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Potential “Underdog” Style Summer Signings

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Roma won’t have much to spend this summer, so could it look to some mid and lower table clubs for affordable solutions?

ACF Fiorentina v Atalanta BC - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

It’s a well-known fact that Roma’s already precarious finances have been further exacerbated by the impact of the global pandemic. With rumors swirling that the sharks may circle around the Giallorossi’s most prized assets, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Roma won’t be in a favorable position on the next transfer market—whenever that might be. It’s still too soon to tell if Roma will have the wherewithal to hold on to the likes of Lorenzo Pellegrini or Nicolò Zaniolo in the face of a mega offer. However, what should be clear is that Roma will have to find some budget signings to help balance the books.

With that in mind, don’t expect to see the Giallorossi in the running for someone like Sandro Tonali or Federico Chiesa, but there could be potential steals on clubs similar to Tonali’s Brescia and Chiesa’s Fiorentina. So, as we follow along with the theme of underdogs this week, I’ll look to the mid to lower table clubs of the Serie A table for some potential underdog signings that could help the Giallorossi, while keeping the club within its budgetary constraints.

As the roster is currently constructed, it looks like Roma’s biggest needs this summer will be a center-back, a right-back, and a striker. Thus, this exercise will focus on those three positions.

*Note: All player valuations from transfermarkt.com .

Center-Back

Roma currently have a half-dozen center backs on the roster. However, with Chris Smalling’s loan expiring at the end of the season, the Giallorossi will likely have to replace one of their two starters. Meanwhile, it’s possible that Juan Jesus and Federico Fazio are sent packing to clear their salaries from the books. Lastly, it’s entirely possible that someone like Mert Cetin or Roger Ibanez could be loaned out to gain vital Serie A experience.

Obviously all of those players won’t depart, but the only player that looks guaranteed to be on the team next season is Gianluca Mancini, so Roma will bring in one starting quality central defender and possibly a second cost effective reserve.

With Smalling’s departure looking more and more likely due to Manchester United’s increasing demands for a permanent move, Roma will likely need a veteran replacement to partner the younger Mancini. We’ll focus on that role here.

Jan Vertoghen has been heavily linked to Roma on a Bosman move, but the Giallorossi will likely face some stiff competition for his signature. So, who are some reasonably priced veterans that could potentially help shore up the Giallorossi back line?

German Pezzella (Fiorentina) €14.5 million

ACF Fiorentina v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

The 28-year-old Argentine has become a mainstay along the Viola back line in his three seasons since arriving in the birthplace of the Renaissance from Real Betis. Pezzella transitioned seamlessly upon his arrival from Spain, and after just one season was named the Viola’s captain ahead of the 2018-19 season. That’s evidence of the veteran leadership that he could bring to a fairly young Roma side.

Besides those intangibles, Pezzella also brings a strong presence in defense. His numbers may have dropped some this season, but the Argentine has averaged 1.67 tackles, 1.8 interceptions, 4.6 clearances, and 0.7 blocks in Serie A matches in his time in Florence. Meanwhile, his average player rating from WhoScored hovers right around 7. All of those numbers match up very favorably with Smalling’s from this season.

Pezzella might not have the name appeal of the Englishman, but his numbers indicate that he’s more than capable of solidifying the Giallorossi’s rearguard. He’s been impressive enough to earn his Argentina senior side debut and 16 caps since his arrival in Italy. He’ll be 29 by the time the next campaign begins, which means he should have a few solid seasons left. Plus, if a deal can be reached around the €14.5 million valuation provided by transfermarkt.com, Pezzella could provide decent bang for the buck within Roma’s budget.

Armando Izzo (Torino) €16 million

SSC Napoli v FC Torino - Serie A Photo by Franco Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Similar to Pezzella, Izzo fits the category of an experienced Serie A veteran to partner Mancini. The 28-year-old came through the Napoli youth ranks before debuting with Genoa in 2014/15. After four seasons in Liguria, Izzo moved to Torino last season where he shined under Walter Mazzarri, earning an average player rating of 7.24 (per WhoScored).

Izzo reads to game well, averaging 2.5 interceptions and 3.9 clearances per match in his career. Like Pezzella, Izzo was also a late bloomer by national team standards, earning his first call-up to Italy during the 2020 Euro qualifying campaign. With a valuation of €16 million, Izzo could be a bargain signing in comparison to his €25 million price tag prior to the pandemic.

Striker

The fact that Roma has been unable to find a reserve striker and potential heir to Edin Dzeko has been well documented here and elsewhere. First Roma spent big on Patrik Schick, who flopped in the capital. With that move unsuccessful, Roma took a different route this season and went with a veteran, Nikola Kalinic, to fill the role. Luckily that one was a loan.

