The winter mercato is a football club’s annual chance to retool and renew. Where the summer mercato is seen as a fresh start, a chance to truly overhaul a squad if necessary, in January, the goal is to plug the leaks and make sure the second half of the season goes smoothly. This can be quite tricky, and often times it’s difficult to grade a winter mercato until six or even twelve months later. If they move during the summer, players can take a long time to gel with a new coach and a new squad; moving in the winter can make it even harder for a player to slide right into a coach’s game plan.
Given all of those provisos, we here at CdT thought it would be interesting to look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly of Roma’s winter mercatos from the CdT era (2012 to present). There has definitely been a mixed bag of quality and, uh, less than quality winter mercatos since I started seriously following the club; looking at what’s worked and what hasn’t can give us a sense of what kind of moves we should expect from the Giallorossi next month - that is, if it’s going to be a good winter mercato.
The Ones I Try To Forget
Winter Mercato 2014/2015: The Doumbia Quagmire
The less said about this mercato the better. There were a shocking number of misses—Seydou Doumbia being the most obvious (particularly when Roma really needed attacking assistance). Doumbia is one of the biggest flops in recent Roma history; he’s literally unemployed now, after getting his contract terminated by FC Sion in March. Sure, Juan Iturbe and Patrik Schick sting because of what they could have been, but in a moment when Roma could have used €14.4 million literally anywhere else, Doumbia was a huge mistake.
The other major signing of this window was Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who, aside from a derby goal, never amounted to much in Rome. At 31, he’s also unemployed this year. Let’s hope that at the very least, The Friedkin Group’s first winter mercato can be better than this.
The Ones I Can Only Barely Remember
Winter Mercato 2011/2012: Remember Marquinho?
Marquinho’s career in Rome was definitely outshone by Marquinhos, even though that’s obviously not his fault. Singular was a serviceable midfielder for the Giallorossi for about a season and a half, before moving on loan to Hellas Verona, then Ittihad FC, and then permanently to Udinese in 2015.
Thank you, next.
Winter Mercato 2016/2017: Clement Grenier and That’s About It
Roma signed Clement Grenier on loan from Lyon to fill a hole in their midfield depth chart. How did that go? Well, Roma didn’t exercise their option to buy on Grenier.
Winter Mercato 2017/2018: Goodbye Emerson, Hello... Jonathan Silva?
The biggest thing to come out of Roma’s 2017/2018 winter mercato was that Emerson was sold to Chelsea for a cool €20 million, most likely to balance the ever-perilous Pallotta-era Giallorossi books. The only notable signing of this winter was Jonathan Silva, an Argentinian left-back who made two appearances for the Giallorossi.
Yet another dud of a winter mercato.
Winter Mercato 2018/2019: Literally Nothing Of Consequence
Once again, the biggest news of this winter mercato was a left-back departure, with Luca Pellegrini moving to Cagliari on loan after failing to break through to the Giallorossi senior squad. Other than this, Roma had a couple Primavera players come back to the club from loans (Lorenzo Crisanto, Andrea Romagnoli, and Edoardo Soleri), and that was it.
Il prossimo, per favore.
Winter Mercato 2012/2013: Vasilis Torosidis
Remember Vasilis Torosidis? Barely? Me too, but he actually put in a decent shift for the Giallorossi over the course of his career. Toro clocked sixty appearances for the Giallorossi and was a decent back-up fullback for most of his time in Rome. His signing wasn’t anything to write home about, but he did alright for the job he had.
The Ones That Are Sheer Perfection
Winter Mercato 2013/2014: Enter The Ninja
Radja Nainggolan is perhaps one of the most polarizing players in recent Roma history, but no matter where you stand in that debate, you have to admit that he was a fantastic winter transfer. Coming in from Cagliari for €9 million total (loan fee and option to buy), Radja worked quite well in Rudi Garcia’s Roma, became the perfect star for Luciano Spalletti’s tactical system, and nabbed the Giallorossi one Nicolo Zaniolo once his off-the-field issues became large enough to force a move to Inter.
The rest of Roma’s moves this winter were influential on the margins at best (Michel Bastos? Rafael Toloi?) but even those players helped here and there to provide some depth for a squad that seemed capable of pushing for a Scudetto. Even though the Giallorossi ended up 17 points adrift from league-winners Juventus, they themselves were twenty points ahead of fourth. Radja Nainggolan was a big part of that, to say the least.
Winter Mercato 2015/2016: Perotti and the Pharoah
This was arguably one of Walter Sabatini’s greatest transfer windows. The Marquinhos signing in the summer of 2012 was inspired, sure, but a lot of that came down to a recommendation from Leandro Castan. This window was all Saba, with Roma signing two of their best wingers of the decade in one fell swoop. Some players who didn’t truly impress, like Ervin Zukanovic and Ismail H’Maidat, were also signed this window, but the centerpieces of January 2016 were Perotti and El Shaarawy, and they both delivered.
Without Diego Perotti, Roma doesn’t win Totti’s last match or De Rossi’s last match. There isn’t as clear-cut a reason why SES’s transfer was as important as Perotti’s, true, but the fact that Roma and SES are looking for a reunion this winter is as good an indicator as any that both SES and the Giallorossi benefited from his presence in Rome. Barring the next winter mercato listed here, this is the best one Roma had in the past ten years, and it’s not particularly close.
Winter Mercato 2019/2020: Petrachi’s Last Hurrah
The long-term success of the moves made in this transfer window will make any Romanista wonder what would have happened if Gianluca Petrachi hadn’t pissed off the wrong people a couple months later. Roger Ibañez and Gonzalo Villar have turned into key players for Roma, and Carles Perez has admirably stepped into the attacking rotation hole left by the second ACL tear of Nicolò Zaniolo. Even Bruno Peres’ return from loan has proven a decent move for the Giallorossi, even though he is at best a short-term solution at right-back.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see either Ibañez and Villar have big-money moves to Barcelona, PSG, or the Premier League in the near future, a la Marquinhos. Because of that, I’d argue that this window is the platonic ideal of a winter market for a club like Roma. Bring in young rotational pieces who, if given the chance, will most likely impress. Don’t rock the boat too much with players who will need to find success immediately and won’t be given time to develop, like Seydou Doumbia. Of course, this is easier said than done when signing prospects; for every Marquinhos, there’s often two or three William Biandas. Nevertheless, this is the framework, and we can only hope that Tiago Pinto follows in Petrachi’s footsteps when planning the 2021 winter mercato.
Well, there you have it. Most of Roma’s winter mercatos have been quite boring as of late, with next to no moves being made. The two times the Giallorossi struck gold, though, they struck it big. Rumors indicate that the Giallorossi are looking to make some decent moves in January, but we’ll have to wait and see if that comes to fruition. Until then: what do you think Roma should be looking for in the winter mercato? Is there a particular way you think a club like Roma should approach every winter mercato, or is it more of a case-by-case basis? Be sure to let us know!
Who was Roma's best winter purchase of the CdT era?
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Stephan El Shaarawy