In part one of our winter transfer preview yesterday, we began by discussing the monumental challenges facing Roma GM Tiago Pinto as he attempts to mold the squad in José Mourinho's image. From bloated salaries on long contracts to the club's relative financial limitations, Pinto's first year on the job hasn't been easy but he's proving himself capable of getting the job done while weathering the storms of the local media.
In part two of our conversation, we talk a bit more about our dream winter additions for the Giallorossi before shifting the focus to some potential outgoing moves. Please give us your take in the comment section below and if you missed part one, we've got you covered!
Forget about the need, who is the one (realistic) name you’d love to see Roma add this winter?
ssciavillo: He doesn’t fit the DM role, but if Roma is moving on from Villar and Diawara then Pinto will have two MF spots to fill. So, I’m going to petition to bring home Davide Frattesi from Sassuolo. The former Roma Primavera player has really blossomed with the Neroverdi this season and would be an ideal replacement for Jordan Veretout if the club decides to move on from the Frenchman in the summer.
JonAS: Grillitsch intrigues me as plan B but Zakaria remains my top choice. He’ll leave Gladbach either way so Roma just needs to use all its advantages (Rome, amazing fans, nice weather, Mourinho, Via del Corso to hold off Barcelona, Juventus, and others. We have nothing to lose. He’s no unrealistic target if we can warrant him plenty of playing time.
BSanti: Oof, tough question. The list of quality upcoming “free” transfers is extensive, and no doubt many a club would be willing to negotiate for a winter transfer rather than losing their player for nothing, but I’m not sure Roma are 1) in a position to splash the cash on a free transfer for some of these guys 2) the quality players in question would choose Roma over some of the other big boys across Europe. Having said that, I’ll go with Grillitsch as well.
Jimmy Miotto: I’m on the Boubacar Kamara hype train, in part because he looks like he could be a long-term solution and in part because of Marseille’s already-trigged purchases of Cengiz Under and Pau Lopez. Under and Lopez are already set to join Marseille for nearly €20 million, and you have to imagine that Tiago Pinto will be able to use those purchases in a balancing act to get the Giallorossi to the front of the line for Kamara. Frattesi also intrigues me too, but I don’t know if he fits the DM role we need right now; if Roma moves on from Jordan Veretout, though, he’d be my first choice as a replacement for that role in Mourinho’s lineup.
Bren: I have no idea if the rumor held any water (Narrator: It didn’t) but I’d move heaven and earth for a shot at Sergiño Dest. From a talent and marketing perspective, landing the next big thing in American soccer would be a no-brainer for Roma’s American owners. He’d support Karsdorp, can play on either flank, and is young enough to be a true building block for the club going forward.
Max Kumbulla: Keep, Loan, or Sell? Discuss...
ssciavillo: Keep. With Roma playing with three center backs there will be ample opportunities for Kumbulla to get playing time. Mourinho is the ideal manager to help him grow into the potential that we saw under Juric at Hellas Verona.
JonAS: Oooh, reminds me of truth or dare. Good times. Drunk times. I’m stuck between keep or sell. He won’t go out on loan that’s for sure. Where will he go? Cagliari? Spezia? No chance. I say keep him unless Napoli offers a really nice sum of money AT THE START of the mercato. Then we have one month to find a decent replacement, that should suffice. Once we’re past January 15, Max doesn’t leave at any cost.
BSanti: Keep. As Steven alluded to, as long as we’re playing with three in the back there’s plenty of minutes to go around. Add in the fact that Roma are looking for an additional center-back WITH Kumbulla still on the roster, it makes no sense to ship him out and force yourself to find two new center-backs.
Jimmy Miotto: Keep, for the love of Totti, keep. He’s only 21 and he’s looked good as of late in the three-at-the-back defense (which is what he grew up playing in at Hellas Verona). I also agree with the idea that we don’t have the financial flexibility to bring in two quality center-backs right now, so it makes no sense to let Kumbulla go for that reason as well.
