For all of Edin Džeko’s time at the Stadio Olimpico, being his understudy has been a largely thankless job. Strikers young and old have been his backup, and until this season none of them found any success in Rome. Some of that came down to tactical rigidity on the part of whoever was managing Rome in that particular moment; some of that came down to the intense pressure big new signings like Patrik Schick always face with the Giallorossi.
Given that, perhaps it’s because there were little to no expectations for Borja Mayoral that the Spanish forward has been Roma’s most successful non-Bosnian striker since 2016. With his game-winning goal against Bologna this past weekend, Mayoral has now found the net 14 times this season across all competitions. Barring Achraf Hakimi, he’s one of the best transfers of last summer’s mercato, and although he certainly isn’t a complete striker yet, at age 24 he still has time to grow.
Mayoral has proven his ability to score in both the Europa League and Serie A, so the question for Tiago Pinto and the Roma hierarchy is how the Spaniard fits into Roma’s long-term plans. Is he a safe enough bet to drop his €15 million on this summer? Should the Giallorossi wait one more season to confirm his ability, even if it costs them an extra €5 million? Or should Mayoral be seen as a short-term solution, a striker who can paper over the cracks of the end of the Džeko era until a new big name is signed?
Roma’s decision here will tell us a lot about where Pinto and the Friedkins see the club going in the short- and long-term. It might also tell us more about what other striker might be joining the Giallorossi following the impending departure of Edin Džeko.
Option #1: Purchase Mayoral For €15 Million This Summer
Well, it’s pretty obvious what the pros are for signing Mayoral right now, and there’s a reason why Mayoral’s entourage is reportedly having a meeting with Tiago Pinto soon. We know he can score double-digits in a Giallorossi shirt, and that quality has been hard to come by in anyone not named Edin Džeko or Henrikh Mkhitaryan recently. There’s also a good chance he could be resold later for far more than €15 million if he is able to replicate this level of goalscoring in future seasons, so that €15 million could become €40 million or €50 million by 2023.
How sure are we that Mayoral is a long-term answer for Roma at striker? €15 million isn’t that much these days for a young striker who can play for a side like Roma, but given Roma’s perpetually precarious financial nature, there’s an opportunity cost behind each spent euro.
Buying Mayoral now might also hinder Roma in its pursuit of similarly young and exciting forwards, or even a striker who could really fight Mayoral for Edin Džeko’s starting spot. Will The Friedkin Group try to sign Dusan Vlahović if Mayoral is already a permanent part of the Roma squad, or will they sign an adequate-at-best backup? Is Andrea Belotti a better bet as the long-term Edin Džeko solution than Mayoral, and if so, could the Giallorossi afford to keep both of them around? Questions like that will hover over any decision Roma makes about Mayoral’s long-term future, so supporters of bringing Mayoral to Rome permanently need to be sure that he’s at least a great rotational option, if not a guaranteed starter going forward.
Option #2: Wait Until Next Summer, Purchase Mayoral For €20 Million
Roma’s had successful young strikers flop after an exciting season before; just ask Mattia Destro. Waiting another season to exercise the option on Borja Mayoral would let Tiago Pinto see if he’s something more than a flash in the pan, particularly if the Giallorossi part ways with Paulo Fonseca in the summer. It might also give Roma some financial flexibility in a summer mercato where reinforcements are expected at goalkeeper and striker.
Just as spending €15 million this summer might make life a little more difficult for the rest of Tiago Pinto’s transfer plans, tacking an extra €5 million just to give Roma a second look at Mayoral could be a financially questionable decision. Maybe it allows Pinto to bring in a striker like Alexandre Lacazette this summer to complement Mayoral, but if Mayoral is pushed to the bench and limited in his minutes next season, who’s to say he’ll want to stay in Rome at all? Waiting to exercise the option on Mayoral might bring some flexibility this summer, but it really only pushes off an important question the club will have to answer eventually.
Option #3: Use Mayoral As A Two-Year Loan, Look Elsewhere For A Long-Term Solution
Even though Mayoral has racked up 7 goals each in the Europa League and Serie A, the vast majority of those goals have been against the minnows of both of those competitions. He hasn’t shown himself to be a world-beater, but more of a great complementary piece. No club would think of him as a negative if he was on their payroll, but he hasn’t proven himself to be an actual replacement for Edin Džeko yet, so if Roma decide to send him back to Madrid after his two-year loan, it’ll probably be because they don’t think he can truly fill that role.
Mayoral is arguably worth more than €20 million already, and Real Madrid fans the world over are grumbling that Zinedine Zidane decided to send Borja out on loan in the first place. If the Giallorossi don’t see Mayoral as their long-term Džeko replacement, there’s still a good chance they could purchase him and flip him to another club for a fast return on their investment. Just letting him go back to Madrid, even if he doesn’t impress as much in his second season in Rome, would probably be a mistake.
Be sure to sound off in the comments about what you think the Giallorossi should do with Borja Mayoral!
What should Roma do we Borja Mayoral?
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Buy him in summer 2021
Buy him in summer 2022
Use him for his loan and send him back to Madrid