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A Belated Recap of Roma’s Summer Transfer Campaign

Hard to believe the transfer window only closed little more than a week ago.

SS Lazio v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

I'm not going to trot out that well worn quote from Ferris Bueller about life moving fast and our inability to catch it, but suffice it to say those words ring doubly true to the piece you're about to read. In a strange way, covering the minutiae of transfer rumors sort of obscures the process in and of itself: we moved so quickly from the close of the last season to the end of the transfer market—publishing well over 100 stories along the way—that those four months sort of disappeared in the wind; call it not seeing the forest for the trees if you must. Meanwhile, in the real world, the past ten days have escaped me just as easily, so much so that I completely forgot to publish this piece.

So, while it's a bit later than we originally planned, please enjoy our summer transfer market recap.

1. Let’s start with the obvious question: What was Roma’s best move this summer?

Bren: Locking up Zaniolo and Ünder were obviously great moves, but in terms of new acquisitions, I’m going to change my answer slightly from earlier this summer and go with Jordan Veretout. Sure, he hasn’t played yet, but if the first two matches proved anything it’s that Roma need an experienced and high energy midfielder who can not only contribute in attack but can haul ass back towards to goal to provide cover for the defense. Veretout, when healthy, can be that safety pin. I think his presence will bring back a lot of the balance Roma have been missing through the first two rounds.

ssciavillo: To begin, I have to say that the contract renewals of Zaniolo and Ünder were extremely important orders of business for the long term health of the club both on the field and off it. However, if I had to pick the best signing of the summer, I’d have to go with Pau Lopez. As much as I like some of the other signings like Veretout, Mancini, and Diawara, I have to take Lopez for the simple fact that we saw how the difference between a great keeper and a weak one. I don’t expect Lopez to be Alisson, but all he has to be above average. If Olsen were average rather than poor last season Roma probably would’ve snuck into the Champions League.

dallagente: Just to go with a different answer, I’d say the best moves were all the bullets dodged. Not getting ripped off for Barella when Veretout was on the table. Not buying the broken soul Daniele Rugani when Smalling was on the table. And sure, all of this doesn’t change the fact there will be yet another squad revolution next summer but, under the circumstances, I think Petrachi did ok in both the “selling well” and “buying well” categories.

JonAS: First off, I’d like to say that, although some people might be disappointed, this mercato has been one of the better ones I’ve seen in Rome. We brought in players from clubs like Arsenal, ManU, Juventus, Napoli, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. I mean, ten years ago Roma mostly looked at players from Lecce, Siena, Newcastle, Parma or Udinese. Ronaldo, Neymar or Aguero didn’t arrive but most of the incoming transfers are experienced, proven and didn’t arrive at a crazy price. My pick would be Mancini. Simply because it’s been way too long since Roma had a good-great Italian CB and now Petrachi delivered. Yes, he has his flaws, a rough diamond, but if he can slowly walk into Fonseca’s XI, learn next to Fazio and the fans have patience, then Mancini will be a certitude at the back for ages. I’m hoping for a next Mexes/Burdisso kind of guy. Not world class but impossible to get mad at him.

Jimmy: Personally, I agree with everyone on this, but I’d just add that sending off Schick, Olsen, Gonalons, Defrel, Coric, and more this summer was excellent work by Petrachi. Not all of those players are gone permanently, but they quite obviously weren’t succeeding in Rome, so it’s best for all involved that they move away from the Olimpico.

2. Roma made some shocking loan moves in the dying days of transfer season, so which of the Smalling, Kalinic, Zappacosta and Mkhitaryan moves made the most sense and which one will work out best?

Bren: Hmm. Well, Smalling made the most sense based purely on need but I’m really intrigued by what Mkhitaryan can bring. I don’t buy all the “Serie A is slower so he’ll be fine” bullshit because it’s dated and utter nonsense. He still managed six goals and four assists in about 1,600 minutes last season, so it’s not as if he’s been put to pasture yet. I really don’t know what to expect from Kalinic and I think Smalling’s speed will help the defense, but Miki seems like he’ll have the most apparent and immediate impact.

ssciavillo: I have to agree with bren here. Smalling made the most sense just because Roma was in desperate need of a center back. Nonetheless, I think that player that could have the biggest impact could be Mkhitaryan. With Roma pretty stacked at the trequartista position, I expect him to get most of his time on the wings. With Perotti oft injured and Kluivert and Ünder both young and raw, there will be an opportunity for Mkhitaryan to seize some minutes. At 30 he isn’t over the hill and he could be a good fit in Fonseca’s uptempo offensive approach. He might not replicate his Borussia Dortmund numbers, but something like the six goals and four assists from last season would be a welcome addition.

