Dan Friedkin has been Roma's official owner for all of 168 hours now, so it's far too soon to predict how he'll approach his first transfer window as club owner. We likely won't experience a Manchester City or PSG-style overnight makeover, but it's equally unlikely that he'll just sit on his hands during his first summer at the helm. What we do know, however, is this: Roma's transfer plans likely hinge on the respective futures of a player they're desperate to sign (Chris Smalling) and one they're desperate to offload (Patrik Schick).
And talk about divergent paths. Roma stumbled all over themselves to sign Patrik Schick three years ago, forking over an eventual €42 million to Sampdoria to land the long and lean forward. Fresh off a sensational season with Samp and with that club record fee attached to his name, the whole of Rome was wrapped up in Schick-mania.
Now, contrast that to Chris Smalling's arrival in the Eternal City. A late summer addition by the soon to be embattled Gianluca Petrachi, not much was expected from Smalling, but opinions generally ranged from “Meh, whatever, he'll be a fine backup” to “Are you serious? What the hell were Roma thinking?”
Two markedly different paths to Roma and two markedly drastically different outcomes. Where Schick was almost immediately revealed to be a bust, Smalling eventually stole the starting position from Federico Fazio and cemented himself was one of the most effective defenders in the league.
All of which brings us to Roma's current transfer conundrum: they're pulling out every trick in the book to keep Smalling while hoping somebody...anybody...will pony up €29 million for Schick's signature. And to date, neither approach has worked.
While some had hoped the change in ownership would unlock the Smalling negotiations, Manchester United are not budging from their €20 million asking price, a sum they have reportedly been offered by the likes of West Ham, Newcastle and Fulham. But, according to multiple sources over the past few days, Smalling remains Roma's top priority and CEO/D.S.-by-default Guido Fienga is hellbent on securing his services on a permanent basis.
Of course, the Smalling negotiations would be a lot easier if Roma stumbled into a €29 million Schick windfall. For much of the season, Roma had hoped that Red Bull Leipzig would exercise their €29 million option on the 24-year-old forward, but the season came and went and the German club politely declined their option.
Roma received some late August hope when word trickled out that Bayer Leverkusen were interested in rolling the dice on Schick, but Bayer are wrapped up in their own delayed transfer negotiation with Chelsea for Kai Havertz. If and when that deal goes through, Bayer Leverkusen would presumably have the funds to acquire Schick.
However, according to the Corriere dello Sport, Roma may have stumbled into a dream scenario in which two teams, who happen to be direct competitors with one another, enter into a bidding war of sorts for Schick.
It's hard to predict which domino (Schick leaving for Germany or Smalling returning to Roma) will fall first, but one can't help but think that Roma's complete and utter lack of transfer activity is being held up by these two negotiations.
We're about three-and-a-half weeks away from opening day, so let's hope all parties involved start acting with a bit more urgency.