The past decade of goalkeeping in Roma has been a grab bag of undersized overachievers and oversized underachievers. From Bogdan Lobont, Doni, Julio Sergio and Artur a decade ago to Marten Stekelenburg and Mauro Goicoechea in more recent seasons, Roma perfected the art of mediocre goalkeeping. All that changed when the club signed Wojciech Szczesny and Alisson Becker, two men who completely reset our expectations for goalkeepers. No longer was merely averting disaster acceptable, Woj, and especially Alisson, showed us that keepers could be more than game managers; they could be game changers.
Szczesny's time in Rome was just our first taste, but watching Alisson stand on his head and practically reinvent the position made us full blown goalkeeping lunatics. So when James Pallotta went back on his vow to never sell Alisson, Roma fans were left reeling: who could possibly fill those shoes? Could anyone provide us with that same rush?
We're a few years past that horrible sale now, but one thing is for certain: Robin Olsen wasn't that guy. Antonio Mirante, as solid a veteran as he is, is not that guy. Daniel Fuzato could be that guy but he's literally never played. But what about Pau Lopez? What sort of chord does he strike with Roma fans?
Purchased just last summer from Real Betis for €23.5 million, Lopez was actually the 11th most expensive keeper transfer ever and with a €3 million annual salary, he's the third highest earner on the squad. He doesn't have to be Alisson, but those numbers do demand top notch production.
But what kind of return have Roma received on this investment thus far? Has Lopez really been one of the top ten to twenty keepers in the world?
Well, let's take a look at the numbers. Keeping in mind that some keeper stats are more dependent on the defense than others, Lopez barely looks like a top ten keeper in Italy, let alone the world.
- 1.41 goals allowed per 90 (10th in Serie A)
- Save percentage of 72 (8th in Serie A)
- 5 clean sheets (12th in Serie A)
- Clean sheet percentage: 18.5% (12th in Serie A)
- Stopped cross percentage: 5.3% (16th in Serie A)
- Passes >40 yds competed: 47% (5th in Serie A)
- 20 defensive actions outside penalty area (2nd in Serie A)
As you can see, most of the basic stats aren't very kind to Lopez, but what about the more nuanced metrics?
Post-Shot Expected Goals
PSxG is essentially how many goals are expected from on target shots, including penalty kicks. Pau Lopez's PSxG of 38.3 ranks 11th in the league. For context, he's actually conceded 38 goals, so he's outperformed his PSxG slightly. For further context, Wojciech Szczesny has a PSxG of 27.3 but has actually conceded only 24 goals.
Post-Shot Expected Goals +/-
Or Post-Shot Expected Goals minus Goals Allowed. A higher number in this metric means the keeper in question either has a) better luck or b) is simply a better shot stopper. Lopez’s +0.3 PSxG +/- ranks 17th in the league.
None of this is to suggest that Lopez is a poor keeper, but the stats suggest he isn't even a top ten keeper in Serie A. We mention all of this only because Lopez has been increasingly connected with a move abroad, with offers coming from La Liga and the English Premier League in recent days, including links to Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham.
While his agent was quick to deny those links, with Roma having a rumored €90 million fundraising goal this summer, Lopez could be the final line item after Justin Kluivert, Cengiz Ünder and Patrik Schick to push Roma past that mark.
Yesterday's landmark CAS ruling in the case of FFP vs. Manchester City seems like a blow to UEFA's financial monitoring system, but the truth is rather simple. In FFP, much like life, money talks; the more you have, the less the rules of fairness and equity apply to you. So, no, FFP won't vanish because of this ruling, so Roma will still have to tow the line to avoid financial penalties or a European banishment.
When we talk about making FFP sacrifices and still maintaining a competitive squad, we have to look at areas in which Roma can find better production at a fraction of the cost. And, at least based on his first season in Rome, Lopez hasn't fit the bill as one of the most expensive keepers ever.
Roma will likely never find another Alisson, but overpaying an Alisson look alike to deliver Doni-like performances isn't good business. If Chelsea comes calling for Lopez, Roma would be wise to pick up the phone.