Bren: I'm a huge fan of his and will follow the Keep crowd here, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’s sold over the next year or so. I’d be disappointed but not surprised. He’s only 21, but sooner or later, he has to put together a consistent run of success; a few weeks or months without any noticeable dips. You can only coast by on potential for so long, and I do think Mourinho can get the best out of him, so I hope they remain patient with him.
Gonzalo Villar: Keep, Loan, or Sell? Discuss...
ssciavillo: I think a loan (possibly with an option to buy) would be ideal. The writing is on the wall for Villar. With Jose Mourinho leading Roma, he doesn’t have a place in the side. I would prefer a loan move for him now because his value is likely at the lowest it’s been since he arrived. So, unless one of the larger Spanish clubs like Atletico Madrid comes in with a decent offer (over 20m) then I’d opt to loan him somewhere that he can impress potential buyers and flip him for a reasonable plusvalenza in the summer. Remember, he was bought so cheap that even a 20m sale in the summer would net Roma a tidy profit.
JonAS: To me it’s pretty clear: if Mourinho stays, Villar must leave. It’s best for all parties. Especially if a DM comes in and one of Bove/Darboe remains in Rome. A prestito con diritto di riscatto? I don’t know if he can succeed at Atletico but a club like Valencia or Betis should be an interesting option for Gonzalo.
BSanti: I’m still in the denial stage of coming to terms with Villar’s Roma adventure coming to a premature conclusion, so I’ll say loan. As we saw during the latter half of Fonseca’s tenure, there’s certainly a quality player in there, but Mourinho simply does not seem to rate the lad, it happens. A loan at this point would be the best thing for him given his lack of playing time so far.
Jimmy Miotto: Sell, sell, sell. Roma needs a cash injection, and out of all the players on the outs with José Mourinho, Villar is one of the few with actual value. He also has shown next to no interest in buckling down and putting in the work to develop defensively. Even if Mourinho was sacked tomorrow, he would need to show more defensive ability to work in Serie A, so let him go back to La Liga and play where he doesn’t have to worry about that side of the game. Maybe Monchi can take him off our hands for double his value as an apology for his tenure in Rome?
Bren: Sell. As you all said, the writing is on the wall. Skeptical me says to hang onto him at all costs because Roma managers don’t tend to last long and maybe Villar will thrive under the next man up, but Mourinho likely has the job as long as he wants it, so it may just be time to cut their losses. Just don’t sell him in Italy, please.
Riccardo Calafiori seems set for a six-month loan with Cagliari, what aspect of his game do you expect will see the most growth and why?
ssciavillo: I think as with any young defender, ideally we’d love to see the defensive side of his game grow the most. We’ve already seen some of his natural talents moving forward. Now, it’ll be the tactical side of his game that can start to grow with consistent playing time. Walter Mazzarri is a manager that tends to play with a 3-5-2, but has mixed in a 4-4-2 quite a bit as well this season at Cagliari. So, this could get Calafiori experience in both a true left-back role, as well as a left-wing-back role. The experienced manager should be able to teach Calafiori a few things that could be useful when he returns to Roma and with Cagliari struggling down the table there should be plenty of playing time for him.
JonAS: Not really one thing in particular, just gain experience in Serie A. Cagliari are in a full relegation battle so Calafiori will need to kick into gear right away. Defending, crossing, link-up play, counters, if Mazzarri uses him correctly, he’ll learn a lot more in six months than just training under Mourinho at Trigoria.
The time is right for a loan. Why not include an option to extend his loan until June 2023 if Cagliari avoids relegation? Spinazzola and Vina are not 40-year-olds, there’s plenty of time left for Calafiori to make an impact in Rome. And who knows, to get a call-up for the Italian NT for Euro 2024?
BSanti: I’m with JonAS on this one. Calafiori hasn’t seemed to be too out of his depth when he’s been on the pitch for Roma, but some more experience in the league could do him a world of good. Although Spinazzola is essentially now an unknown quantity given his devastating injury, Calafiori is still going to be third on the depth chart behind him and Vina once Spina comes back, so getting Calafiori some gametime with Cagliari suits both parties here.
