We've been so wrapped up in the Nicolo Barella talk lately, not to mention Leonardo Spinazzola, Luca Pellegrini and Amadou Diawara (among others), that we've sort of overlooked what was arguably Roma's biggest weakness last season: goalkeeping. When Monchi fell pray to the World Cup boost last summer, nabbing Robin Olsen after his heroics with Sweden in Russia 2018, you were right to be cautious. Not only did Monchi commit that cardinal sin of constructing a team, he did so with a keeper who'd never played outside of Scandinavia. While Antonio Mirante's late season masterclass took some of that stink off, we have to face facts: Roma were under-equipped between the sticks last season.
I suppose it speaks to the sensational nature of the transfer rumor cycle, but when the season ended, it seemed all we talked about was keepers. From Alessio Cragno to Bart Dragowski to Mattia Perin, our early rumor coverage focused largely on the back of the pitch. However, once spring gave way to summer, the cover boys took center stage—your wingers, attacking midfielders and strikers. It's not fair to the guys with the gloves, but that's life, innit?
Of course, a lot has changed since we began dissecting those early keeper rumors. Roma finally found a replacement for Eusebio Di Francesco in the form of Paulo Fonseca, while Gianluca Petrachi took on the not so tall task of filling in Monchi's shoes, so the direction of Roma's transfer rumors was bound to change.
Whether these events were connected or not, we can't say, but once Roma cleared house those earlier rumors sort of just disappeared. While I trust Roma's latest brass don't intend on rolling with Robin Olsen next season, we can assume they've been a bit busy with the Manolas/Diawara deals and the ongoing negotiations over Barella.
Alright, enough of the build up: I present to you, Roma's next keeper (maybe):
I bet you didn't know there was a Football Espana, did you? I'd also bet you never even heard of Pau Lopez before. I'll be honest, I have not. Lopez, 24-years-old, hails from Girona, Spain and has spent the majority of his young career with RCD Espanyol and Betis, for whom he's played since 2016, making 35 appearances along the way. Lopez, 6’2”, has made appearances for both the Spanish and Catalonian National teams and even spent a wasted year on loan sitting behind Hugo Lloris at Tottenham.
Now comes the Welcome to Roma highlight reel..
Like I said, I can't really hid my ignorance; I had never heard of this guy prior to a few week ago, but if we use YouTube highlights as our first impression, then Roma might be onto something here. The first thing I noticed, as a former hockey goalie myself, was his lateral quickness, how quickly he can get to the ground to snuff out a shot, and the reckless abandon with which he plays, and I mean that in a good way. Notice how he pounces on crosses or through balls without a second thought; to be sure that's a fine line to tread, but passivity in net didn't get Roma anywhere last season.
Couple all that with his quick reflexes, sound technical abilities, his ability with the ball at his feet and, well...