As the guy who replaced the guy who couldn't replace Alisson Becker, not many Roma fans were sure what to expect when the club tabbed Pau Lopez as their latest keeper of the future in 2019. Signed from Real Betis for €23.5 million on July 10, 2019, Lopez faced enormous expectations, despite being a relatively unknown commodity. Given the price tag, his youth, and his athletic profile, Lopez was simultaneously expected to make us all forget about Olsen's failures while coming as close as humanly possible to recreating Alisson's heroics.
While Lopez's Roma career got off to a flying start—you'll remember his six-save effort against Lazio in the fall 2019 derby—it didn't take long for the sheen to wear off. Plagued by poor performances and a few crucial mistakes, Lopez struggled to match those initial performances as the ‘19-’20 season wore on.
Given how much Roma had invested in him, the club wasn't exactly ready to move on from Lopez, but Paulo Fonseca shocked many of us he began the 2020-2021 season with Antonio Mirante entrenched as Roma's number one keeper; a trend that may have become permanent were it not for an ill-timed bicep injury.
Thanks to that injury, Mirante's grip on the job soon loosened, allowing Lopez to reclaim the number one spot. And thanks to some genuinely excellent play down the stretch, particularly during Roma's Europa League run, Lopez was able to save a bit of face in the Eternal City, giving us hope that he might actually fulfill his potential.
But...you know what happened next. With Paulo Fonseca out the door one minute and José Mourinho kicking it down the next, Lopez's future in the capital was shaky at best. With everyone from Alessio Cragno to Pier Luigi Gollini to Juan Musso connected to the job, Lopez looked increasingly likely to leave Roma altogether—a premonition that became reality as the links between Roma and Rui Patricio became more concrete.
And now that Roma made the Patrico signing official, it was time to offload Lopez. And earlier today, the club made official what we've known for a couple of weeks now: Lopez is off to Olympique de Marseille.
According to the official club release:
Lopez, 26, joins the Ligue 1 club on a temporary basis until 30 June 2022, for an initial fee of €720,000. Various bonuses are included that could increase the total sum payable by a maximum of €500,000.
As part of the agreement, Marseille are obliged to make the transfer permanent should certain sporting targets be met.
That transfer fee has been set at €12 million.
While neither club confirmed it, speculation holds that those “certain sporting targets” are based on appearances—20 to be exact. In other words, if Lopez claims the starting job in Marseille and remains healthy, Roma should recoup a substantial portion of their investment in Lopez, at least in terms of the non-amortized (I think that's a word) portion of his initial deal.
In a strange twist that could only happen in the Romaverse, Lopez is now the third Giallorossi cast-off to move to Marseille, joining Cengiz Ünder and Gerson in the south of France.
Needless to say, we'll be tracking Lopez's appearance numbers like a hawk this season. It didn't work out for him in the capital, but Lopez proved capable of making some genuinely remarkable saves and always seemed well-liked by his teammates, so join us in wishing him luck in Ligue 1 this season.