It’s not easy being
green Juan Jesus. After his arrival in 2016, he was never seen as an important piece of the puzzle, a pillar of our defense. With only 66 Serie A games in four full seasons, he was obviously never Roma's first choice.
Four seasons, four different trainers: Spalleti, Di Francesco, Ranieri and Fonseca. None of them saw a leader in JJ. A decent bench option, yes. But a certainty on the team sheet? A captain who would rally the troops and boss your defense? Your second voice on the pitch when things go wrong? Nope. That says something.
Although he has his flaws, this was a player who already had more than 140 appearances for Inter Milan before his 25th birthday to go along with an U-20 World Cup winner's medal from 2011 and an Olympic silver medal from London 2012. Despite that resume, and despite the fact that fans always wanted him out, Jesus remained a professional
But why? Why, why, why? Why was everyone so eager to get rid of JJ? He was no party animal like Radja, nor a hot head in the locker room like Osvaldo, Tachtsidis or Manolas (hey, no offence to Greek people). He was no useless 35-year-old eating up our wage bill, nor a super expensive buy like Schick or Iturbe.
So, I ask you again, why did fans wanted him gone all this time? I must confess, I was one of them. Even more sad, I didn’t know why. Just like a bully in kindergarten, I chose to pick sides and target the helpless and vulnerable. I decided to have the same popular opinion as the others. I know, I’m made of jelly and have no backbone.
I feel embarrassed. I must admit, it was easy to bash on JJ. After all, the coaches rarely used him and if I recall correctly, apart from that one game vs Barcelona and Messi in the Champions League, he never really had a memorable game at Roma. But on the other hand, did he have many horrible ones?
Under Spalletti, he was fourth choice CB behind Fazio, Manolas and Rüdiger, only Vermaelen made fewer appearances, and Roma ended second with a massive 87 points, so why change a winning team? When EDF came, Fazio and Manolas remained the core of the defense but Jesus was now third choice, collecting minutes here and there. Things stayed the same for the disappointing season 2018-2019.
During those years people didn’t want to sell guys like Emerson, Kolarov, Fazio, Manolas or Rüdiger. But Jesus? Nah, he was always expendable and wouldn’t be missed. I’m surprised Sylvester Stallone didn’t call Juan up for his fourth Expendables.
Roma’s most recent season was the real downfall as Fonseca wasn’t a fan by far. Now the new boys in town, Smalling and Mancini, were the culprits—Jesus made only four appearances in Serie A, five across all competitions. That must have been painful for JJ, being part of the Giallorossi family for so long. He looked like a fun guy to hang around with in training, but he dug his own grave by staying at Roma and refusing to move to a smaller team where he could at least play regularly. A team like say Parma, Fiorentina or...Genoa.
Hey, speaking of Genoa...
There’s a reason why I use the past tense in this post: news has come out that Genoa and JJ agreed a deal, and a medical may not be far behind. Genoa’s coach Maran looks like a fan and it seems like JJ will finally leave Rome and the fans got what they wanted: no more Juan Jesus rotting on the bench, refusing every club, being lazy and smiling at his pay check every month.
But was that really the truth?
Perhaps JJ just felt right at home here and honestly didn’t want to leave because he would miss the club and city. Maybe he believed he could make a difference on the pitch if the time was right and a new coach would finally appreciate his talent. I guess he was tired of waiting and opted for a change before really hitting rock bottom.
So, Roma lose the one man who was able to stop Messi (kidding, kinda) and a player who feels more comfortable in a three men defense than back four. Ironically, Fonseca might decide to stick with the 3-4-2-1 formation when Serie A returns; a lineup which gave Roma 7 wins in the last 8 rounds not so long ago.
Santon, Kolarov, Fazio, Florenzi, Karsdorp... Soon Roma won’t have any defenders left while they're still struggling to bring back Smalling; it seems like they’re putting their eggs in one basket. Jesus, as “useless” as he might be in some people’s eyes, would at least guarantee Fonseca a body on the bench who’s 100% fit and suited to play in this formation. Plus, he knows the team and league inside out unlike a possible new addition. He had suitors every year so it’s not like he was total garbage.
Now, I don’t have a problem with selling JJ per se, he’s no Smalling or upcoming talent like Ibanez. However, I do have a problem with the timing. They could have done it in each of the past three summers when there was plenty of time to find a replacement, but with a tight turn around before next season, Jesus would have actually had a shot at reclaiming the left center-back position, particularly since Roma will need five or six reliable center-backs, and this time there’s no Manolas to block him and, who knows, no Fazio by October as well.
In all fairness, I’m glad for Juan and the fact he wants to moves on. He will never get the appreciation he deserves in Rome (again, guilty as charged) and at Genoa, JJ could thrive under a coach who believes in him for the very first time since 2016.
Boa Sorte, Juan! Thanks for giving Messi nightmares.