For a minute there, it seemed like Roma's pending acquisition of Arsenal utility man Ainsley Maitland-Niles would go the way of the dodo bird, or Granit Xhaka to be more precise. After tabbing José Mourinho for their vacant managerial post last May, Roma reportedly planned to present their new manager with a humble gift: Granit Xhaka, Arsenal's combative and flamboyant defensive midfielder.
However, after weeks of protracted negotiations, the two sides weren't able to agree on a price and the once sure-fire deal disappeared in the wind, leaving Roma without a certifiable defensive midfielder to patrol the middle of the park for their new, defensive-minded manager.
While Mourinho has managed to keep the ship afloat with some combination of Bryan Cristante, Jordan Veretout, Ebrima Darboe, and even the seldom-seen Amadou Diawara, Roma's midfield has suffered noticeably from the lack of a legitimate defensive midfielder.
And when you add in their depth issues at right-back, Roma's winter priorities became clear. However, rather than shopping in two separate aisles, Roma GM Tiago Pinto decided to kill two birds with one stone by once again engaging the Gunners in transfer talks, this time for the 24-year-old jack-of-all-trades Maitland-Niles; a player who can conceivably fill three to four positions for Mourinho.
He may not have the same recognition as Xhaka, but his lack of plaudits hasn't made for a smooth negotiation, as the two clubs continued to trade formulas and fees over the past several days. And thanks to Arsenal's intransigence, this deal was nearly dead on arrival.
But, fear no more!
According to multiple sources in Italy, Roma and Arsenal have come to terms on a six-month loan for Maitland-Niles, who will reportedly take his medical examination as early as tomorrow.
Earlier today, Gianluca Di Marzio reported that Roma and Arsenal have agreed to a six-month, €500,000 dry loan for Maitland-Niles. While there is no purchase clause in the deal, optional or otherwise, Roma and Arsenal will reportedly meet later in the year to hash out a permanent transfer.
Maitland-Niles, a product of Arsenal's academy, made his senior debut in 2014 against Galatasaray in the Champions League at the tender age of 17. While he's had his fair share of ups and downs, Maitland-Niles, who can play either full-back spot in addition to multiple midfield roles, has amassed nearly 180 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal, Ipswich Town, and West Brom.
Presuming his medicals go off without a hitch, Maitland-Niles’ versatility should alleviate many of the lineup/personnel headaches Roma has experienced this season, as he can conceivably provide respite for players as varied as Rick Karsdorp and Lorenzo Pellegrini. And at only 24-years-old, there is still room for further growth, potentially making him an intriguing addition to Roma's impressive cadre of twenty-somethings, provided they eventually make the deal permanent.
We'll pass along more information as it becomes available, but Maitland-Niles seems poised to be Roma's first signing of the New Year!