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A €120 Million Fantasy Plan to Rebuild Roma

You've got one summer and €120 million to turn Roma into a winner. What would you do?

Counterfeit euro money Photo by Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images

While we like to think of Roma as a spendthrift team, the fact is, in the past two summers alone, the club has spent over €200 million on the transfer market. Granted, not all of that was immediately liquid (installments, front end and back end loan payments, etc) but this club does spend, despite a reputation that says otherwise.

The problem with that, of course, comes when we consider how frequently the club changes course. Spending €42 million on Patrik Schick seemed like a good idea at the time, but the minute Roma changes managers, that gleaming gift to EDF becomes an albatross for Claudio Ranieri and/or Paulo Fonseca. Roma's downfall isn't necessarily a lack of spending, but a lack of long-term planning.

With the entire world on pause at the moment, we have no earthly idea when Dan Friedkin will take control of Roma. Some recent rumors suggest that the handover could be delayed through the summer, which could spell doom for the club's summer transfer plans.

But let's play pretend for a moment. Imagine you're Roma's new Director of Sport (let's assume Gianluca Petrachi left to pursue his true passion: Making the world's greatest cheeseburger) and you're given a budget roughly akin to Roma's average spend over the past three summers, what would you do?

Before I give you my plan, a few caveats.

  1. This is a thought exercise, so I'm not terribly concerned with the actual payment schedules or if these fictional deals overlap with actual future financial obligations.
  2. To make things easier, we'll make the giant assumption that Roma can permanently shed Monchi's mistakes (Nzonzi, Olsen, Karsdorp, Gonalons, Coric, Schick and Defrel).
  3. You can sell two current members of the first team for tactical purposes.
  4. All current youth players out on loan will remain so for the purposes of this exercise.
  5. Paulo Fonseca will remain as manager.
  6. Purchase prices are based on Transfermarkt market values.
  7., whatever.

The Budget: €120 Million

Using the total financial outlays for each of the past three summers, including purchases and loan fees, Roma spent an average of €120 million over the past three summers. From the mega deals (Schick, Nzonzi, Lopez) to those that barely registered at the time (Mert Cetin), Roma have actually spent a ton of money in the past few years.

As we mentioned above, it hasn't always been spent judiciously, and it probably doesn't seem like that much because they never landed a true superstar on the order of Mauro Icardi; someone who would cross that €60 million threshold.

But, assuming my math is correct and that Transfermarkt's figures were accurate, Roma have spent an average of €120 million each summer since 2017. Amazing, right?

The Two Sales

In order to make room on the squad, I'm going to jettison two players who, for a variety of reasons, simply have not gelled with Roma's current ambitions. The money accrued from these sales will simply go back into the coffers; in other words, if I get €32 million for Player X, that's not going to increase my spending budget.

Okay, first up...

Bryan Cristante

When all is said and done, Roma will have paid €30 million for Cristante, a hefty sum that seemed palatable considering what he achieved with Atalanta—12 goals in all competitions in the 2017-2018 season. I, like most Roma fans, have been enamored with what Cristante could become, but for a variety of reasons, Roma and Cristante just haven't clicked yet.

So, I'd do Cristante a favor and let him find a more suitable location for his talents. At 25-years-old, he's just entering his peak physical years, so finding a place in which he thrives could rejuvenate his international career as well.

Leonardo Spinazzola

The expectations may not have been as high for Spinazzola coming to Roma, but he’s fallen into that same awkward space as Cristante; even more so since the club essentially sold him in January only for the deal to fall apart. Spinazzola is better at left-back, but he hasn't done enough to dislodge Aleksandar Kolarov from the starting spot and has been forced to spend the bulk of his time at right-back.

Just like Cristante, Spinazzola is entering his prime years and seems like a solid guy, so I'd try my best to find a safe landing spot for him, somewhere he can land a start left-back gig.

If we use their market values (again, courtesy of TM), Roma could pull in €43 million off these two; a loss anyway you slice it.

Alright, now onto the fun part. Let's spend some monopoly money.

The Purchases

The first thing I had to contend with here was allocation of resources. Do I want to grab one über star and sprinkle the rest out on depth, or take a more practical approach and sign two or three instant starter-type players?

