Federico Fazio started a revolution when he first signed in 2016 for Roma. A wonderkid of the 2000s, the Argentinian centre-half had seen highs in La Liga and lows in the Premier League. It was generally felt that you couldn’t afford to play Fazio in a team without two deep-lying midfielders for protection, since he brought the kind of daring football from the backline that went at odds with his lack of recovery pace when the risks went wrong. Fazio has resisted temptation to call an end to his four years in Rome so far, but the biggest curtain call possible could arrive this winter transfer window, if Spanish paper Sport’s report of Barcelona’s interest has any substance to it.
Barca are now led onto the field by a man who knows all about imposing his attacking skills at centre-half, in former Barca player-turned-coach Ronald Koeman. But it’s not just the fact Koeman played a lot like Fazio in his own time that’s driving Barca’s interest, as much as the Catalan club’s need to save money, while re-vamping their dysfunctional squad. We’re only weeks removed from the headlines that Barcelona are, once again, headed for bankruptcy (where they’ll no doubt, once again, be bailed out by the region’s major banks), which leaves the Blaugrana scouting Europe for transfer targets to be had on the cheap.
Barcelona’s ideal candidate is reported to be a defender who can step in for the perennially injured Samuel Umtiti, a low-cost transfer, and someone with prior La Liga experience. Federico Fazio is all of those things, thanks to his Europa League-conquering days at Sevilla, but so is AC Milan’s Matteo Musacchio and Fiorentina’s German Pezzella. So we can’t write about this as is Fazio is Barcelona’s undisputed number 1 winter transfer target. There are a lot of bodies further ahead in the queue that could mean this transfer rumour dies before it even gets published, but one thing favouring a Fazio move to the Blaugrana would be Roma’s willingness to shed their own wage budget further.
The Giallorossi are unlikely to ask for a transfer fee for Fazio that’s anywhere near the 15 million euros that Fiorentina would want for Pezzella, or other clubs for their own players. That being said, a 33-year old Fazio has shown he still has the hunger to impose himself on Roma’s Europa League games this season. Even when all of his other ten teammates drift with the ebb and flow of Thursday evenings, it’s Fazio pushing up to be that extra man in midfield and attack, helping to create Roma goal-chances in a way Fazio has always done.
He could easily have just coasted this season, and lose his desire for the game now that he’s Roma’s fourth-choice centre-back. But guys like Fazio actually love playing football and, whether Roma choose to move on his services this winter or not, he’s statiscally one of Europe’s leading defenders of the last decade, a prime example of doing more with less, and ushered in a new style of play from Roma’s backline that we thought we’d lost with Mehdi Benatia but that’s now been continued with Gianluca Mancini, Marash Kumbulla and the phenom Roger Ibañez.
Will Roma and Fazio decide there are simply too many young guns doing what Fazio was doing so well for years now? Or are the club from the Eternal City better off keeping Fazio as a reserve for the rest of the 2020/21 season?
Ultimately, it could be the wage bill—and not footballing concerns—that have the final say in this pandemic-struck campaign.