In José Mourinho's introductory press conference earlier this week, Roma GM Tiago Pinto promised that by the end of the transfer market, he will have built a team worthy of Mourinho. For most of the summer, those “worthy” pieces were presumed to be Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka and Wolverhampton goalkeeper Rui Patricio. While those two names are still likely to arrive in the capital, Pinto is reportedly exploring options to increase Roma's defensive depth behind the likely starting duo of Roger Ibañez and Gianluca Mancini.
Chris Smalling has a history with Mourinho and was included in The Special One's summer training program, but the English veteran's future with Roma is far from assured, especially if the links to Everton bear fruit. If the 31-year-old Greenwich native does indeed end his two-year stay with Roma, the Giallorossi will need someone to take his place.
And according to reports out of Italy, England, and France, Roma has narrowed their focus to two center-backs: Chelsea's Kurt Zouma and Southampton's Jannik Vestergaard. According to the French outlet Téléfoot, Zouma is likely to leave Stamford Bridge this summer and has already rejected a move from Wolverhampton and may prefer to reunite with Mourinho at Roma.
Zouma, a 26-year-old French center-back from Lyon, was once considered one of the game's elite defensive prospects—and was even linked to a previous Roma loan move several years ago—but struggled to meet expectations after moving to Chelsea in 2014 after cutting his teeth with Saint Etienne. However, following successful loan stints with Stoke City and Everton, Zouma returned to Chelsea in 2019, making 52 Premiership appearances over the past two years.
Despite rounding back into form over the past two seasons, Zouma is likely to leave Chelsea and according to Téléfoot, Mourinho is interested in reuniting with his former center-back, who could swap London for Roma on a loan with an option to buy.
If, however, Roma cannot complete that deal, The Athletic has added Jannik Vestergaard to Pinto and Mourinho's combined shopping list. Vestergaard, a 28-year-old Danish defender, has spent the past three seasons with Southampton after spending the bulk of his career in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim, Werder Bremen, and Borussia Monchengladbach.
A massive 6’6” defender, Vestergaard played a pivotal role in Denmark's run through Euro 2020 and is reportedly being tracked by several clubs including Roma and Spurs. Southampton is believed to value Vestergaard at €18 million, so he won't exactly come cheap.
With Smalling's Roma future uncertain, Juan Jesus gone and Federico Fazio existing in an awkward state of limbo at the moment, the Giallorossi do need added depth in defense, but in order to spend the €18 to €30 million it would take to acquire Vestergaard or Zouma, Pinto and Mourinho have to make a decision regarding Smalling: Is he part of this new project or not?
If so, the club will likely go the cheaper loan route to replace the roles ostensibly held by Fazio and Jesus last season. If, however, Smalling returns to England, that should free up added funds to get a better and more experienced replacement—like a Zouma or Vestergaard.
With Euro 2020 wrapping up tomorrow and Mourinho's tenure officially underway, we can expect the transfer updates to come fast and furious as we careen headlong into the middle of July.