If we look at the club's biggest areas of need—right back, left back and striker—I might have to shutter my dreams of landing a FIFA cover boy. Between Nicolo Zaniolo, Gianluca Mancini, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Justin Kluivert and Cengiz Ünder, the club has a solid core of young talent; they just need some help rounding out the edges.

Got it? Alright, here we go.

Lucas Digne: Left-Back, Everton (€35 Million)

Chelsea FC v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Stephanie Meek - CameraSport via Getty Images

I thought about trying to pry Theo Hernandez away from Milan or Benjamin Mendy from Manchester City, but bringing back our old friend Digne would give Roma a permanent solution at left-back. Kolarov has one more year remaining on his deal, so a Digne-Kolarov tandem would be far better than Roma's current depth chart at the position.

In Digne, Roma would be acquiring a dynamic 26-year-old left back, one who can contribute in nearly all phases of the game. Over the past two seasons, Digne has chipped in four goals and nine assists in Premiership play, while also averaging at least two key passes, two accurate crosses and 1.5 accurate long balls per match. He's also averaged more than two tackles and clearances per match since switching to Everton last season, so he does a bit of everything at both ends of the pitch.

While he doesn't offer as much direct scoring as Kolarov (and certainly not from the spot), most of his numbers, except for build up and chain, are on par with Kolarov, while his key pass and assist numbers are better than Kolarov's over the past two seasons.

If this exercise proved anything, it's that top quality left-backs are exceedingly rare. Roma have gotten awfully lucky with Kolarov's late career upswing. Digne isn't Roberto Carlos, but he'd lock down that left-back spot for at least the next six or seven years.

Fabien Centonze: Right-Back, Metz (€5 Million)

Stade de Reims v FC Metz - Ligue 1 Photo by Baptiste Fernandez/Icon Sport via Getty Images

I know what you're saying...who? Centonze, a 23-year-old Frenchman, made the move to Metz this past summer on a €3 million move from Lens. And it gets worse. Metz was his fourth senior club since 2015 and his first top-flight club.

Buuttt...he's been a revelation for The Maroons this season. Centonze has played every single league minute for Metz, showing impressive defensive acumen through those 2,520 minutes. Centzone ranked sixth in Ligue 1 in total tackles—winning 77% of those attempts—while he was only dribbled past 23 times, the fifth best mark among full-backs in the league. He's also chipped in three assists and averaged nearly two accurate long-balls per match.

In a sense, he's the anti-Florenzi, so pairing the two would allow Fonseca to play the week-to-week match-ups and if his breakthrough season is any indication, the best is yet to come for Centonze.

Besides, by saving so much on this spot, we can go a bit crazy on our new forward...

Timo Werner: Forward, RB Leipzig (€80 Million)

RB Leipzig v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

I didn't plan it this way, but saving a significant chunk of change on Centonze allowed us a bit of breathing room in our search for a new striker; and what a striker we found. With 71 goals and 26 assists in Bundesliga play over the past three seasons, Werner has emerged as one of the hottest strikers on the market.

We're keeping Dzeko on the payroll to see out the end of his deal, but Werner becomes our day one starter, and while he's not as massive as Dzeko, Roma won't lose a step:

Werner vs. Dzeko, attacking stats the past two seasons.

Werner is a slightly different sort of player from Dzeko, but his superior pace, athleticism and tactical versatility would be a welcomed addition to Roma's front line, where he can even interchange with Kluivert and Ünder on the wings if need be—there are probably multiple scenarios in which Werner and Dzeko can even play alongside one another.

Werner would, in an instant, obliterate Roma's transfer record, but we're talking about a freakish player with pace and finishing for days, and he only just turned 24. Throw Werner in with Zaniolo and you have your two new club icons for the next decade.

Final Thoughts

Using the club's average financial outlay over the past three summers, we've addressed arguably the three weakest areas of the pitch. Digne, who may be one of the world's more underappreciated talents, would give Roma a path forward in their post-Kolarov lives. Centonze, while a bit of a project, shores up the defensive liabilities that have plagued Roma's right flank for years and would enable Fonseca to play the matchups week-to-week, switching back and forth between he and Florenzi, while the acquisition of Werner speaks for itself.

This was an act of fantasy—there's no way Roma can outbid the Premiership clubs for Werner, while Everton are unlikely to part with Digne—but it does go to show you what Roma could conceivably acquire for the same amount of money they've been spending all along.

So, that's my take, what would you do with €120 million?