While I wouldn't dare say it was on par with the moon landing, the JFK assassination, or that time GameStop was worth, like, a trillion dollars, I doubt many of us will forget the first time we saw that image: the young, scrawny Brazilian football prodigy posing for his first unofficial Roma kit photo in some dimly lit restaurant. Decked out the denim shorts, a blue flat-billed cap, and a pair of fashionable glasses, the kid we later learned was called Gerson didn't do anything particularly out of the ordinary in that photo, but, whether it was by design or dumb luck, Gerson made a major photo faux pas:
Signed in August of 2015 (sort of, kind of—it wouldn't become completely official until the following January), Gerson Santos da Silva was one of Walter Sabatini's final follies as Roma's Sporting Director. Even with Sabatini's predilection for young South American attacking talents, it was still somewhat shocking to see Roma throw down €18.6 million for the then 18-year-old midfielder.
Locked in a bidding war with Barcelona, Roma had no choice but to pay nearly twenty million for a kid whose professional career, to that point, consisted of little more than 1,900 minutes in the Brazilian Serie A. Despite his relative lack of experience, Gerson was a hot (if unknown) commodity that summer, so we can likely assume that Roma had to make certain promises/assurances to woo him away from Barcelona, including, perhaps, putting him first in line to the number ten throne.
Drawing comparisons to everyone from James Rodriguez to Angel Di Maria and even Frank Lampard, Gerson was every bit an enigma—a promising one but an enigma nonetheless. So hyped were we by his promise, that we tabbed Gerson as our top U-23 prospect in the summer of 2015.
We had to wait several months to catch our first glimpse of Gerson in a Roma kit, but the Giallorossi's would-be future #10 made his debut on August 23, 2016: a four-minute cameo in Roma's ill-fated Champions League qualification match against Porto. Rather than wearing the most important shirt integer in the game, Gerson was saddled with the number 30—an odd number (figuratively speaking) that forecast a less than impressive future with Roma.
Apart from a brace against Fiorentina on November 5, 2017, Gerson's Roma career amounted to 41 appearances, two assists, and those two sweet goals against the Viola, where he'd spend the 2018-2019 season on loan, scoring three goals and chipping in three assists in 2,400 league minutes—not bad all things considered.
Gerson's time in Firenze would end there, and with no room for him in Roma, the Giallorossi sold him back to the Brazilian Serie A, selling the 21-year-old midfielder to Flamengo for a cool €11.8 million plus 10% of any future transfer fee. While €11.8 million may not seem like much, it was actually the highest fee ever paid by a Brazilian club for a Brazilian player.
While his two-year stint in Flamengo wasn't exactly planned, it turned out to be a happy homecoming for Gerson, as he was able to parlay that into a return to Europe. Recently signed by Marseille for €25 million, Roma are now entitled to €1.3 million—10% of profits above the initial €11.8 million Roma-to-Flamengo transfer.
Compared to Roma's massive debts, that's a mere drop in the bucket, but hey, did you ever think anything positive would ever come from this transfer?
He never turned out to be a real #10, but a 10% cut of the sale is more than Roma has profited off many other failed transfers.