It's no secret that Roma needs a defensive midfielder the way peanut butter needs jelly, peas need carrots, and Garfield needs lasagna. After swinging and missing in their pursuit of Arsenal's Granit Xhaka over the summer, Roma has been connected to an increasingly long list of defensive midfielders, including Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, who has emerged as the top candidate for many midfield-needy clubs, Roma included.
However, with Zakaria's star on the rise, Roma and GM Tiago Pinto may be forced to pivot to other options. While he's not the player they originally had their hearts set on, Hoffenheim defensive midfielder and Austrian international Florian Grillitsch is reportedly the next name on José Mourinho's wishlist.
#Roma, Mourinho vuole un #centrocampista: se salta Zakaria c’è una nuova idea https://t.co/Shms7Fs32w— Corriere dello Sport (@CorSport) November 12, 2021
According to Corriere dello Sport, Grillitsch, a 26-year-old Austrian midfielder, has caught José Mourinho's eye and could be The Special One's consolation prize if Zakaria proves too expensive for the Giallorossi. After turning down a contract extension from Hoffenheim, Grillitsch will be free to negotiate with new teams come January.
Grillitsch, who has spent his entire professional career in Germany, has been a mainstay for Hoffenheim since signing with the club in the summer of 2017 on a free transfer. Over the past four seasons, Grillitsch has made 141 appearances for Die Kraichgauer, including seven Bundesliga starts this season.
While he doesn't beat defenders off the dribble quite like fellow Bundesliga midfielder Zakaria, Grillitsch can still be a key component in any club's attack. Compared to other midfielders in Europe's big five leagues over the past year, he ranks in the 80th percentile or higher in a host of categories, including progressive carries, progressive passes, passes into the final third, passes into the penalty area, and goal creating actions according to Football Reference.
His defensive accolades are equally impressive. Over the past year, Grillitsch ranks in the 80th percentile or higher in the following categories: shots blocked, shots saved, interceptions, clearances, recoveries, and aerial duels won.
Sew all that together and you have an ideal defensive midfielder; a player who not only shields the defense but helps the squad transition from defense to attack in the blink of an eye.
Currently valued at €16 million by Transfermarkt, Florian Grillitsch won't come cheap, but he could be a hell of a consolation prize.