When Aleskandar Kolarov was sold to Inter back in September, we all feared the inevitable: Spinazzola would not be up to the huge task of filling Aleksandar’s army boots. Leonardo was deemed too inconsistent, too injury prone, too attack-minded as a fullback in a 4-2-3-1. There was no replacement for Kolarov, Davide Santon and youth product Riccardo Calafiori would be the stand-ins for Spinazzola. And so all tifosi suddenly burned candles in the Basilica di San Pietro and prayed to Saint Totti for Leonardo’s health.
After all, we’re talking about a player who nearly joined rivals Inter eight months before that (January 2020, remember? When Corona was just a mediocre Mexican beer) and just played 50 Serie A games in his three previous seasons due to various reasons.
There were plenty of bodies and options for Fonseca in midfield, central defense, and upfront, but boy, if Spinazzola crumbled down, Roma would find itself between a rock and a hard place. Calafiori is just a teenager and Santon is... well, Santon. Decent but he won’t make the difference in games like Lazio, Inter, or Juve. And don’t start about Juan Jesus for God’s sake. Roma would not only need Spinazzola, but a TOP Spinazzola like his early Atalanta days.
Fast forward three months and Leonardo Spinazzola is arguably Italy’s best left wingback, secured his spot on the Italian national team, and is probably one of Fonseca’s first names on the team sheet. The chemistry with Henrikh Mkhitaryan is special and Leonardo really thrives in the 3-4-2-1 experiment, where Ibanez, Smalling, Veretout, or Kumbulla all have his back.
One of the better players vs Sassuolo, Bologna, Parma, and Torino, Spinazzola is on a hot streak recently. Atalanta and Napoli were just a collective letdown from everyone, let’s agree on that. Even then, Spinazzola was considered to be one of the better ones.
We all thought guys like Dzeko, Pedro, Mikhi, Veretout, or Smalling would be the core of this team but very few would have guessed Spinazzola to own that left-back spot and boss the left side so magnificently.
Unlike the right-back position, Roma were spoiled on the left in recent years (bar Jonathan Silva, may his Roman career rest in peace). Emerson, Kolarov, even Lucas Digne did ok in my honest opinion. Emerson quickly left after his (only) breakout season in Rome while Kolarov was already 32 when he joined Roma but became a fan favorite although he had a Lazio history.
Things are different with Spinazzola. He’s not particularly young anymore but at the age of 27, he’s nearing his peak. And that’s a dream scenario for Roma. An exciting, fierce Italian left-back nearing his prime? Beam me up, Scotty! Hell, it even looks like Leonardo has exorcised his injury demons and looks as fit as ever, playing in all Serie A and EL games up ‘till now, except the (albeit unmeaningful) game vs CSKA Sofia.
Although I know that sounds ironic right now because Spinazzola just recently limped off the pitch injured during the great 2020 Atalanta Slaughter Fest. However, it doesn’t seem too serious so he’ll only miss Cagliari. Jeez, I couldn’t have chosen a better timing for my post.
Anyway, this whole transfer saga with Inter and Politano in the beginning of the year was downright weird and perhaps a bit uncomfortable, but maybe something snapped that day with Spinazzola. Maybe he changed. He certainly didn’t slow down since then and improved day after day. With his current contract running until 2024, Leonardo has more than enough time to cement his place alongside the great lefties at Rome: the Kolarovs, Candela’s, Riise’s and Tonetto’s. And that moment might come sooner than you think.
So thank you Conte and Inter, for giving us the best present of 2020: Leonardo Spinazzola.