Jimmy Miotto: To echo everyone else, I think he just needs consistent minutes. He’s not a Leonardo Spinazzola clone, but he’s shown an ability as an attacking and defensive presence when he’s played this season; the issue is more that he’s behind Matias Viña in the depth chart when he clearly needs to start regularly for his continued development. I’m hoping that Calafiori’s time in Cagliari can be like Alessio Romagnoli’s at Sampdoria, without the whole “moves to Milan and was a secret Laziale the whole time” bit.
Bren: This is an incredibly difficult question to answer with sufficient specificity because he’s played so sparingly, but we know what his skill set is (or can be), so I would hope these six months in Sardinia will be a defensive masterclass for him; a time to learn the finer points of defending the position and then put those skills to the immediate test. Oh, and please stay injury-free. Thank you.
Lastly, are Roma really only a defensive midfielder and some depth away from genuinely competing for the top four this year and beyond?
ssciavillo: Based on the way the league is playing itself out, this could very well be the case. Only Inter looks to be head and shoulders better than Roma right now. The DM is essential to Mourinho’s style of play and as the CT has pointed out so many times this season, depth is essential to overcome injuries and fatigue.
Much of the reason I believe this is also because Roma has a young team with many of its biggest talents yet to hit their peak. If players like Abraham, Pellegrini, Zaniolo, Ibanez, and Mancini continue to develop then this could be a star-studded line-up in the near future. That star power coupled with improved depth and a true DM could be just what Roma needs under Mourinho to be a consistent top 4 finisher and potential Scudetto threat.
JonAS: Yes, but only if our current core of players keeps on improving. So no more 6-1 defeats in Norway or dropping points in Venice. They somehow need to find consistency, a sore point for ages for AS Roma. Mourinho already pointed out that only 12-13 players are capable and the rest are not on the same level. You’ll always need rotation pieces but if we can expand that number to 15-16 A-quality players with some utility men and Primavera surprises, then we might be in for new successes.
BSanti: I’m inclined to say yes. Roma are only six points back of Atalanta in fourth, which is nothing these days, especially in an age where there seems to be more parity in Serie A than usual in recent memory. If Roma can secure the remaining pieces of the puzzle for Mourinho, they’ll surely be in business for both this year and the future.
Jimmy Miotto: I can agree with that, especially if the right DM is found. There’s a lot of talent in this squad already; there’s also a lot of talent that might be less inclined to leave Italy, considering how much of an Italian presence the club has now built up in the senior squad. Not to sing the same tune that’s been sung by different Roma executives for over a decade, but this really does feel like Year One of a project. The recent renewals of young prospects on the verge of a first-team slot only confirm that Tiago Pinto, José Mourinho, and The Friedkin Group are thinking beyond this year. A Champions League spot might be crucial for the club’s finances and hopes of bringing in big-name, finished products, but a healthy Giallorossi side hasn’t looked out of place against any major side so far this season. A little seasoning and a bit more depth will do wonders for Roma’s long-term prospects.
Bren: A defensive midfielder is a clear priority, but this project will necessarily be tied to the growth of Tammy Abraham and Nicolo Zaniolo. Pellegrini and a healthy Spinazzola have already proved (or continue to prove) themselves to be top players, but if Tammy and Zaniolo can take that next step in their careers, Roma will have an enviable core to build around.
As Jonas said, we need more consistency across the board, but if you have three attacking talents like Abraham, Zaniolo, and Pellegrini all reaching their peaks at the same time, Roma will have a baseline threat they can bring to the pitch every week. And when you outfit that with bright talents like Roger Ibañez, Rick Karsdorp, Calafiori, and this mysterious defensive midfielder, then yes, I think we have a consistent top-four team on our hands.
That's it for our January transfer window preview series but stick with us as we continue to track everything the rumor mill has to offer. And hopefully even a few signings!