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Is Evan Ndicka Roma’s Next Winter Reinforcement?

The Frankfurt defender might be the ideal signing to bolster an already-impressive defense.

1. FSV Mainz 05 v Eintracht Frankfurt - Bundesliga Photo by Frederic Scheidemann/Getty Images

The World Cup group stages are raging on with surprise win after surprise win, but that hasn’t stopped Tiago Pinto and José Mourinho from scheming about reinforcements for the January transfer window. Despite some annoyingness on the part of Bodø/Glimt (and let’s be honest, what else is new), the first of those reinforcements is secured in Ola Solbakken. If the rumor mill is correct, a second player might follow right behind the Norwegian attacker, this time providing defensive reinforcements.

That second player is Evan Ndicka, a 23-year-old French center-back currently contracted to Eintracht Frankfurt. Ndicka is an academy graduate of AJ Auxerre, but it didn’t take him too long to be impressive for that Ligue 2-level side for Frankfurt to pursue him. Die Adler signed Ndicka in 2018 for a cool €5.5 million, a princely sum for a 19-year-old center-back with no top-flight experience.

Ndicka has more than lived up to that price tag in his five seasons with Frankfurt; he’s racked up 119 appearances for Frankfurt, including all fifteen to start this season. Beyond becoming a regular part of the fourth-place Frankfurt’s starting eleven, Ndicka is also the Schlappekicker with the best defensive ratings, including a 90 percent pass success rate, a 62.87 percent tackle success rate, and completing 1.58 blocks per game, which puts him in the 85th percentile for all top-flight center-backs.

Because of this defensive excellence, Ndicka has been linked to various clubs for the past few seasons. Those rumors only grew after he was selected as part of the 2021-2022 Bundesliga Team of the Season; add in the fact that Ndicka’s contract expires this summer, and it’s no wonder that the Giallorossi are just one among many teams who want to take the Frenchman away from Frankfurt.

Reports from Tuttomercatoweb suggest that the Giallorossi are in pole position for Ndicka and would like to bring the center back to Rome as soon as possible. Of course, Frankfurt doesn’t want to lose a player they effectively developed into a continent-class player for nothing, which means that if Tiago Pinto intends to bring in Ndicka before his contract expires, he’ll likely have to fork over €10 million.

That somewhat-pricey fee for a soon-to-be-free-agent might mean that the Giallorossi’s interest in Ndicka will have to wait until June to be consummated; the danger in taking that path is obvious, in that another club could blow Roma’s offer out of the water once June rolls around.

Regardless of when the Giallorossi try to bring in Ndicka, the fact that they’re interested in Ndicka is quite interesting to me. I would say that compared to other areas of the pitch, Roma has its best in-form depth at center back right now. It’s a testament to the quality and consistency of Chris Smalling, Gianluca Mancini, and Roger Ibañez this season that Marash Kumbulla has barely featured and is now rumored to be heading out of Rome in January.

Granted, Kumbulla’s rumored departure might be why Tiago Pinto is contemplating signing Ndicka in the first place. If that’s the case, though, you have to imagine that Ndicka would want to start consistently, and where does that leave Smalling, Mancini, and Ibañez? Simply put, I’m not convinced that a Ndicka signing in January or June would only portend a Kumbulla sale; it might also suggest that one of Mancini and Ibañez might be leaving Rome in the near future.

Beyond the question of who might leave if Ndicka enters, the fact that Roma is hunting for yet another quality soon-to-be-free agent is encouraging. It suggests that Tiago Pinto wants depth, wants to improve the Giallorossi through smart investments and isn’t afraid to go after high-quality players as they become available.

After the Dybala, Wijnaldum, and Mady Camara signings, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is how Pinto operates, but the fact that this trend is continuing bodes well for a Giallorossi side that will need a shot in the arm to leap up the table after the World Cup break.