Predicting what Roma will do during any given transfer window is always a fool's errand, but that already difficult and inadvisable task becomes even harder during the January transfer season; a time when Roma vacillate between doing absolutely nothing or making club-altering moves. For every winter in which Roma sit on their hands or take a flier on someone like Vasilis Torosidis or Seydou Doumbia, they occasionally pull a rabbit out of their (winter) hat, landing someone like Luca Toni, Diego Perotti or Stephan El Shaarawy, three players who had dramatic impacts upon first arriving in the capital.
Last winter was unusually busy by Roma standards, with the soon to be embattled Gianluca Petrachi landing a trio young and unfamiliar names: Gonzalo Villar, Carles Pérez and Roger Ibañez. We weren't quite sure what to make of any of those kids a year ago, but they're each starting to prove their worth, slowly but surely (or incredibly rapidly if you're Ibañez).
All of which brings us to the winter 2021 transfer window, which will open shortly after New Year's Day. With Roma's defense coalescing around the young trio of Ibañez, Marash Kumbulla and Gianluca Mancini (as well as the return of Chris Smalling), the club will likely focus on adding depth to Paulo Fonseca's front-line, though we can't rule out a new full-back joining the fray.
But who exactly will Roma add? Who should they add? Will they limit themselves to one purchase?
To answer those questions, let's take a look at the pros and cons of the names most frequently connected to Roma over the past few weeks and determine which player is the best and most likely fit for the Giallorossi this January.
Stephan El Shaarawy
Current club: Shanghai Shenhua | Market Value: €12M | Contract: June ‘22
Bio: A Shenhua player in name only, El Shaarawy has made all of 16 appearances in the Chinese Super League since leaving Roma in the summer of 2019. El Shaarawy made his pro debut with Genoa in 2008 and has served stints with Padova (Serie B), AC Milan, Monaco (Ligue 1) and, of course, AS Roma, for whom he spent parts of four seasons, scoring 40 goals and chipping in 19 assists before chasing the money to china.
Pros: Well, take a look at those numbers. Any way you slice it, El Shaarawy was one of Roma's most effective players during his tenure in the Italian capital. You'd be hard pressed to find a player more agile than SES, who can squeeze through the tightest of defenses and is more than capable of scoring miracle goal after miracle goal.
He can slot in on the left in place of Henrikh Mkhitaryan or even sit more centrally as a second striker behind Edin Dzeko. SES’ up-tempo style and ability to both create his own shot and work within a broader framework should enable a smooth transition to Fonseca Football®.
Cons: Money. As in, El Shaarawy earns a lot of it from Shanghai for playing football, even though he barely does that for them; he's like the son-in-law in any given corporation (or cabinet) who draws a huge salary despite seemingly doing very little. On a short-term loan, this wouldn't necessarily be an impediment, but given how little time he's spent in China, it's clear that El Shaarawy wants out, so the degree to which he's willing to shed salary will ultimately determine his fate.
Likelihood: 80%. El Shaarawy would already be a Roma player if the club were able to complete Perotti's transfer quicker over the summer, so he's the odds-on favorite.
Current Club: Everton | Market Value: €15M | Contract: June ‘22
Bio: Bernard Duarte, a 28-year-old Brazilian forward, is no stranger to Fonseca Football®, having played for Roma's manager during their time with Shakhtar Donetsk. After scoring 14 goals and providing 24 assists during his five-year stay in Ukraine, Bernard jumped shipped for Everton prior to the 2018 season, where he's remained ever since, scoring five goals and providing five assists in 64 league appearances. A natural right footer, Bernard can play as an attacking midfielder or wide forward.
Pros: Familiarity and versatility. Consider Bernard a Pedro-lite. His attacking stats haven't really translated to the Premiership, but he's an otherwise sound option Fonseca can plug and play in a variety of positions, providing rest for the likes of Pedro, Mkhitaryan and perhaps even Lorenzo Pellegrini.
Cons: Bernard doesn't have any glaring weaknesses (at least on the surface), but he doesn't really move the needle, does he? This would be a fine albeit boring winter addition. Consider this a low ceiling/high floor type of move.
Likelihood: 50%. If Roma can't snag SES, Bernard's familiarity with Fonseca would make for an easy fit, though he wouldn’t provide the same scoreboard impact as El Sharaawy.
Current Club: Lyon | Market Value: €45M | Contract: June ‘21
Bio: No stranger to the rumor rags, Memphis Depay has seemingly been on the transfer market every summer of his career. After exploding on the scene with PSV (43 goals and 18 assists in all competitions over four seasons), Depay made a €34 million move to Manchester United in the summer of 2015 but failed to impress at the Theatre of Dreams and was sold to Lyon for only €16 million in the winter of 2017. Depay has resurrected his once promising career since moving to France, scoring 59 goals and providing 39 assists in all competitions since signing with Lyon in January 2017.
Pros: Uh...duh. The guy is dope. You can't exactly find that balance of scoring and creating at your local football bodega. We'd have to see how his Ligue 1 numbers translate abroad, but Depay has been one of the most explosive players in Europe over the past few seasons, scoring 43 goals and assisting 24 more in the past three league seasons alone.
Cons: Well, he's not exactly a hidden gem, is he? Performances like that have drawn the eyes of everyone from Juventus to Barcelona, so Roma wouldn’t exactly be his top choice. And then there's the cost: even with six months remaining on his deal, Depay won't come terribly cheap. Throw in the fact that Lyon refuted these stories and Depay to Roma looks like a flimsy albeit exciting proposition.
Likelihood: Let's be generous and say 10%. Depay would be THE man in Roma, a role that has suited him during his time with PSV and Lyon, so perhaps that would appeal to him.
Current Club: Napoli | Market Value: €27 Million | Contract: June ‘21
Bio: Well, if you're an avid CdT reader, you're probably already familiar with Milik, so here's the abbreviated version: with 32 goals and 11 assists for Ajax between 2014 and 2016, Milik was the hottest young striker on the market and made a big money move to Napoli in 2016. Successive knee injuries derailed his career, but with 28 goals between 2018 and 2020, Milik has rebounded. However, with Napoli signing Andrea Petagana over the summer, Milik became somewhat redundant and nearly signed with Roma over the summer.
Pros: With his injuries seemingly behind him, Milik rediscovered his shooting boots, scoring 28 goals in 61 league appearances between the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons. Milik may lack Edin Dzeko's well-rounded game but he more than makes up for it with superior precision and finishing.
Cons: Well, for starters, he hasn't played since last spring. Once the writing was on the wall, Napoli chose to keep Milik out of the squad, this despite their willingness to seal the deal with Roma over the summer, so he might be a bit rusty. While he's logged significant minutes over the past two seasons, with multiple knee injuries on his resume, one simply never knows how he'll hold up over the long-term. And, unlike the other names on this list, Milik is solely a striker.
Likelihood: 5%. What once seemed like a certainty is anything but as we head into the winter. For starters, Roma's signing of Borja Mayoral seemingly solved the Dzeko backup problem, but he's been all over the map in his brief cameos, so the club may not be sold on his long-term potential, perhaps leaving the door open for Milik.
With roughly six weeks before the winter transfer window officially opens, we're likely to see several new names linked with Roma, but these four candidates are the favorites as we head towards mid-November.
So, what do you think: would any of these players boost Roma's Champions League hopes for next season?
Pretend money and fit are no problem, who would you sign this winter?
This poll is closed
Stephan El Shaarawy