Just under a year ago, bren undertook the task of breaking down Roma’s roster player-by-player into categories based on their importance to the club. Normally, this kind of roster scrutiny would be saved for the end of the latter stages of the season, not late March. However, with the coronavirus crisis showing no signs of abating at the moment, Roma’s season may, for all intents and purposes, be over.
Therefore, after just 26 league matches and eight Europa League encounters, we will again break down each player’s importance to the club. Even though it isn’t even a full year since our last edition of these rankings, things have changed quite a bit in the capital.
With the arrivals of Gianluca Petrachi and Paulo Fonseca this past summer, the Giallorossi roster saw a fair amount of turnover, and with new leadership comes new faces and new favorites—some players that may have been rated more highly under EDF and Monchi have fallen down the pecking order a bit under Fonseca.
These rankings will only take into account the 28 players currently on the Giallorossi roster, not anyone out on loan. So, don’t expect to see old time favorites like Schick, Nzonzi,or Olsen here, since we’ll go off the assumption that Petrachi will at the very least farm them out again next season. Even Florenzi won’t be found on this list either despite the fact that he could return after his loan.
The Future Former Roma Players
The Likely Loanees: Daniel Fuzato, Mert Çetin, Roger Ibañez, Gonzalo Villar
A lot of what happens with this group likely hinges on the fates other players further down this list. If Antonio Mirante sticks around for another season, it’s probably in the Giallorossi’s best interest to find Fuzato a club where he can get some game time—he needs top flight experience.
The same goes for player like Çetin and Ibañez. If Roma is able to move on from the likes of Juan Jesus and Fazio then these two probably stick around and battle it out for the third and fourth center back spots. Otherwise, you’d think at least one of the two is loaned out for some experience.
Villar, on the other hand, showed some flashes of what he brings to the table before the hiatus. Whether or not he gets loaned out likely depends on if Petrachi invests in the midfield this summer. Don’t be surprised if all four players are still in the capital next season, but also don’t be surprised if they’re refining their skills elsewhere.
Cut Your Loss Candidates: Juan Jesus, Federico Fazio, Javier Pastore, Diego Perotti, Nikola Kalinić
This list has certainly grown from last season. Juan Jesus find himself here for the second consecutive year for obvious reasons, but this time fellow center back Fazio joins him. The big Argentine offered plenty for Roma under EDF, but hasn't started consistently under Fonseca. Jesus and Fazio are also blocking Cetin and Ibanez, giving Roma further motivation to part ways with their veteran defenders.
Moving up the pitch, there’s no question that the oft-injured Pastore has worn out his welcome. Despite some flashes of brilliance when he has played, the injuries have been overwhelming. How Roma moves him is another question altogether, though. Meanwhile, father time seems to have caught up with Perotti. Roma would be wise to move on and try and bring back Stephan El Shaarawy this summer (if the rumors are to be believed). As for Kalinić? Well, thank goodness it was just a one-year loan.
The Fringe Players
Take ‘Em or Leave ‘Em: Antonio Mirante, Davide Zappacosta, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Bruno Peres, Davide Santon
Mirante offers all you could want from a second choice keeper. He’s a true professional and steps up when he’s needed. But, as he enters the twilight of his career, he could look for one more shot at starting for a smaller club.
Three of Roma’s right backs end up in this category as well, which says a lot about the club’s difficulties at the position. Santon has moved up a notch in this year rankings, as Fonseca has found a use for him. And shockingly, Peres looks like a useful player again. Meanwhile, Zappacosta is just about healthy after tearing his ACL in September. Roma could decide to bring him back on another loan. If that happens then it's likely Santon or Peres deputizing for Zappacosta, with the other likely on the way out.
Lastly is Mkhitaryan, who has produced moments of magic sandwiched between long injury layoffs. While Mkhitaryan seems content to stay in Rome, his return likely depends on Arsenal’s asking price.
The Gray Areas
Talented But Time is Running Out: Bryan Cristante, Cengiz Ünder, Leonardo Spinazzola, Edin Dzeko, Aleksandar Kolarov
This quintet is loaded with talent, but can be separated into two groups. First, you have the veterans: Dzeko and Kolarov. Age has begun to catch up with the two Balkans bred stars, meaning their days as starters could be numbered. Both are still useful, but would benefit from a lessened work load next season.
The other trio is still young enough to produce, but hasn't lived up to expectations for various reasons. Thanks to being played slightly out of position, Spinazzola and Cristante have had trouble producing their best work under Fonseca; Cristante isn’t a defensive mid and Spinazzola isn’t a right back. Both will have to find ways to fit Fonseca’s system if they want to stick around.
