Every so often, when I'm feeling particularly nostalgic or just bored, I take a tour of the CdT archives to see what we were discussing on any given day over the past eight years. Usually these trips produce a laugh or two, but there are times when these flights of fancy produces something quite enlightening. Case in point: this 2017 piece on Roma's signing of then 22-year-old Rick Karsdorp, who Monchi signed from Feyenoord for €16 million.
While it's easy to slag Karsdorp off as just another one of Monchi's misfits, take a look at that piece and tell me you weren't excited by this signing. But what I found so incredibly insightful/ironic was how we thought the Karsdorp signing would spell the end of Bruno Peres and how capturing this freak of an athlete would enable EDF to push Alessandro Florenzi further up the pitch in a more attacking role.
And, well, here we are three years later. Peres practically returned from the grave to become a dependable piece of the puzzle, to the point where he might actually get a new contract, and Florenzi not only never became a forward, he was sent packing...twice!
You really never can tell with this club, can you? And that goes double when we're talking about full-backs.
But through it all, Karsdorp was always there, just sort of existing in the background like white noise, tantalizing us with his size, speed and technique. Just for a second, pretend that you've never heard of Rick Karsdorp and watch this video. Is this not the exact type of full-back Roma have been chasing after for years?
He’s tall, he’s got an explosive first step, he gets stuck into a tackle and he has the touch and vision of a midfielder. And sure, Monchi likely overpaid to acquire him, and his tenure as Roma's DS was an unmitigated disaster, but there was a reason he was so adamant about signing this kid—he looked like the prototypical 21st century full-back.
But there was one problem: he was hurt. Like, when Roma already signed him, he was hurt. You can't make that stuff up. Fresh off a meniscus injury, Roma handed over €16 million without batting an eye only to see Karsdorp tear his ACL in his very first appearance for the club.
And...that's kind of been it for Karsdorp. Since that fateful October day in 2017. Karsdorp has made just 27 league appearances for Roma and Feyenoord. There have been some other minor injuries along the way and he never seemed quite settled after leaving his homeland in 2017, but the footballing world has barely seen Karsdorp over the past three years.
Which got me to thinking, could that change this summer? Could Roma's complete lack of action on the transfer market actually open the door for Karsdorp to carve out a role with Roma?
With two years remaining on his deal and no other right-back on the roster other than Peres, logic would dictate that, if nothing else, he can be a warm body to provide Peres a breather every now and then, but check out this sequence from yesterday's friendly against Cagliari:
The 1-2 punch...— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) September 12, 2020
Our goals tonight, courtesy of @cengizunder and @HenrikhMkh! ⚽️ #ASRoma pic.twitter.com/lv0XDVIzCc
Roughly half way through this clip you'll see Jordan Veretout, Karsdorp and Cengiz Ünder team up on a beautiful three-touch move that ended with Karsdorp playing a lovely low cross into the area for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. While in this clip, from last week's friendly against Frosinone, you'll see an equally sprightly Karsdorp on the receiving and of a given and go, finished off with a great strike from a tight angle to beat the keeper.
Does any of this mean he's ready to live up to his original price tag? No, of course not, but it does prove one thing: the kid Monchi was so excited about—the physical traits and skills—still rest within his tattooed and slightly battered body.
Whether Fonseca chooses to remain faithful to his preferred 4-2-3-1 or opts not to mess with success and sticks with the three-man backline, he will need players who can get forward to provide width, players who can work in close concert with the inside forwards and players who can put in a cross.
Karsdorp may be that player, and for the first time in three years, the once laughable notion of keeping him doesn't seem so crazy.
Fonseca took a chance on Peres—another lost soul in need of redemption—last January, so what makes Karsdorp any different?