While Roma aren't likely to make a Dusan Vlahovic-sized move before the winter transfer window slams shut next week, General Manager Tiago Pinto's remaining transfer ambitions likely hinge on his ability to find a suitable new home for midfielder Amadou Diawara, who has apparently dug in his heels, hoping for a move to La Liga club Valencia.
Signed in the summer of 2019 for a cool €21 million, Roma paid a hefty sum to their bitter rivals in Napoli for the then 22-year-old midfielder. Seen as the ideal profile for Paulo Fonseca's 4-2-3-1, Diawara was supposed to transform Roma's tactical approach with his defense-splitting passes, keen vision, poise on the ball, and an almost uncanny ability to evade and apply pressure in equal measure. And while he didn't immediately unseat anyone in the Giallorossi pecking order, 22 league appearances, including 19 starts and one goal and one assist, was a pretty healthy return for Roma's newest midfielder.
But when the calendar flipped to 2020, Diawara's once-promising future quickly soured, as the Guinean midfielder soon fell down the pecking order, losing playing time to another now-former Roma player, Gonzalo Villar. And Roma's recent managerial change did little to reverse Diawara's fortunes. In fact, Diawara's total playing time since the beginning of the 2020-2021 season (1,805 minutes in all competitions) barely eclipses his league total from his 2019 debut season (1,518 minutes).
Any way you slice it, his transfer has been a tremendous disappointment, which leads us to Roma's current predicament. While Tiago Pinto and José Mourinho remain keen on rounding out Roma's midfield, the club must find a suitable taker for Amadou Diawara and his beefy contract before they even think about any last-minute January transfers, whether it’s Granit Xhaka, Danilo Periera, Boubacar Kamara, or even Tanguy Ndombele.
We say suitable simply because, much like Federico Fazio before him, Diawara has reportedly dug his heels in, refusing any transfer he deems unacceptable. While he's well within his rights to do so, it certainly hasn't made Pinto's job any easier.
And as we prepare to close the books on January, Diawara reportedly has his heart set on Valencia, turning his nose up at a host of other clubs, including joining Fazio in Walter Sabatini's Salernitana project, as well as recent overtures from Sampdoria and Venezia.
But there is hope, however slight it may seem. According to the Corriere dello Sport, Pinto remains engaged with his colleagues in Valencia, who, to date, only seem willing to take Diawara on a dry six-month loan, with Roma reportedly covering a portion of his €2.5 million salary.
With time running out, the pressure is on Pinto to convince Valencia to alter the terms of this proposed deal. Shipping out Diawara for six months won't provide enough financial relief for Roma to pursue any of their preferred targets, especially if they have to pay a portion of his salary.
In a certain sense, this entire saga is emblematic of Roma's team-building approach under the previous administration, where the club handed out high-salary, long-term deals to players like so much Halloween candy. And, as we've seen with everyone from Juan Jesus to Federico Fazio to Diego Perotti, the chickens have come home to roost—and they seem fully intent on exercising their squatter's rights.
Tiago Pinto didn't make this mess, but he's been tasked with cleaning it up, and his ability to conjure another miracle could make or break Roma's Champions League chase.