer.
#3: Javier Pastore
This one feels like a given. Pastore still has quite a bit of skill in his legs, he just doesn’t have much health left in them. Add in the high salary Pastore commands (€4.5 million), and it’s a certainty Pastore will follow the route of Mehdi Benatia and head to a lower-tier league for a guaranteed ridiculous salary. Qatar and China are already calling El Flaco’s name.
#2: Kostas Manolas
Like Džeko, Manolas has been a central figure in the 2010s incarnation of Roma. One of the few constants in a perpetually-changing back line, the Greek God of Rome has always physically given 100% to Roma, even if his brain doesn’t always come along for the ride.
Because of that, because of his age, and because of the importance of a center-back in Manolas’ style for the modern game, it’s no surprise that Manolas’ name continues to crop up in the rumor mill. Add in his aborted move to Russia last summer and intimations that Gianluca Mancini is all but a Roma player already, and it seems like Kostas’ time at Roma may be drawing to a close. As much as I’ll miss him, I do think that there needs to be a complete renewal in the defense. Maybe signing a new core central defender will help with that.
#1: Cengiz Ünder
You knew this was coming. Pallotta knew this was coming. Monchi knew this was coming. Cengiz knew this was coming.
This was always the plan. Give Ünder a couple years to blossom at the Olimpico, sell him to Manchester City, or Bayern Munich, or some other super-club. Barring his trouble with injuries this season, Ünder has been a model player for Roma and will certainly net the Giallorossi a nice profit.
I don’t want to talk about this one much more because I’m still a little grumpy about it. But it’s happening, you might as well prepare yourself.