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Winter Transfer Wrap-Up: Roma Favor Depth, Flexibility and Upside Over Big Names

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Gianluca Petrachi didn't go for the headlines but he gave Roma a trio of young and intriguing players.

Gianluca Petrachi, sporting director of AS Roma, looks on... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Well, my friends, another transfer deadline has come and gone. The winter transfer window may be the red-headed step child of the transfer game, but it still produced a deluge of rumors, conjecture and denials. From the loco to the logical, we bore witness to many haphazard and ham-fisted stories over the past several weeks, stories that would have led us to believe Moise Kean and Stephan El Shaarawy would be returning to Italy to wear the giallo e rosso, with Javier Pastore, Juan Jesus, Daniel Fuzato and Nikola Kalinic leaving for destinations all over the globe.

In the end, just as it always does, the transfer window ended with a whimper rather than a bang, which is really for the best because banging windows can ruin the integrity of the seals.

Before we slice and dice Roma's winter work, let's take some inventory


The Deals

Incoming

UD Ibiza v FC Barcelona - Copa del Rey: Round of 32
Carles Perez during Barca training
Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Roger Ibanez: Centerback/Defensive Midfielder

  • 21-year-old Brazilian
  • 18 month loan with obligation to buy from Atalanta
  • Total cost could reach €11 million

Carles Perez: Winger/Midfielder

  • 21-year-old Spaniard
  • Loan with incentive-based obligation from Barcelona
  • Total cost could reach €16.5 million

Gonzalo Villar: Midfielder

  • 21-year-old Spaniard
  • Permanent purchase from Elche (Spanish Segunda)
  • Total cost could reach €5 million

Outgoing

Alessandro Florenzi of AS Roma looks on during the Coppa... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Alessandro Florenzi to Valencia, six-month loan
  • Mirko Antonucci to Vitoria CF (Portugal), six-month loan
  • Steven Nzonzi to Rennes, six-month loan, option for additional year
  • Zan Celar to Cremonese, six-month loan after Cittadella deal cut short

Heading into this transfer season, one could argue that Roma had four items on their shopping list.

  1. A backup striker for Edin Dzeko
  2. Depth at the wide positions, particularly in the wake of Nicolo Zaniolo's injury
  3. An athletic, ball-playing central defender to slot in behind Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini, since he's seemingly lost all faith in Juan Jesus and Federico Fazio
  4. A new full-back to replace the recently departed Alessandro Florenzi.

So, now that we've taken stock of Gianluca Petrachi's January dealings, it's time to do a quick formative assessment of his first winter market as Roma's director of sport.

Goal #1: A Backup for Dzeko

While Roma were intermittently connected to strikers throughout the winter—Zlatan and Moise Kean to kick off the season and Genoa's Andrea Favilli to wrap it up—in the end Petrachi wasn't able to strike a deal. In the absence of fresh blood, Petrachi really had no choice but to shoot down any offers, no matter how small, for Nikola Kalinic.

Given Roma's financial constraints at the moment, Petrachi really only had two choices here. Option one: Bring in a young striker, hope Dzeko doesn't get hurt in the short-term and gradually introduce said youngster into the first team. Option two: find an aging 30ish year old striker who was willing (and happy) to play second fiddle to Dzeko, one who can contribute immediately and without consistent minutes; in essence, a more effective Kalinic.

Verdict: Failure with extenuating circumstances. Petrachi's options were extremely limited here, so we can't be too hard on him, but this is a continuing area of need for the club.

Goal #2: Depth on the Wings

This wasn't exactly a new goal but following Nicolo Zaniolo's torn ACL, not to mention Henrikh Mkhitarayan and Javier Pastore's parade of muscle strains, it took on added importance. As it stands right now, without further reinforcements, Roma's wide play rested largely on the young legs of Justin Kluivert and Cengiz Ünder

While Cengiz is rounding into form and Pastore made a spot appearance against Lazio last week, Roma's wing core has been stripped to the bone over the past several months, putting the onus on Petrachi to simply find a body.

While there was the tantalizing rumor of El Shaarawy returning to Roma, Petrachi forged a new path instead, bringing in Carles Perez from Barcelona. While he may be short on experience, based purely on athleticism, the 21-year-old seems like he'll be an immediate contributor and should settle in the rotation somewhere behind Kluivert and Ünder.

Verdict: Pass. Perez's speed, technique, and skill on the ball should enable a quick transition to the Italian game, while the return of Pastore eases the pressure on the position...somewhat.

Goal #3: Further Options in Central Defense

It seems absurd now, but Paulo Fonseca began his first season in Rome starting Juan Jesus and Federico Fazio in defense. And, not surprisingly, Roma conceded three goals in their opener against Genoa back in late August. The Man from Mozambique eventually wised up, turning Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling into arguably the league's best defensive duo.

However, with only 13 league appearances between them, it's become increasingly clear that Fonseca doesn't trust Fazio and Jesus as third-choice center-backs, leading many to assume Roma would go shopping down that aisle this winter.

With the purchase of Roger Ibanez, a seldom used but incredibly intriguing and athletic center back from Atalanta, Petrachi may have found added depth and future partner for Mancini in one fell stroke.

Ibanez's European career is effectively nil to this point, but as we pointed out two weeks ago, he seems ideally suited to Fonseca Football and could leapfrog Fazio, Jesus and even Mert Cetin in the pecking order.

Verdict: Pass. Smallling and Mancini have remained relatively healthy this season (knock on wood), so all Petrachi really needed to do was give Fonseca another option outside of Fazio, Jesus and Cetin. If Ibanez's profile fits Fonseca's tactics as much as we think, Petrachi may have found a winner.

Goal #4: Replace Florenzi's Spot and/or Role

Dating back to last summer, the rumblings leading Alessandro Florenzi away from Roma were constantly droning in the background, enticing and/or frigtening you, depending on your view of Ale. In the end, Petrachi gave into those rumblings, sending Florenzi to Valencia on a six-month dry loan, averting the incessant debate for another 180 days at least.

Common sense would, however, dictate that if you're losing a full-back then you should, at the very least, bring another one in. While Roma were linked to a few options from abroad, Petrachi opted for the status quo.

Verdict: Pass(ish). While Petrachi didn't bring in a new full-back, with Leonardo Spinazzola's move to Inter Milan falling through and with Bruno Peres returning from Brazil, Roma still have four nominal fullbacks; Spinazzola, Peres, Aleksandar Kolarov and Davide Santon, plus the prospect of Davide Zappacosta recovering from his ACL surgery in the coming weeks and months.

Final Thoughts

Considering the impending takeover of the club, and the concomitant financial uncertainty therein, Petrachi was likely restricted in his ability to improve the club. Indeed, when one looks at his trio of incoming deals, one finds a great deal of deferred money. In that sense, Petrachi did a bang-up job of acquiring three young and intriguing talents while limiting the immediate financial hit.

Hopefully, Petrachi won't be quite so restricted this summer, when he will need to address Roma's long-standing concerns of finding eventual replacements for Dzeko and Kolarov, but he did a remarkable job of giving Fonseca two players capable of upsetting the apple cart in the meantime; Villar seems too young and inexperienced to be anything other than a project at this point.

With six matches in all competitions in February, we'll found out rather quickly if these kids can help Roma's fight for fourth place.

Poll

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