After assessing the talents that have come through the Roma Primavera ranks since the 2010/11 season, it became clear that the Giallorossi have been producing some first team quality talent. In terms on the field results and the amount of talent graduating to senior teams, this decade has proven more favorable than the previous ten year period. However, one key difference is that few Roma Primavera graduates have actually played for the Giallorossi first team since 2010.
Some of those players have been sacrificed to bring in large plusvalenzas and balance the books. While other promising players have been used as makeweights in deals for more established transfer market targets, and some just bloomed too late to earn serious consideration for a roster spot with Roma.
Currently, Lorenzo Pellergini and Daniel Fuzato are the only Primavera products to occupy a roster spot with Paulo Fonseca’s side. With that in mind, I thought it would be a fun activity to see which Primavera graduates from the 2010s could have a role in the current Roma side. I’ll break the players into four categories and project who they would likely replace on the current roster.
So, let’s start by discussing the players that would be likely starters in the first team, followed by important rotation players, depth players, and the players not good enough to help Fonseca’s side.
Of all the players to come through Roma’s Primavera in the last decade, the most clear cut candidate to start for Fonseca would be Alessio Romagnoli. Romagnoli has been a starter for Milan for a number of years and now wears the captain’s armband. The current Milan isn’t the power of yesteryear, but Romagnoli’s defensive numbers stack up pretty well with Roma’s current center back pairing of Gianluca Mancini and Chris Smalling. Smalling has had an outstanding campaign, but considering he’s here on a one year loan, he’d likely be the one Romagnoli would replace on the roster. Just imagine a Mancini/Romagnoli pairing leading the Roma and potentially Italy back-line for years.
There are certainly a few players that, while they wouldn't be bonafide starters under Fonseca, could certainly fit into the rotation and contribute to the team. Some of the players may even be upgrades over the players they would theoretically replace.
A couple players spring to mind. First and foremost is Luca Pellegrini. Romanisti were up in arms over the sale of Pellegrini to Juventus last summer. He would obviously replace Leonardo Spinazzola, who he was swapped for. Pellegrini wouldn’t be a full-time starter this season with Aleksandar Kolarov still in the mix, but he’d be able to spell the veteran Serbian and gain invaluable experience before eventually replacing the Serb.
Matteo Politano is another 2010s graduate who could crack Roma's current rotation. Politano very nearly made it back to the capital this summer instead of Carles Perez, so, that’s the logical swap. Meanwhile, if he had made it back to Rome, Politano would’ve likely split time with Cengiz Ünder on the right wing with Nicolò Zaniolo on the mend.
While there are no likely starters among the recent crop of primavera grads, they may have been able to provide some depth at striker. We have been clamoring for years for a vice-Dzeko to spell the Bosnian Bomber and potentially replace him in due time. Nikola Kalinic is certainly not that player. Any of the group of Antonio Sanabria, Eziquiel Ponce, or Umar Sadiq could arguably replace Kalinic and produce more than this two goals. Of that trio, Sanabria would be the best candidate thanks to his Serie A experience with Genoa, not to mention the fact that he's outproduced Kalinic this year.
While all the players mentioned above could impact Roma's current squad in a rotational sense, there are a few former academy players who could provide further depth for the Giallorossi. The most intriguing of those players is probably Davide Frattesi. Frattesi is enjoying a solid campaign with Empoli in Serie B with five goals and two assists—leading to rumors of a return to Roma. He’s still just 20-years-old and moving from Serie B to a Champions League hopeful team is a big jump. But, it’s pretty much the same route Roma took with Gonzalo Villar. So, call it a like-for-like swap of two promising, developmental youngsters.
Another player that could make for interesting depth is Valerio Verre. At 26-years-old, Verre provides more experience than Villar. He’s played mostly an attacking midfield role for Hellas this season, but he’s a natural central mid who could provide cover behind Jordan Veretout, Amadou Diawara, and Bryan Cristante.
The last player who could be an interesting depth player is Stefano Sabelli of Brescia. Sabelli has limited Serie A experience prior to this season with Brescia and is already 27-years-old, which probably raises some eyebrows on your end. Just hear me out.
This one is more an indictment of Roma’s right back issues than Sabelli’s overall ability. However, his numbers stack up quite while against Davide Santon and Bruno Peres. This season Sabelli is averaging 2.6 tackles, 1.6 interceptions, and 2.3 clearances per match. So, while he wouldn’t be a long term solution for Roma’s right-back issues, he could probably provide some defensive stability until they do.
Not Quite Good Enough
While some of the 2010-2017 Roma academy grads could help Roma in some ways right now, that’s not the case for all the kids who passed through the primavera over the past seven seasons, as many of them are just too young or unproven to provide an upgrade over the current senior squad.
Players like Edoardo Soleri and Marco Tumminello haven't proven to be Serie A caliber strikers yet. They are both still young and talented, but neither has lit up Serie B let alone Serie A the way they did the Primavera level yet. Maybe one day in the future they’ll turn into top-flight quality strikers, but for now they’d be of no use to Fonseca.
Conversely, players like Gianluca Caprari and Federico Viviani have proven to be serviceable Serie A players for mid and lower table clubs through the years, but aren’t better than what Roma currently have, while players like Daniele Verde and Arturo Calabresi have been forced to go abroad because they haven’t been up to snuff in Serie A.
This exercise was done more for fun and to create discussion than to suggest that Roma should bring all these players back into the squad. However, it does show us that Roma is producing some talent that is at least on par with some current senior squad members. If this were the Rosella Sensi era, when Roma were less likely to splash the cash, some of these depth players would likely be filling out Fonseca’s bench—much like Leandro Greco and Aleandro Rosi did in the mid to late 2000s.
While it’s unlikely any of these players find their way back to the capital any time soon—outside of perhaps Frattesi—the club has, despite suggestions to the contrary, produced a decent amount of top-flight talent.
We'll explore more names later on, but until then, which, if any, former Roma Primavera grads would you like back with the club?