If you know anything about Roma, you know that the club has had a hard time keeping players around over the past decade. With the exception of club legends like Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi, and Edin Džeko, it’s honestly been quite rare for players to stick around for more than four seasons in Rome. Part of that is the way that the game’s changed in recent years; even Lionel Messi proved to not be a true one-club man, and both agents and players get a lot out of climbing up the food chain of European super-clubs. Yet it’s often been frustrating to watch the Giallorossi repeatedly find or rehabilitate world-class talent, only for them to disappear due to Financial Fair Play reasons or the siren song of a bigger club (and sometimes both).
On the flip side of that, Roma’s also found it challenging to get rid of deadweight in recent years. A lot of credit must go to Tiago Pinto for his handling of this part of his role as General Manager, but even still, it’s been frustrating to see once-useful players and never-useful players rot on the bench, too expensive for clubs of their actual caliber and too out of form for clubs of their individually-perceived caliber. As much as Roma has struggled to avoid the supermarket vibes of the Sabatini and Monchi eras, it has also struggled to get rid of the day-old bagels, if you will.
In the same vein as our recurring series “The Future Ex-Roma Director of Sport Power Rankings” and “The Future Ex-Roma Manager Power Rankings,” I’ve decided to take a look at the squad through the lens of who might be next to depart. If a player isn’t mentioned directly, you can assume that in my eyes they’re so safely off the chopping block that there’s no need to mention them in this article: for example, Lorenzo Pellegrini isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Off The Chopping Block (Probably)
Long-time listeners of Across the Romaverse will know that I’m not usually Rick Karsdorp’s biggest fan, but with his form this season, he’s getting me on his side. Karsdorp has been Mourinho’s third-most-utilized player (behind Rui Patricio and Tammy Abraham), and with those consistent minutes he’s blossomed into one of the best creative fullbacks in Serie A:
Un solo tiro nello specchio, xG da zero-virgola e due assist. Ma anche 8 big chance create, 36 key pass e 4.16 xA. Una produzione offensiva notevole, quella di Rick Karsdorp, ormai un punto fermo di questa Roma pic.twitter.com/eWrKdPsOCL— Kickest.it (@Kickest_it) March 30, 2022
For those of you who don’t read Italian, what Kickest.it is saying right there is that no other defender has created more big chances than Slick Rick this season. Those eight big chances translated to two big assists when the Giallorossi faced Vitesse in the Europa Conference League; more broadly, Karsdorp has seemingly put his injury woes behind him at last and shown that he’s able to be a key cog in a Roma side. That’s more than I ever expected out of him, to be honest with you, but I’m happy to see players improve. With that improvement, he’s likely going to stay out of transfer rumors for some time to come. Good on you, Rick.
Some might put Zaniolo in the next category, and I can understand why. The rumor mill has been at full steam linking The Kid to a move to Juventus, bandying about fees between €50 million and €70 million. Regardless of the rumor mill (and believe me, the “rumor” that Juventus would throw in Weston McKennie to balance out the fee makes me think this is all a bunch of hooey), I trust the Friedkins and Tiago Pinto to keep Zaniolo around. What I said in a recent article when Giacomo Raspadori was touted as a potential Zaniolo replacement still holds true today:
Sure, he’s not a born-and-bred Roman, and the performances of Tammy Abraham and Lorenzo Pellegrini this season have taken some of the burden off of Zaniolo’s shoulders to be the superstar for the Giallorossi, but if you’re a club like Roma, you have to acknowledge that players of Zaniolo’s talent level don’t sign for Roma every single mercato. When they do find their way to your club, particularly at such a young age, you have to do everything you can to hold onto them for as long as possible.
If The Money’s Right...
Bryan Cristante’s always been a bit of a controversial figure at Chiesa di Totti. He’s beloved by all of his managers and treated like a key cog in every locker room he enters, yet many fans feel as if he’s unimpressive on the pitch; a great backup or rotational option in midfield, but not the guy you want in your starting eleven every single match. Well, recent rumors are likely to excite the people in that second camp, as everyone from Corriere Dello Sport to Gazzetta to Sky has said that Mourinho is planning an overhaul of Roma’s midfield this summer, and Roma’s Canadian-Italian may be for sale at the right price.
