Even with the season officially in the books, the strange nature of the 2019-2020 season continues on into August. While we should be focusing and reflecting on the year gone by, we're stuck in an odd sort of limbo: the season is over, players are leaving and yet there are still consequential matches to play. Nothing about 2020 has been normal, so I suppose its fitting, but it leaves one with an odd semi-finished feeling. We can put a pin on the 2019-2020 season but the next 48 to 72 hours could up-end everything—and possibly for the better.
Let's start at the top, with the sale of the club.
Friedkin & Pallotta Reps to Meet Today
According to our friends at RomaPress, representatives of Dan Friedkin and James Pallotta are reportedly set to meet today to discuss the possible sale of AS Roma. With rumors of interested parties in Kuwait, the Friedkin Group is reportedly pressing even harder to wrap up a deal they had 99.9% finished before the pandemic.
Per this report, Pallotta has set a mid-August deadline to complete the sale—or at least have everything in place—so expect things to move pretty quickly, as Pallotta seems intent on disavowing himself of Roma before the end of the calendar year, at which point rumors claim he'll explore Newcastle or possibly AC Milan.
Of course, Friedkin isn't the only horse in this race...
Al-Baker Submits Offer
Pallotta was quick to dismiss Kuwaiti interest in his club, but according to Il Messagero (link via RomaNews), Kuwaiti businessman Fahad Al-Baker submitted an offer for the club “two days ago”, which may or may not have led shares of the club to increase by 4.4% recently. Friedkin, given the due diligence he did back in the winter, remains firmly in the pole position to purchase the club, but if Pallotta sets a public deadline for bids, perhaps Al-Baker will rise to the occasion.
More off the pitch news. And not the happy kind...
Smalling Says Goodbye
I’m gutted that I can’t finish what we started this season. To experience the love shown to me in such a short time was extra special and it will not be forgotten. I want to thank and wish all the players and staff the best of luck against Sevilla. DAJE ROMA! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/9vHfpWUNsz— Chris Smalling (@ChrisSmalling) August 4, 2020
It's been discussed for months on end now, but yesterday it became official: Chris Smalling has returned to Manchester United after an incredibly successful year on loan with Roma. While the two clubs exchanged figures for several months, they weren't able to reach an agreement for a permanent transfer, leaving Smalling in limbo for the moment. He's still not likely to recapture his place at Old Trafford, and while he's reportedly asked United to make a deal with Roma, we've seen no indication that United are willing to relent and lower their asking price.
Making matters worse is pending culmination of the Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan saga. Sanchez, a United player himself, has been stuck in the same loop as Smalling this season; flourishing on loan in Italy this season while his long-term future remained in the balance. Rather than haggle over a transfer price, it seems like Sanchez and United have agreed to cancel his contract, effectively freeing Sanchez to sign with Inter on a free transfer.
Why they're willing to go this route with Sanchez but not Smalling is anyone's guess, but it doesn't look good.
Zappacosta's Roman Holiday Comes to an Unceremonious End
While he's leaving to far less fanfare than Chris Smalling, Davide Zappacosta's tumultuous year in Rome is coming to an end as well. After his final training session at Trigoria, Zappacosta (or his agent) will soon return to London to sort out his future with his Chelsea. After tearing his ACL weeks after signing with Roma, his return to Serie A was pretty much over before it began, but Zappacosta recovered in time to make nine appearances down the stretch.
I don't get the sense that Roma will fight to bring him back, despite assumptions they'd renew his loan for next season, but it was a decent gamble to take last summer. It’s just a shame he got injured so quickly and never got to truly prove himself.
That’s it for now, stay tuned later today as we recap Roma's Europa League path thus far and look at what lies ahead.