If there’s one thing Roma sporting directors have been good at in the American era, it’s finding good young center-backs. From Marquinhos to Mehdi Benatia to Kostas Manolas to Antonio Rudiger to Gianluca Mancini, Roma has found some real studs. Some like Manolas contributed for years, while others like Marquinhos made their mark and were quickly sold on for a plusvalenza.
Given the club’s financial situation, there’s no telling how long our number three prospect will stick around in Rome. However, one thing is for sure, Roger Ibañez appears to have all the tools to add his name to the list of central defenders to make a big impact in giallo e rosso.
Number Three: Roger Ibañez
Current Club: AS Roma
Future Comparison: Leonardo Bonucci
Who is He?
Roger Ibañez da Silva is a 21-year-old center-back who hails from Canela, Brazil. He came up through youth systems of smaller Brazilian clubs before heading to Fluminese’s youth sector on loan in 2017. The Rio de Janeiro based side was impressed enough to purchase his rights in 2018 and during that season he made his top flight debut.
After spending all of 2018 in Brazil, Atalanta snatched him up during the January 2019 transfer window for €3.95 million. Ibañez spent the 2019 calendar year in Bergamo making just two appearances, which totaled only 20 minutes. Despite this lack of Serie A experience, former Roma DS Gianluca Petrachi ponied up €8 million just a year later and Ibañez arrived at the Olimpico in January 2020.
Ibañez received his first Brazil U-23 call-up in September of 2019 and has made four total appearances.
What Can He Do?
Ibañez is a solid ball-playing center-back. He started his career as a midfielder, which contributes to his ability to carry the ball out of the back and link up with teammates. Ibañez is a strong passer of the ball, which makes him an ideal fit in Fonseca’s system.
But, don’t let his ball-playing abilities deter you from his main job, which is defending. Ibañez is fairly tall at 6’1” (185 cm) allowing him to win aerial duels. He also has good closing speed. Ibañez uses that pace to time his sliding challenges and snuff out danger in and around the penalty box.
Ibañez has proven to be a fairly aggressive defender without being reckless in his short time with Roma. He’s not a polished player, but he’s already an immediate contributor at just 21-years-old.
What Can He Become?
Ibañez looks to have the makings of a top end modern center-back. With his combination of physical tools and technique, Ibañez can be the man to lead Roma’s back-line for some time. He’s still a bit thin for a guy over six feet tall (listed at around 160 pounds), and would benefit from some added muscle to win physical duels with bigger strikers.
Another area where Ibañez will need to improve is in his reading of the game. Sevilla was the first opponent during the restart to exploit bad angles that he took to the ball. Of course that was one match, but other Serie A teams surely took note.
In terms of a future comparison, the first name that came to my mind was Leonardo Bonucci. I know that may not be a favorable one here because of his Juve ties, but Ibañez has similar ball-playing ability and a similar physique to the Italian. In the end, Roma could do a lot worse than a player similar to one that has led Italy and Juve’s back-lines for years now.