If you watched even a small portion of Patrik Shick's breakout campaign for Sampdoria during the 2016-2017 season, one in which he scored 11 goals and contributed three assists in league play, then you probably weren't surprised when Juventus snapped him up in June of 2017. Forking over a cool €30 million for the then 21-year-old forward, the Old Lady were adding one of the most promising young players in the world to their embarrassment of riches.
For fans of remaining 19 teams in Serie A it was an eye rolling and stomach turning maneuver. Juventus didn't need help winning the title, but here they were once again snatching up the best talent the peninsula had to offer. But then something strange happened; Schick failed not one but two medicals. You remember the pictures—Schick in the awkward Juventus nurse's scrubs giving the thumbs up on the stationary bike—but what they didn't show was an apparent temporary heart condition that scuppered Shick's storybook move to Juve.
Sensing an opportunity to steal some of Juve's shine, Roma jumped at the chance to grab Schick, signing him to a bit of an awkwardly structured deal, but one that could eclipse their club record before all is said and done, and one that (in retrospect) looks fantastic for Sampdoria.
From the club's official release on August 29, 2017:
The agreement includes an immediate loan fee of €5 million and, upon the completion of certain sporting objectives, an obligation to make the transfer permanent for a further €9m.
The terms of the permanent transfer also include various performance-related bonuses, worth up to a maximum of €8m, based on the achievement of certain sporting objectives on the part of both the club and the player.
Additionally, Sampdoria are entitled to a final payment of €20m in February 2020. Should Schick be sold prior to 1 February 2020, the clubs have agreed that Sampdoria will be entitled to 50% of the eventual transfer fee or €20m – whichever sum is the greater.
Total all that up and you get your €42 million, of which only €14 million has definitively been paid: the initial €5 million loan fee and the €9 million fee which made the move permanent after Schick made his first appearance for the club. The €8 million in bonuses, which weren't outlined in that release, may have been paid, but let's just assume they have, meaning Roma has invested €22 million in Schick thus far, leaving only that €20 million due to Sampdoria by February of 2020, be it through a direct payment or 50% of a sale.
Now, I'm not sure if you've been watching Schick over the past two years, but the chances of Roma selling him to anyone for €40 million (the minimal amount necessary to make a 50% cut total €20 million) are extremely slim, and quite frankly they'd struggle to even recoup the €22 million they've invested in him so far (unless they sort out some creative FFP bookmaking sale), so Roma find themselves in quite a pickle. They're going to owe Sampdoria €20 million either way come February, and with the chances of a sale looking remote (at least one that would help them come out even), they may have no other choice but to swallow that fee and accept their fate; they have €42 million in sunk costs strutting around Trigoria, albeit one with an impressive collection of headbands.
If that is indeed the case, then Roma have been the architects of their own destruction. During his breakout season with Sampdoria, Shick was many things—a center forward, a second striker, a striker who just happened to drift out wide—but he was not an out and out winger; indeed his average position that season was pretty central.
Despite all that, Roma initially tried to convert him into winger under EDF, that is when they played him at all. In his first season with the Giallorossi, Schick played all of 986 league minutes, which was followed up by only 1,300 minutes this past season, with his playing time dwindling once Claudio Ranieri found no use for him. Awkward tactical fits or not, 2,200 league minutes isn't sufficient for anyone to prove their worth, let alone a 21-year-old kid.
Schick certainly bears some responsibility in all this, don't get me wrong. His breakout with Sampdoria was born on the back of a season in which he outperformed his expected goal total by over five goals and his expected assists by nearly three, numbers which seemed unsustainable, but then again he actually exceeded his 2016-2017 expected goals total this past season, 5.99 vs 5.70.
So what gives? Is Schick an under-achiever or an over-achiever? Is he a flash in the pan or an enigma, some sort of unicorn who only comes out to play under certain specific tactical situations?
We certainly don’t know, and given their management of him over the past two years, neither does Roma, and that's precisely the problem. Roma didn't really need Patrik Schick but they saw an opportunity and they pounced on it, and while we can't fault them for that (he was one of the hottest properties on the market that summer), they have completely botched his development over the past two years, setting his career back 24 months while essentially throwing €42 million out the window.
What happens next is anyone's guess, but if we read the tea leaves, it doesn't seem like he has a place in Paulo Fonseca's team, and with rumors connecting him to loans abroad (Dortmund, Wolfsburg and Leverkusen have been mentioned), it seems like his immediate future rests outside of Rome. And barring some dramatic turnaround before the January transfer window, it seems like Schick will be bonded to Roma for another two-and-a-half years.
Schick is certainly young enough to give one hope he'll turn it around, but it will take a herculean effort from him and acres of patience from Roma to make that €42 million look palatable.