Meanwhile, Ünder, who was expected to be Roma’s next big bargaining chip, has struggled this season. The young Turk has looked like a shell of himself and only really found a role this season after Zaniolo’s injury. There’s still plenty of time for him to capitalize on his natural talents, but if he doesn’t do so soon at the Olimpico, Roma could move on.
The Potential Posse
Intriguing Upside: Pau Lopez, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Justin Kluivert, Amadou Diawara, Gianluca Mancini, Carles Perez
This list has gotten a bit longer this season with Roma investing in more young talent over the summer. Pellegrini, the lone Roma youth product on the roster, remains on this list. This season Pellegrini has produced plenty of mouth watering assists, but has had some clunkers as well. Roma will look to keep their potential future captain around as part of the spine of this team moving forward.
Speaking of the spine of the team, plenty of it can be found in this portion of the rankings. Lopez has proved to be a massive upgrade over Olsen. Outside of his derby blunder, the 25-year-old Spaniard has been just what the doctor ordered: He’s been consistent between the sticks and come up with plenty of big saves. As he enters his prime years, expect him to be a big part of Roma’s future.
In front of Lopez, Mancini looks like another solid Petrachi center-back buy. The young Italian is a student of the game and has been an ideal partner to Smalling. His ceiling looks pretty high and he figures to be the anchor of the Giallorossi back-line in front of Lopez for awhile.
Perhaps the most important player to Fonseca’s set-up from this group is Diawara. Without the 22-year-old Guinean in the midfield, Roma has struggled. When Diawara sits in front of the back-line, the benefits are obvious. He’s the heartbeat of the Roma midfield, contributing in both directions.
Out wide, Roma may have struck gold this winter with the purchase of Perez. The Barcelona product has shown a penchant for taking players on; something Roma has lacked without Zaniolo. The sample size has been small on him since his arrival, but he has the makings of a potential starter.
Meanwhile, Kluivert can be maddening at times, but the talent is evident. At just 20-years-old, the Dutchman has the demeanor and ability to be a consistent contributor for a long time. Roma will give him plenty of opportunities to live up to his famous surname.
The Prime Time Players
Players at Their Peaks: Jordan Veretout, Chris Smalling
The make-up of this year’s Roma roster makes this category very limited. The Giallorossi are chock-full of burgeoning young talents and veterans on the decline. However, there are only two players who are in their primes with production to match.
Veretout has been a workhorse in the Giallorossi midfield this term. He has the pit bull mentality that Roma has lacked since the departure of Radja Nainggolan. While Diawara is the heartbeat of the midfield, Veretout is its lungs, and that compatibility allows the more creative players like Pellegrini free reign.
Smalling has been an absolute beast along the Roma back-line this season. Originally an afterthought upon his arrival from Man United on loan, Smalling won a starting role and hasn’t looked back. He’s toward the tail-end of his prime years, but the Englishman looks to have some more good years left in him. Roma will likely look to bring him back next season on a permanent basis.
Still The Future, Still The Franchise...The Kid
Roma’s Next Number Ten: Nicolò Zaniolo
I mean, what is there to say about this kid that hasn’t already been said? Zaniolo went from primavera player throw-in as part of Nainggolan’s sale to Roma’s most valuable asset in the blink of an eye. The 20-year-old Italian is nowhere near his prime, but he already looks like a man among boys.
He posses the perfect mix of size, skill, strength, pace, and technique along with a work-rate and insatiable hunger to achieve greatness. Bren summed up his game quite well in last year’s rankings.
Zaniolo plays with the composure and intelligence of a man ten years older. His poise on the ball, killer close control, intuitive passing and finishing touch makes him a menace to any defender on the planet, and much like Roma’s former franchise player, he does it all without blinding speed or an array of joga bonito-style step overs. That’s not to say he can’t make a fool out of you (look no further than this goal against Sassuolo), it’s just that he reads the game so well and is seemingly always in the right spot that he doesn’t have to—he’s like Neo in The Matrix in that way; there is no spoon.
Before an ACL injury derailed his season in January, Zaniolo made the right wing his own. He was improving match by match, and even started to make an impact for the Italian national team. He’s been working hard to come back and should be ready and rearing to go by the start of the new campaign. There’s no reason to believe he won’t come back just and strong and ready to continue his ascent to super-stardom.
Friedkin would be wise to ensure that ascension occurs in the eternal city and ends with a coronation in the Roma pantheon of heroes. Talent like this doesn’t walk through the Trigoria doors on a daily baisis. Roma would be foolish not to make him the new face of the club.