This off-season, Roma will again test the market to find someone capable of spelling (and potentially succeeding) Edin Dzeko as Roma’s main hit-man. Moise Kean seems to be the dream, if reports in the press are to be believed. However, even with Mino Raiola apparently pressing for the move, there’s no guarantee the 20-year-old will arrive from Merseyside club Everton. With Roma looking to acquire Kean on loan with an option to buy, it appears that Roma will be looking to shore up the reserve striker position on the cheap.

Taking that into consideration, let’s look at some players who could fill the role without breaking the bank.

Kevin Lasagna (Udinese) €5.5 million

Kevin Lasagna of Udinese Calcio during the Serie A match... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

Don’t get me wrong, this move doesn’t jump out at you. But hear me out. Lasagna is no star, but he’s been good enough since arriving to Serie A with Carpi for the 2015/16 season to earn four Italy caps. The Italian has four goals for Udinese this season, which isn’t overly impressive. However, just two seasons ago, he scored a dozen goals in 29 matches for the Zebrette.

Lasagna doesn’t possess the same long-term potential or upside of Kean, but at 27-years-old is in the prime of his career. He probably wouldn’t be good enough to lead the line on a team looking to qualify for the Champions League on a regular basis. Nevertheless, he could be more than adequate to start 12-15 matches against mid to lower table clubs. The Italian would give the Giallorossi a proven Serie A striker at an affordable cost, allowing Fonseca to ease Dzeko’s load.

Andrea Pinamonti (Genoa) €13.5 million

AS Roma v Genoa FC - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

While Lasgna would fill the reserve striker role with a veteran presence, Pinamonti would fill the role in a way similar to Kean. The 21-year-old Italian would provide a younger presence with an eye on the future. Pinamonti is currently on loan at Genoa, but his move from Inter will become permanent due to a mandatory €18 million clause. While Pinamonti has struggled with the Grifoni this season (2 goals in 20 appearances), he is still regarded as one of the better Italian striker prospects.

Pinamonti is currently valued at €13.5 million by transfermarkt.com, but considering Genoa will have to pay out €18 million, the Grifoni would likely to try and at least recoup that money. Roma could probably try to work out a deal similar to the one being discussed with Everton for Kean. Perhaps a loan deal with option to buy would suffice, if Genoa is open to moving the U-21 international.

If Roma could make it happen, an output similar Pinamonti’s 5 goals and 3 assists in 1,600 minutes from two seasons ago while at Frosinone would be a welcome addition. The Italian could give Roma a viable option behind Dzeko, while looking to shore up the long-term future of the #9 position.

Right-Back

Like the reserve striker position, right-back has long been a trouble spot for the Giallorossi. No matter who Roma has tried to plug in there, the club just hasn’t found the right man for the job. It’s certainly a possibility that Davide Zappacosta’s loan is renewed for another season. However, if the Italian isn’t up to snuff when play resumes, it’s possible that the Giallorossi look elsewhere to fill the void.

Takehiro Tomiyasu €13.5 million

SS Lazio v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

According to rumblings out of the peninsula, Roma is high on Bologna’s 21-year-old right back. The Japanese international arrived in July from Belgian club Sint-Truiden for €9 million. He hit the ground running, making the position his own for the Rossoblu; earning an average player rating of 6.84 in the process.

Tomiyasu also offers some versatility. He has featured twice in central defense for Bologna this season. Tomiyasu could provide Roma with a starting caliber right back if Petrachi were to convince Bologna deprive itself of the youngster. Despite the €13.5 million valuation from transfermarkt, he likely would cost closer to €20 million. In order to make this move happen Roma would likely try to entice Bologna with a player plus cash deal.

Matteo Darmian €6.5 million

Matteo Darmian of Parma Calcio in action during the Serie A... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

While Tomiyasu seems to be Roma’s main objective at right back, the price could be prohibitive. If that’s the case, could Roma go with a veteran stop-gap solution? It’s entirely possible given the financial climate of the club. With that in mind, Darmian came to mind.

The now 30-year-old is a hugely experienced player having featured for Manchester United, Torino, and Palermo prior to his January move to Parma. In addition, he has 36 Italy caps to his name. An added bonus would be his positional flexibility, in addition to his primary position of right-back, Darmian also has experience at the left-back and center-back positions.

Darmian never lived up to his €18 million price tag at United, but Roma could do worse on a short-term solution. Since Parma paid a measly €2.48 million, he can probably be had rather cheaply. It’s an interesting proposition if Roma can’t find an affordable long-term option.


What are your thoughts on these potential underdog style signings? Could any of them provide upgrades to Roma’s current roster? Are there any other potential signings that come to mind from mid to lower table clubs? Let us know in the discussion below.