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Fabien Centonze: A Potential Solution to Roma's Right-Back Woes

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The 24-year-old Frenchman put together a surprisingly excellent season for Metz last term and could provide a massive upgrade for Roma at right-back.

FC Metz v AS Monaco - Ligue 1 Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/BSR Agency/Getty Images

You don't have to be a CdT regular to know that Roma have struggled mightily to solve their full-back woes over the past, well, decade and a half. While the club has been able to find stop gap solutions at the position with veterans looking for one final shot at glory (Christian Panucci, John Arne Riise, Maicon and Aleksandar Kolarov, to name a few) or solid young players they eventually parted with (Emerson Palmieri and Lucas Digne), they simply haven't been able to produce or recruit a permanent solution at either full-back position.

With Kolarov likely headed to Inter Milan, the left-back position will probably be split between veteran Leonardo Spinazzola and the up and coming Riccardo Calafiori. As we've outlined multiple times this summer, neither player comes without concerns (mostly pertaining to their respective injury histories) but they're practically the picture of stability compared to Roma's assortment of right-backs.

Bruno Peres, who returned to Roma practically unnoticed last January, was perhaps the surprise of the restart, taking to Roma's new formation like a duck to water. While that was a feel good story for a player who had fallen on hard times, his resurgence coincided with a pretty soft spot in the club's updated fixture list, so you'd be wise to exercise caution going forward with Peres.

But make no mistake, Peres even being a factor in Paulo Fonseca's decision making process was a miracle when you consider where he was several months ago—in the Brazilian minor leagues— so full marks to him for working his ass off to reclaim his spot, and while he'll be a key contributor this coming season, he's not what we'd call a long-term solution to the position.

As for the rest of the right-back lot (Alessandro Florenzi and Davide Santon), the cold shoulder they've received from the club likely means their futures rest elsewhere. All of which begs the question: what the hell is Roma going to do at right-back next season?

Since The Friedkin Group runs a pretty tight ship, we have no earthly idea if they're looking at outside targets for the position, let alone who those potential transfers might be, but there is one name, familiar to the most ardent CdT readers, that could solve Roma's right-back woes for good...

Fabien Centonze

Strasbourg v Metz - Friendly Match Photo by Sebastien Bozon/Icon Sport via Getty Images

Club: Metz | Age: 24 | Height: 5’ 11” | Market Value: €4 Million

You may recall me beating the drum for Centonze as a throw-in in my €120 million fantasy Roma makeover, but the young Frenchman won't be a bargain for very long. While Ligue 1 opted to not continue their 2019-2020 season in the face of the pandemic, Centonze was arguably the league's best right-back last season.

Centonze, 24-years-old, came to Metz on a €3 million move from Lens in the summer of 2019. Standing a shade under six-feet tall, Centonze is a natural right-footer but isn't afraid to threaten the keeper with his weaker foot and currently sports the number 18 kit for Les Grenats.

During his debut season with Metz, which was also his first in any topflight, Centonze emerged as arguably the best full-back in League 1, offering up a tantalizing blend of size, technique, play-making and defensive acumen.

Defensive Contributions

As Roma fans, when we combine the terms “defensive contributions” and “full-back” our bar is pretty low; averting disaster and not completely leaving your center-backs on an island is usually all we ask, but Centonze excelled in the defensive phase of the game last season, ranking in the top 15 in a host of defensive categories.

In 28 league appearances last term, Centonze ranked:

  • Blocks (2nd)
  • Interceptions (3rd)
  • Clearances (13th)
  • Overall tackles (9th)
  • Tackles in the defensive third (1st)
  • Tackled 57% of all dribblers (13th)

Certain defensive statistics are influenced by external factors—a team's overall quality, game states, tactical preferences, etc.—but, if nothing else, Centonze's first season in Ligue 1 proved that he's a technically sound and remarkably skilled defender; something Roma have been lacking in the full-back department for quite some time.

But Centonze is more than just a brick wall.

Attacking Contributions

At this stage in his young career, Centonze's calling card is defending but he's no slouch with the ball at his feet either. In those same 28 league appearances, Centonze emerged as a legitimate dual threat full-back, making up for his lack of game changing speed with precise passing, intelligence and aggressive yet patient play.

Check these rankings:

  • Accurate crosses (2nd)
  • Crosses into the penalty area (2nd)
  • Key passes (4th)
  • Accurate long balls (5th)
  • Progressive passes (12th)
  • Dribbles (3rd)
  • Total distance carried (14th)
  • Progressive distance carried (10th)

While his surface stats from last season (zero goals, three assists and 75% passing) won't overwhelm you, when you dig a bit deeper Centonze looks ever bit as dangerous with the ball at his feet as he does defending it, and were he on a better side (Metz finished 18th with a -5 goal differential, scoring only 27 goals in 28 matches) then perhaps those numbers would have been even more impressive.

But, as it stood, Centonze's rare blend of attacking contributions and lock-down defending were enough to land him on many Ligue 1 Team of the Seasons in 2019-2020. His alchemy of tough tackling, anticipation, reading of the game, aggressive dribbling and precise passing has escaped Roma for years.

He may not be a world-beater in the making, but he's precisely the type of full-back the club need, but is there a deal to be made?

What Would it Take to Land Him?

Take those Transfermarkt values with a grain of salt, but, based on his performance last season, Centonze has the makings of a legitimate two-way full-back—an absolute rarity in today's game—so we can safely assume he'd cost more than €4 million. Centonze remains under contract through 2024 and is just starting his second season with Metz, so it likely wouldn't be an easy negotiation for Roma CEO Guido Fienga.

And make no mistake, with only one season of topflight football to his credit, signing Centonze would be a gamble, but with the performance he turned in last season, even if Roma had to double that €4 million figure, it may be a one worth taking.

With no viable long-term solution at right-back currently on the roster, and the only prospect of note being the oft-injured Devid Bouah, Roma really have no other choice but to look outside the organization for help at right-back.

Given what he just achieved, his relatively low cost, his age and his physical traits, Centonze could be a steal for a club that desperately needs one.