You don't have to be a Roma insider to know where the club's transfer priorities lie: in the midfield. Between Lorenzo Pellegrini and (hopefully) Henrikh Mkhitaryan returning, Roma has the creative portion of the midfield down pat, but they've been desperately searching for an anchor at the back, a player to shield the defense, dictate the tempo, and distribute the ball further up the pitch. In a word, they need a new Daniele De Rossi. While a reunion with the club's former captain is more likely to happen on the touchline several years from now, the club could still return to the past to secure its elusive defensive midfielder.
While he's not a strapping defensive midfielder in the mold of DDR, Leandro Paredes, who spent parts of three seasons with Roma, has enough composite skills to thrive as the last link in José Mourinho's midfielder. The 27-year-old midfielder, who made two big-money moves since leaving Roma—a €23 million transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg in 2017 and an eye-popping €40 million move to PSG in the winter of 2019—may soon find himself on the transfer market.
Paredes no doubt had visions of becoming Marco Verratti's partner in the Parc des Princes, but with little more than 4,000 Ligue 1 minutes under his belt since arriving in Paris in 2019, Lovely Leo, as we affectionately called him, could be on the move once more. And according to multiple sources in the Italian media, Roma GM Tiago Pinto may already have met with Paredes’ representatives on his recent trip to the French capital.
While Pinto was rumored to be scouting players as varied as Reims striker Hugo Ekitike, Valencia forward Gonçalo Guedes, and Crystal Palace midfielder Conor Gallagher on his recent European holiday, both Calciomercato and the Corriere dello Sport speculate that Pinto did indeed meet with Paredes’ agents in the City of Light earlier this week.
Valued at €20 million by Transfermarkt, Paredes, whose deal expires in 2023, has slipped even further down the PSG pecking order, logging only 796 league minutes for the Parisians this season. While his inflated PSG salary may be an issue, if Roma can take advantage of the growth decree, they may be able to take some sting out of Paredes €7.5 million salary.
Paredes may not intimidate opponents with a series of bone-shattering tackles, but the Argentine midfielder is a passing machine, ranking in the 98th percentile or higher among midfielders in Europe's major leagues in a host of passing categories, including passes attempted, progressive passing distance and passes completed at every distance: short, middle and long. The kid can move the ball, is what we're saying.
Paredes’ post-Roma playing career didn't pan out quite as he imagined, but a return to Roma could set Lovely Leo back on the right foot. He's not a defensive midfielder in the classical sense, but landing a battle-tested 27-year-old deep-lying playmaker for anything less than €20 million could be an absolute steal.