The club’s second-worst secret of the summer is finally in the open, as Roma announce the signing of Nigeria and former Real Madrid defender Osinachi Ohale today.
Ohale spent just one season in Spain before she decided to move on to Serie A football for the coming season. With Roma’s social media team long-since rumoured to have a key member based in Nigeria, it wouldn’t escape the club to give a proper welcome to a member of the women’s Super Eagles international team.
When we wrapped up the Serie A 19/20 campaign just gone by (and cut short by the pandemic), our transfer campaign wishes were:
- Keep 90% of the team intact (no need to touch the midfield), two to three signings maximum.
- A bigger, powerful centre-forward option
- Sort out the right-back position
- An experienced signing from the top leagues (France, Spain, US or UK)
We saw only one big change coming to the first-team eleven this summer, while it looks like the club has actually opted for two changes—one in goal and one in the backline. If you discount the permanent signing of young forward Serena Landa, who was already at the club on loan, then the club has made three signings this summer.
Whether Spanish forward Paloma Lazaro will become a serious challenger for Roma’s frontline is another question, but she certainly does bring experience from abroad prior to having adapted nicely to Serie A football herself, and she’s a current Spain international. What Lazaro isn’t, though, is a powerful striker.
That role will be left to Maria Zecca in her third season at the club, as the New Jersey-native played and scored in yesterday’s opening pre-season friendly 4-0 win against Florentia; a game that Osinachi Ohale was unable to play despite being at the club and having passed a medical for some weeks now.
Ohale firmly ticks off the last bullet-point, as she has both experience playing in the States and Spain. At 28 years old, Ohale slots in as the most experienced player in the Roma backline besides Roma captain Elisa Bartoli. And the Nigerian defender may just tick, in part, the third bullet-point off the list, too.
With Roma having let go of full-backs Eleonora Cunsolo and Angelo Orlando this summer, that leaves only Kaja Erzen and Elisa Bartoli as starters in the full-back positions, backed up by Angelica Soffia’s ability to come off the bench and play on both wings. It’s not a pressing issue in a 22-game season, but you have to figure Ohale’s ability to play anywhere across the back four positions will figure in at some point in the season.
Ohale herself has shown to be a physically dominant centre-back who owns her aerial battles, both at the highest level of club football and at the 2019 World Cup. Where Ohale may have been coming up a little short was in her ball-playing skills, but even those looked like they improved in her 15 appearances at Real Madrid (formerly CD Tacon) last season (we had a highlights video ready for weeks now, but it looks like it’s been deleted from YouTube).
Playing the ball out the back is one area where Bavagnoli’s ideal Roma has to improve, so it’ll be interesting to see if Ohale forms a rock-solid partnership with Allyson Swaby at the heart of defense, or if either one of those names would do better moving to full-back (Swaby at right-back is not a bad option, racking up an assist against Sassuolo and doing well against Tavagnacco when she’s played RB) and making space for ball-playing defender Tecla Pettenuzzo, who herself lacks the physique and confidence to challenge in the air.
All shall be revealed as the new season gets under way in just 24 days, while Roma still pushes to get their playmaker-in-chief Andressa a flight back to the capital from Brazil, in the meantime.