Roma's long-awaited capture of Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka was dealt a series of crushing blows over the past several days. After months of haggling between the two clubs, Arsenal essentially shutdown negotiations late last week, welcoming the 28-year-old bleached blonde midfielder back to the fold. The rift between Xhaka and Arsenal, if there ever actually was one, appears to have been healed, with both sides now discussing a contract extension for the Swiss midfielder.
From the Adrian Mutu melodrama in the earliest days of Y2K to last summer's failed swoop for Arkadiusz Milik, Roma fans are no strangers to negotiations that ultimately die on the vine. If the money isn't right, even the most sensible transfers can shrivel and die before our very eyes.
With Xhaka set to remain with Arsenal, Roma quickly turned their attention to Dutch midfielder Teun Koopmeiners. And while the 23-year-old Alkmaar man hasn't been the subject of a protracted back and forth between the two clubs, with Atalanta hot on his trail—and with €50 million about to hit their direct deposit thanks to Cristian Romero's impending move to Spurs—Roma seems set to miss out on another highly coveted midfielder.
This brings us to the next man up: Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria. A 24-year-old defensive midfielder born in Kinshasa, Zakaria has spent his entire professional career in Western Europe, coming up through the ranks at BSC Young Boys before making the switch to Monchengladbach in 2017.
Standing 6’3”, Zakaria is an imposing presence in midfield, who is at once a fantastic dribbler and stout defender; a combination you don't exactly see every day. Over the past year, Zakaria ranks in the 80th percentile or higher in successful dribbles, interceptions, clearances, and pass completion percentage. Throw in his positional versatility—he featured at five positions last season—and it’s easy to see why Roma has reportedly honed in on Zakaria according to Il Messaggero.
With Bryan Cristante reporting to Roma training camp this week and Jordan Veretout not far behind him, it's fair to question whether or not the Giallorossi really needs to address the midfield, but Zakaria's defensive profile makes him a bit of an outlier compared to Roma's current midfielders, which is precisely why Roma needs him. A shell in front of the defense is a key component in Mourinho's tactics, so bringing a traditional defensive midfielder into the mix seems to be the final item on Tiago Pinto's to-do list.
Say it with me now...stay tuned.