Roma’s silly season is always one of the sillier seasons in the European footballing world; names that Roma don’t seem to have the checking account to sign are continuously linked to the club, practically unknown players pop in and out of the rumor mill, and there are always at least a couple of signings meant to bolster Alberto De Rossi’s Primavera squad.
The signing of José Mourinho truly kicked the Roma transfer speculation into high gear, and although there’s a bit of time until the summer mercato actually opens, Roma may already have their first transfer ready (at least, if you believe Corriere Dello Sport). The rumors surrounding Granit Xhaka have moved quickly in the past couple days, and now Robert Maida is saying that the Giallorossi have agreed to an €18 million transfer with Arsenal for the Swiss national team mainstay. Maida adds that Xhaka will make a net contract of €2.5 million per year plus bonuses, placing him in the third quartile of Roma’s salary structure.
I’ll be honest and say that Granit Xhaka isn’t my preferred signing for the midfield, but the grist of the rumor mill suggests that he’s José Mourinho’s, and given The Special One’s tactical style, it’s not hard to see why. The current Roma squad is lacking a very particular kind of midfielder that Mou practically requires for his tactics; Xhaka definitely will work as a deep-lying playmaker with a bruiser’s attitude, and his determination on the pitch is certainly something that the Portuguese manager is known to prize.
Yet the determination that Xhaka is steps away from Rome doesn’t mean that the media has quieted down on other midfielders who might fill this role for the Giallorossi.
Let’s look at a couple of other names that have been bandied about recently, shall we?
Who Else Could Roma Sign In This Role?
Marcel Sabitzer: RB Leipzig
First among the names offered as Xhaka alternatives is Marcel Sabitzer, currently the captain of RB Leipzig. The 27-year-old Austrian has been developing quite the reputation since moving to Leipzig in 2014, racking up over 175 appearances for the club and being one of the major pieces that have turned the Red Bull-backed club into a major player in the Bundesliga. Sources state that Sabitzer has a €50 million release clause in his contract with Leipzig, though, so although he might be a dream signing for Tiago Pinto and José Mourinho, the dream is likely to stay just that.
Giulio Maggiore: Spezia
If you’re looking for a Xhaka alternative that might be more affordable than Sabitzer, the rumor mill has also put Giulio Maggiore of Spezia as another option at a much lower price point. Maggiore looks poised to take a big leap this upcoming season, as the three goals he scored with Spezia seem to only be the start of something special for the Italian. With a more palatable €10 million transfer valuation tied to his services, it’s easy to see a future where Pinto goes for Maggiore to save money towards a bigger purchase — say, Andrea Belotti or Dušan Vlahović at striker. He isn’t nearly as established as any of the other names on this list, though, and you have to wonder if Roma really needs another young midfielder coming from a small side to fill out the ranks, or if they need someone with big-club experience (or at least leadership experience).
Teun Koopmeiners: AZ Alkmaar
Finally, there’s the oft-mentioned, oft-mispronounced Teun Koopmeiners. The 23-year-old AZ Alkmaar captain is one of the most sought-after Eredivise players in Europe right now, with clubs as varied as Arsenal, Atalanta, and Roma looking to secure his services. Koopmeiners has even mentioned that Roma are interested in signing him recently, saying
“I am ready to leave. Talks with the Giallorossi are going in the right direction... This won’t distract me from the Euros, I’m getting everything out in the open, even with the media. Everything must be perfect for me: the country, the city, the language, the coach and the possibilities for my girlfriend,”
Recent articles have suggested that Koopmeiners may be looking to Atalanta for his next move to get Champions League football next season, but in my mind, it’s still significant that the Dutchman explicitly stated that he was in talks with the Giallorossi. For all we know, Xhaka is just a smokescreen for a Koopmeiners transfer; since we all thought that Maurizio Sarri would be Roma’s next manager until José Mourinho was announced, it wouldn’t be too crazy to see the Friedkins move one way after the sports media pegs them as moving in another direction.
Who should the Giallorossi prioritize as a midfield purchase?
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