dallagente: I agree with you both on Mkhitaryan. From what we’ve seen in the opening two games, you won’t get far relying on Zaniolo, Under and Kluivert as your starters. They still need room to grow and they need a solid, functioning team within which to learn how to handle both sides of the game for 90 minutes. Mkhitaryan has experience and he knows how to read the game to come up with those quick, penetrating passes that will help speed up the attack. Physically, he’s not the same player he was at Dortmund so he won’t drag markers out from deep and breeze past them like he used to. But as long as Roma gets their act together in deep mifield, Mkhitarayan can be a quality player to slot within the final 2-3 moves of Roma’s attack where the kids struggle to be effective.

JonAS: Kalinic made the most sense. We desperately needed a vice Dzeko because Schick already had his mind set on Germany, while Zaniolo at CF won’t bring the same threat as Edin does on the field. If Dzeko got injured, we had a serious problem. Kalinic may be a little smaller than Dzeko but from what I saw during his Fiorentina and Milan period, he’s a good option to have on the bench or to unlock games. Proven in Serie A and damn cheap. Perhaps the best body double of Edin since the Bosnian Bomber arrived in Rome. I even think Kalinic could end close to ten goals this season, he wants to earn his place at the Croatian NT for Euro 2020.

Jimmy: I think that Mkhitaryan is a great move for a lot of reasons, but primarily I’d argue that he takes a bit of the pressure off of Kluivert and Zaniolo to become stars right this moment. I’m imagining he’ll do a more than serviceable job, and if the Zan Man or Justin explode, Roma doesn’t have to worry too much about having all of these guys on the payroll long-term.

3. Talk to us a bit about those loans. They were criticized pretty heavily by many in the Romaverse, so what was Petrachi thinking? Was there any other way to round out the squad other than Premiership cast-offs?

Bren: Well, I think he had no choice. Taison and Rodrigo De Paul were fun to think about as El Shaarawy replacements, but I’m not sure the club had an additional €30 million to spend, even if a portion of it was deferred. I also think Petrachi’s comments after these moves were quite telling--he wanted versatility and experience to join his somewhat young squad. Were these the moves he would have made if Roma were in the Champions League this year? I doubt it, but considering the restraints he was working under, Petrachi rounded out the squad with talented vets with something to prove and he did it without committing to them long-term.

ssciavillo: I think Petrachi was doing what he had to do in order to keep Roma out of FFP trouble while still looking to improve the roster. We all know without the Champions League Roma has to be even more budget conscious than usual. So, I think Petrachi went for veteran players that could help add depth and versatility to a young team. All of these players have proven track records, but were out of favor at their EPL clubs. Plus, these are low risk moves considering that thre are no strings attached after this season. If they work out great, if not see you later. Additionally, it’s an easier pill to swallow if some like Smalling is a bust rather than someone like Rugani who could’ve cost cash and top prospects.

dallagente: I think Roma were done spending from the moment they were eek-ing out deferred deals on Gianluca Mancini and Jordan Veretout. By then it was obvious that Petrachi had spent the motherload of his budget on hefty signings Leonardo Spinazzola and Pau Lopez. They took big risks in early July and the rest of the window was about finding opportunistic deals to break even, on which I think they did very well.

JonAS: Roma ain’t PSG, City or Real. As dallagente said, Petrachi blew up some cash very early on, so the deals in August had to be less risky and less pricey. The hard life without CL. But those loans are actually smart pieces of business from Petrachi. Kalinic, Miki, Smalling, Zappacosta etc. all are fighting for their place in their respective NT for the upcoming Euro 2020 at the end of the season. Even if they’re only ten months in Rome, they will be as motivated as the other guys and give their all. It’s a win-win situation.

Jimmy: I’m a fan of these loans, and while I know that might make me a member of the minority in the Romaverse, I think it’s important to remember that more money spent doesn’t always equal better long term investment. Schick, Defrel, and Olsen all cost quite a bit, and we know how they did in Rome. Signing Smalling, Mkhitaryan, Zappacosta, and Kalinic probably won’t make NIke sell out the new Roma kits, but you don’t need 11 superstars on the pitch at once. They’ve all got something they can add and I’m pretty optimistic that they’ll fit well into the team.