I don’t feel strongly about Bryan one way or the other; I know that a lot of Roma’s Azzurri players love him, I know that he’s the kind of glue guy you want on a title contender. If the price is right, though, I could see moving on from Cristante being the right decision. Moreso than the players in our next category, if the Giallorossi replace Cristante, they’ll have to make sure that it’s with a player who is a tactical improvement, a personality fit, and an ability improvement. If they don’t do all three of those things, the Giallorossi will be worse off next fall.
Oh, and for the dyed-in-the-wool Cristante haters out there: Juventus are apparently sniffing around looking to sign him. If there was any way to convince you that he’s not a complete waste of a player, I would imagine it’s that, no?
Roger Ibañez and Gianluca Mancini
Both Ibañez and Mancini are in an odd spot. There’s no denying that they’re both excellent defenders, but the Giallorossi practically have a glut of excellent center-backs these days. Chris Smalling and Marash Kumbulla look set to stay in Rome for the long term, meaning that at least one of Ibañez and Mancini may be at best a rotational option for José Mourinho. Does that mean that one of them might hit the road this summer if the price is right? In my book, yes.
I’ve long speculated that Ibañez’s next move is likely a mega-deal with Real Madrid; before Marash Kumbulla’s resurgence, I would’ve thought that we’d keep Roger for a while longer, but now that there’s such competition for limited center-back minutes, I’m less sure. Add in the fact that Primavera defender Dimitrios Keramitsis has looked promising both at the Primavera level and in spot minutes with the senior team, and I will understand it if Tiago Pinto decides to sell Ibañez to bring in Champions League level players in a position with no depth whatsoever (say, midfield).
As I said in the intro, it’s not necessarily an indictment of your ability that you’re in the Soon-To-Be-Ex-Roma Players Power Rankings; it just means I think you might not be wearing the lupetto for much longer.
Start Packing Your Bags
From falling out of form to firing his agent to his former agent suing him for €3 million, to breaking COVID protocols, to the persistent rumors that he will be the first man out the door once the summer mercato starts up, it’s been a tough season for Jordan Veretout. Roma’s resident Frenchman has looked like a shell of the player we saw last season at the Stadio Olimpico; Bryan Cristante, Edoardo Bove, and new guy Sergio Oliveira all look like they have more of a long-term future in Rome, and the days of regular rumors speculating on just how large Veretout’s next contract with the club will be are certainly over.
Given how likely it looks that Veretout will be leaving the Giallorossi this summer, I’m very intrigued to see where he goes and how he performs there. There are good clubs after Veretout, from Inter to Olympique de Marseille to Newcastle United. Will he look like the same Veretout that’s the weakest link in this Roma, a Roma with true aspirations for Champions League football? Or will he look like the Veretout that bossed the midfield for clubs with lower expectations? So much of a player’s form is related to how they’re feeling about their situation at a given moment; if Veretout is able to play at a starring level for a club like Inter next season, it would certainly suggest that Roma has a lot more to do to make the club a welcoming environment. If the inverse happens, it’ll suggest that the Giallorossi need to stop signing players who can’t handle the heat of high expectations. We’ll see how it plays out, obviously, but it will be fascinating to see Veretout’s next step.
Felix Afena-Gyan has overtaken Shomurodov in the depth chart. Nicola Zalewski has overtaken Shomurodov in the depth chart. When it gets to the point where you’re telling the Uzbek media that you need more playing time or you’re going to leave Roma, you might as well start packing your bags (even if you quickly correct yourself on Instagram later that day). I had a lot of hopes for you, Eldor, but it sure seems like Roma’s Primavera talent has taken over for you more than adequately.
Wait, You’re Still Here?
I remember when I was excited by the prospect of signing Pérez. A La Masia graduate, the Spaniard had looked reasonably impressive with Barcelona, and the fee seemed right. Yet as the season has worn on, Pérez has been nowhere to be found (or, rather, he’s been very easy to find... sitting on the bench). I don’t entirely understand just why Pérez hasn’t gotten any play time; you would think that with Nicolò Zaniolo’s poor form, it would be a golden opportunity for Roma’s number 11 to turn into a star. Yet he just... hasn’t. My guess is he goes to some small Serie A or La Liga side in the summer, to relatively little fanfare.
Expect more updates to the Soon-To-Be-Ex-Roma Players Power Rankings as we get closer and closer to the start of the summer mercato. Until then: if you had your druthers, who would you sell on the first day of the market and why?