Midfielders. Even when you have a dozen of them, that somehow never seems to be enough. You can have a glut of defensive midfielders running rampant all over the pitch, erasing attacks and charging into tackles like a wild boar, but spend the entire transfer window scouring the planet for an attacking midfielder, someone to provide a spark alongside those behemoth holding midfielders. And other times, you have an army of attackers spraying passes all over the final third but lack a sufficient bulwark to protect the defense.
The trouble with this current iteration of Roma is that they don't really fall squarely into either one of those camps. Players like Lorenzo Pellegrini, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pedro are more than capable of jump starting and sustaining an attack week-in-week-out, but as we saw yesterday against Napoli, given the age of Mkhitaryan and Pedro, mounting fatigue can, has, and will be an issue going forward.
Similarly, with guys like Jordan Veretout, Bryan Cristante, Gonzalo Villar and Amadou Diawara capable of taking some of the pressure off Roma's backline, the Giallorossi seem safe in the back half of midfield. But, as we're all too well aware, these players have their own issues, ranging from passive play, indecisiveness, injuries and simple lack of experience. among other things.
What Roma's midfield needs is a player capable of seamlessly shifting between attacking and defending. And if you believe today's rumors, Paulo Fonseca and Tiago Pinto may have already identified this mysterious malleable midfielder:
According to Calciomercato, Roma have tabbed Cagliari's Nahitan Nández as the ideal winter addition to their midfield. Nández, a 24-year-old Uruguayan formerly of Boca Juniors, made the Serie A switch last summer, signing with the Sardinians for €18 million. During his first season in Italy, Nández logged 38 appearances in all competitions, scoring two goals and registering three assists. He also received the third most yellow cards in the league (14).
In his second season in Italy, Nández is exhibiting some pretty solid growth under Eusebio Di Francesco. Through seven league appearances, Nández has only scored one goal but is otherwise doing solid work, averaging 1.1 key passes per match, 1.1 dribbles per match, and 2 tackles per match, while drawing only one yellow card thus far. Nández has also chalked up six goal-creating actions, second only to Napoli's Matteo Politano. And while he doesn't shoot often (only six attempts), Nández has been extremely accurate, putting 83% of those on target.
Nández is capable of playing anywhere laterally across the midfield, as a pure defensive midfielder, and even as a wide attacking player, as he does with the Uruguayan national team, so he'd provide Fonseca with almost immeasurable options in midfield.
But he won't come cheap. Estimated at some €30 million, Nández would be an extremely pricey winter purchase and would likely require Roma succumbing to the Premiership overtures for Amadou Diawara, who has seemingly fallen out of favor in the capital for a variety of reasons, including injury and competition for minutes. With clubs like Leicester City and Arsenal interested in Diawara, Roma would seemingly be able to collect at least €20 million for his services.
As a Boca fan, I can't lie, this move would excite me. But your feelings on this transfer likely depend on how much you value Diawara, the man Nández would ostensibly be replacing. After all, Diawara seemed like a tailor-made purchase for Fonseca Football® last season and has excelled as a defensive midfielder during his brief stay in Roma and still has a lot of room for growth.
But that's the thing about midfielders: not only do you never have enough, but the ones you do have are seemingly always lacking something. Could Nahitan Nández fill the attacker-cum-defender void in midfield or would he simply be another redundancy that's good but not good enough?
€30 million is a steep price to pay, so if this move comes to pass, especially if it comes at the cost of Diawara, we'll have a keener understanding of what Fonseca wants from his midfielders.