After seeing all four of his new summer signings hit the ground running, Roma GM Tiago Pinto should be living the high life. Tammy Abraham, Eldor Shomurodov, Matías Viña, and Rui Patricio each look like pivotal pieces for José Mourinho's suddenly ambitious Roma project. By concocting this heady brew of talent, timing, and cost, Pinto has given The Special One an intriguing elixir to jump-start his second stint in Serie A. Pinto even managed to find new homes for Alessandro Florenzi and Robin Olsen while also pulling off the minor miracle of terminating Javier Pastore's onerous contract by mutual consent.
By nearly any objective measurement, Pinto has done a bang-up job during his first summer as Roma's General Manager. However, despite his efforts and all the sweat equity he's accrued simultaneously improving and trimming Roma's roster, he's still haunted by the ghost of Steven Nzonzi's contract.
Nzonzi, a 32-year-old French midfielder signed by Monchi during the summer of 2018, spent only one year with Roma, making 39 appearances in all competitions during the 2018-2019 season. While he wasn't necessarily derelict in his defensive midfield duties that season, Nzonzi never again saw the inside of the Stadio Olimpico, spending the ensuing three seasons on loan: first with Turkish club Galatasaray and then Rennes in Ligue 1, where he spent the past two seasons.
After Rennes passed on their chance to acquire Nzonzi permanently, Pinto spent nearly the entire summer trying to find a suitable (and agreeable) new club for Nzonzi. After shopping the World Cup winner around Europe and struggling to find an offer Nzonzi deemed acceptable, Pinto may have conjured an 11th-hour miracle if reports out of Doha are accurate:
خاص ل "استاد الدوحة " : #الريان يتوصل لاتفاق مع الفرنسي ستيفن نزونزي واللاعب يصل للدوحة غدا للانضمام للرهيب.#استاد_الدوحة pic.twitter.com/ury6P5FO8m— استاد الدوحة (@staddoha) September 4, 2021
According to Stad Doha, a Qatar-based sports media company, Nzonzi has agreed to personal terms with Qatari club Al-Ryyan on a three-year deal. While this report has been corroborated by sources in the Italian media, Roma has remained silent thus far, which likely means one of two things: A) it's merely a procedural delay before the transfer is officially announced, or B) Stad Doha's reporting is inaccurate, or perhaps C) Nzonzi is somehow using this story to leverage another move.
With rumors that the Al-Ryyan will essentially acquire Nzonzi on a free transfer, Pinto and Roma are likely more concerned about shedding salary than making a profit, and considering how poorly this deal went, loss mitigation is really the best we can hope for at this point.
No matter how this shakes out, with his deal expiring in June 2022, Roma’s failed Nzonzi experiment will soon reach a merciful conclusion. And whether they find a Qatari taker or force Nzonzi to train on his own for the next several months, Pinto has done a remarkable job in his quest to trim Roma's roster and wage bill. While it's been a frustrating task, these incremental steps will make Roma a healthier club in the long run.