Multiple reports—from both LFootball and Tutto Calcio Femminile—are emerging on a speculative move that we, truthfully, hoped wouldn’t happen in any other Roma season. Roma are reportedly on the verge of letting Agnese Bonfantini go on loan to Juventus, with a view to signing Juventus wide forward Benedetta Glionna on a one-year loan in the other direction. The wider implications of this player swap are unclear, depending on what both clubs have in mind for their managerial direction next season.
Agnese Bonfantini may be a firm CdT favorite, but it remains a mystery as to why she barely played under Roma coach Betty Bavagnoli this season. Bonfantini began the 2020-21 season upping her defensive workload significantly, and yet still looking like a credible attacking threat in Roma’s frontline too. And then Agnese ended the campaign with an impressive cameo off the bench in the Coppa Italia victory over AC MIlan.
The Coppa success saw Bonfantini rack up several successful take-ons as she sometimes dribbled the entire Milan defensive left side by herself to keep Roma up the pitch in a pressure match. But all that said, there’s a whole gap in the middle of the season where Bonfantini has failed to reach consistent performance levels and is certainly some way off the stratospheric predictions we painted over her future Roma career. Perhaps the post-match comments of former Roma teammate Federica Di Criscio, after the Coppa victory, shed some light on why Bonfantini has been dropped from the Roma first eleven for the larger part of the season:
“She did very well to impact such a big game today,” said Di Criscio after the win over Milan, “which is not normally something we say about Bonfantini as she’s often one to suffer the weight of big games on an emotional level.”
So, does Bonfantini have what it takes to turn up in the make-or-break matches? The question may be moot from a Roma perspective if Agnese’s rumored move back to her native Turin becomes reality.
But Agnese is still only just short of 22 years of age, and her call-ups to the senior Italy team haven’t been affected by being pushed back to the shadows in a Roma jersey, suggesting that the biggest names in football, including Italy coach Milena Bertolini, still believe Bonfantini will change the panorama of football before long.
Juventus are willing to take that gamble on Bonfantini next year, whose Roma contract runs to the summer of 2022. In exchange, Juventus will reportedly send their own right-side wide forward Benedetta Glionna to Roma. And Glionna is very much a rival for Bonfantini in terms of making a name on the domestic and international scene.
Glionna spent last season on loan at Empoli, and her fantasista style of play saw her dance her way into the senior Italy side over the course of the season. In many ways, Glionna could be one of the final ingredients to take Roma’s attack to that next level. We’ve seen the Giallorosse improve their backline and midfield to control the most competitive games on the calendar over the last year, but we can’t overlook how disjointed Roma’s attack looks at times; nor the fact Roma won the Coppa on penalties after a 0-0 against Milan - which remains Roma’s best result against the Rossonere over the last three years.
Taking a gamble on the technical prowess of Glionna may be just what the doctor ordered for Roma. But there are conflicting reports over the motivations behind this player swap deal, and what it means for both clubs on the coaching front.
Is Bonfantini really moving to a more ambitious club by going to Juventus? Until proven otherwise, we have to be pragmatic and believe that to be the case. But the fact is former Juventus coach Rita Guarino has walked out on the club one year earlier than expected, and done so after winning every single league game of last season with her Juve players. Then there’s the fact Italy’s number 1 keeper Laura Giuliani has announced her departure from Juventus, too.
No one has no idea what these massive changes for Juventus mean, and whether the Agnelli board will back the Juventus team to the same degree as before. With Italy coach Milena Bertolini recently signing a 2-year extension, we know Guarino won’t be taking up the Italy job now. But we have no idea where she is headed next. And the coaching picture at Roma isn’t clear, either.
Roma coach Betty Bavagnoli has spent most of this season rumored to be taking up a director’s role with the club for next season, while Empoli coach Alessandro Spugna was meant to be her reported successor. In that light, it would make sense that Roma signing Glionna, who just spent last season playing under Spugna at Empoli, would be a way to show belief in their new coach.
But now reports have emerged that the Coppa Italia success has changed Roma’s plans and that keeping Bavagnoli on the Roma bench may give the club the continuity required to reach new levels. Sky Sport commentator Giancarlo Padovan speculated, in the Coppa Italia final post-match, that Bavagnoli neither wanted to give up the Roma bench nor wanted to take up a director role away from the pitch. The truth remains to be seen in the coming weeks.
When this Roma team began, in the summer of 2018, the aim was to win major silverware within the first four years. Now that Roma has realized that aim one year early, who will guide their attack from the right flank and take Roma’s goalscoring to the next level? Bonfantini or Glionna?