4. Is there any one player you feel like Roma really needed but didn’t get? And how confident are you in their second choice? (e.g. Icardi to Kalinic)

Bren: I know it’s stupid and would have brought a ton of headaches, but Mauro Icardi is exactly what Roma needed. Dzeko has been great but inconsistent during his Roma tenure, and the one thing Roma has lacked for much of the past two decades was an elite goal scorer. So if you can divorce yourself from the Icardashian drama, signing Mauro would have been a tremendous statement to the rest of the league. As I mentioned above, I’m not really sure what to expect from Kalinic, but Icardi would have been a replacement for Dzeko anyway, so who knows, maybe Kalinic would still have been acquired.

ssciavillo: This is a tough one. Of course Icardi makes a lot of sense but I think Dzeko can bounce back under Fonseca. He’s looked particularly strong so far. With that in mind, I’m going to go with Toby Alderweireld. I would’ve loved to see him partnering and mentoring Mancini with Fazio as a rotation player and Juan Jesus never seeing the field. In my opinion, Alderweireld would’ve solved a lot of Roma’s defensive issues. Instead we’ll be praying that Smalling works out, even though he feels like a downgrade from Kostas Manolas. Meanwhile, Alderweireld would’ve been an upgrade.

dallagente: I’ve mentioned his name before but it’s really how I feel: Joachim Andersen. I think the only thing that made him an ‘unrealistic’ signing for Roma is that Lyon have Champions League football and we do not, and maybe that’s what Andersen was looking for.

JonAS: Alderweireld. For obvious reasons, just like ssciavillo said. Smalling is as old as Alderweireld but not as slick or versatile. Smalling needed to leave ManU to gain playing time while Alderweireld was still a sure starter at Tottenham and Belgium. So eventually Roma had to be happy with the leftovers, but we’ve come a long way. Or would you rather have Diamoutene, Loria or Heinze? I can live with Smalling for one season, Roma can always go for the next big thing next Summer to partner Mancini.

Jimmy: Moise Kean, because I’m a sucker for striker prospects. Unless Zaniolo is turned into a center forward (which I think is a distinct possibility), I find it a little weird that we don’t have a young striker on payroll. Maybe Petrachi and Pallotta have been scared off by the Patrik Schick Experience, but Dzeko isn’t getting any younger. We’ll need a solution there at some point.

5. Give us one non-Roma signing in Serie A that really impressed you this summer.

Bren: I’ll go with Chucky Lozano to Napoli. It’s not like they needed more attacking talent, but bringing in a 24-year-old who amassed an amazing 34 goals and 16 assists over the past two seasons in Holland for the same price Roma paid for Schick is quite the move.

ssciavillo: It may be the easy choice because it was probably the biggest incoming transfer, but Mattijs De Ligt. As much as I hate to see Juve get better, I think it’s good for the league as a whole when a Serie A team can sign one of the hottest prospects in world football out from under the nose of Barcelona.

dallagente: In terms of individual signings I agree with Steven. Beating Barcelona to signing De Ligt helps raise the profile of the league, even if in a one-team league all the same. In terms of collective signings, Genoa have really impressed me. Both by holding onto Kouame who is the league’s best young player on performance alone, and by building a really exciting team around him.

JonAS: Well it looks like Sensi is turning into Pirlo at Inter, judging from the first two games. I think he will take huge steps forward this season. Why couldn’t EDF bring him to Rome?

Jimmy: De Ligt is the right answer in my book; it shows that Juve isn’t screwing around and really wants that Champions League trophy. Don’t know if De Ligt is going to get them there, but he’s quite the purchase regardless.

6. Lastly, do you anticipate any winter moves? And if so, who or what would Roma need?

Bren: I suppose that depends on how these injuries unfold, and while Roma aren’t really a big move in the winter, I could see some minor defensive reinforcements coming in. Oh, and Bruno Peres’ loan expires on New Year’s Eve, so there’s that.

ssciavillo: I agree that it has a lot to do with how the injuries unfold. I don’t anticipate Roma being able to spend any money come January, but a loan is possible. I know Zappacsota is on a strange 6 months at a time loan. So if he were to end up back at Chelsea for some reason then I could see Petrachi sign a replacement for him.

dallagente: We broke. Broke. We are on strictly sell-to-buy mode from here on in.

JonAS: There’s only one man during Winter who can come in and save the day. Cannelloni, telefoni, Berlusconi, Luca Toni, sei per me numero uno!

Jimmy: Only way a winter move happens is if it’s a cheap no-name prospect or a vet on a free. (Or if someone breaks the bank on Zaniolo, Under, Kluivert, but I’d like to avoid that if possible.)