Now that Roma has broken the seal on their summer transfer market by signing Nemanja Matic on a one-year free-agent deal, the real fun can begin. We're not likely to see Roma break the bank for someone like Paulo Dybala, but that doesn't mean the next couple of months will lack intrigue. After so many years of stopping and starting, of watching ambitious projects disappear like dust in the wind, it finally feels like the club are heading in the right direction.
Fresh off their first trophy in 14 seasons, and with the coach and general manager on the same page, Roma's latest remodel needs only a few very specific pieces to take the club to the next level: a return to the Champions League.
And now that the transfer window has swung wide open, the Chiesa crew sat down to preview the summer transfer market. Enjoy, and as always, give us your thoughts in the comments section!
Let’s start with the obvious question: Other than a defensive midfielder, what is the club’s biggest transfer need?
JonAS: I was about to say right back but when I looked up the goal scorers for Roma this season, well, then we really need another striker to help/support Tammy. SES, Perez, Felix, Eldor just don’t bring enough firepower to the team. That’s why we need another proven goal machine or at least fresh blood up front. Guedes and Mertens are already nice transfer rumors. Hey, what is Luca Toni doing nowadays?
Bren: I can’t argue with that choice, Jonas. But I’ll say replacing Henrikh Mkhitaryan is probably a bigger priority than we realize. He was in and out of the lineup so much that I think we may have overlooked/forgotten how good he was when healthy, so if we can find a younger, more reliable version of him then the squad will be that much stronger. Lorenzo Pellegrini’s ascension has been amazing, but he still needs help pulling the strings in attack, so whether it’s Isco or someone else entirely, I think some depth at attacking midfield is critical for next season.
ssciavillo: I think in a sense you’re both right. Whether it’s a winger who can contribute goals if Mourinho is going to go back to a 4-2-3-1 or an attacking midfielder if he’s going to stay predominantly with the 3-4-2-1, Roma needs someone else who can help score and contribute goals. They were much too reliant on Tammy and Pellegrini this season. I think a fully fit Spinazzola will help get the offense doing more too from the back. And being another year out from injury should mean that Zaniolo contributes more goals. But even with that Roma needs that Mkhitaryan type as Bren described it. Almost a hybrid winger/attacking kid who can fit in either formation.
BSanti: I agree with the lads here, it has to be either a winger or an attacking midfielder. Preferably, you’d find a player that can fill both roles, and I think in that scenario you’d want to fill the hole left by Mkhitaryan’s departure first and foremost. As mentioned, Pellegrini has shown tremendous growth over the last year, but to put the creative burden entirely on him would be quite the risk.
Jimmy: I’d say a winger or an attacking midfielder, for all the reasons listed above. My only other note would be that depth should be the main priority for Tiago Pinto this offseason, more than any particular position. Roma needs need to have a squad that can truly compete on multiple fronts if it wants to fight hard in the Europa League and return to Champions League spots. Nemanja Matić is a good start; so is Mile Svilar. A couple more pieces like that (while taking out the trash, so to speak) is going to do a whole lot more for this side than any one non-superstar piece.
Okay, let’s talk defensive midfielders. What will Nemanja Matic bring to this current version of Roma and should the club continue to look for younger options at that position? If so, who?
JonAS: Matic has played an abundance of games under Mourinho so he knows what José demands from his players. He’ll turn 34 this Summer but has tons of experience. Ok, it’s not the DM we had hoped for (we can’t really buy Kante or Casemiro) but he’s free and he seems suited to the more tactical, slower league that is Serie A. Who knows, maybe Pinto still has his eyes set on another top DM? I think Cristante and Pellegrini could benefit from a guy like Matic, who will clean up the mess. Also, I was not a fan of Sergio Oliveira so for me it’s an upgrade.
Bren: Yeah, I think signing Matic is about as bland a move as the club could possibly make at the moment, which is perfectly fine; a calming presence that knows exactly what Mourinho wants from the position could be what Roma needs right now. I certainly hope Pinto is still working the phones trying to find a longer-term solution at the position, and my choice–at least from realistic options–is Florian Grillitsch. He’s pretty dynamic by defensive midfielder standards, too, so he’d help Roma in all phases.
ssciavillo: I think Matic was signed because he’s a Mourinho guy who adds a veteran presence to a fairly young side. I don’t think he’s the only signing we’ll see at that position though. As much as Mourinho loves him, I’m sure both know he’s better suited as a rotation piece at 34 years old. I have to say, I got really excited for the Ruben Neves rumors, but those seemed short-lived. One guy who intrigued me in Serie A is Maxine Lopez of Sassuolo. He plays the regista-type role there. Maybe Roma can pull the double Sassuolo swoop and get Lopez along with Frattesi.
BSanti: For a team filled with promising youngsters, Matic brings a level of experience and championship pedigree that should prove to be invaluable in the dressing room, particularly now that the kids have had a taste of what winning silverware is like. At 34 years old, you don’t want Matic playing as a starter game in and game out, so hopefully, Pinto and Co. can follow up with a marquee signing in the position.
Jimmy: Experience and rotational ability. Especially with Henrikh Mkhitaryan leaving for Inter, the Giallorossi need experience in spades, and Nemanja Matić provides that. I hope that he can provide mentorship to Edoardo Bove; I hope that he can be a cool head who works well with the likes of Gianluca Mancini, Chris Smalling, and Bryan Cristante. I don’t expect him to be a starter, but as a rotational piece this is the exact kind of signing I want.
It sure looks like Roma is intent on getting Tammy Abraham some help up top, but what sort of player should they find for that role: a jack of all trades forward, a crafty/speedy type, or a traditional forward that could someday take Tammy’s place if he leaves?
JonAS: I already mentioned Guedes and Mertens could be good additions. Especially Mertens. Another free agent but able to play in all attacking positions. He would be complementary with Tammy because you have a great combo of speed, agility, height, technique and positional awareness. Mertens ticks the most boxes and yes, he’s obviously a short term solution but hey, the sooner we return to the CL, the better right? Instant quality injection like Matic is what we need right now to take the next step. I’d keep Eldor and SES around just in case, loan Felix and say goodbye to Perez.
Bren: Well, I made my case for Dusan Tadic the other day, and really, he’d just be the attacking version of Matic; a guy you can just drop into the lineup and never break a sweat. He can play four to five positions, both in support of and alongside Tammy, as well as providing breaks for Pellegrini, Shomurodov, and El Shaarawy. And he’s absurdly productive, so if he could be tempted by a move to a bigger league, he’d be my top, budget-conscious choice for the position.
I’m not sure we need to worry about an Abraham replacement just yet, but if there’s a guy out there in his early 20s that the club can be patient with for a year or so and groom him as Tammy’s eventual replacement, then they should absolutely explore that avenue. We all love Tammy, but how many of us are confident he’ll be here past 2023?
ssciavillo: I think if Roma wants a do-it-all type of forward you guys made great shouts in Mertens and Tadic. However, I think Roma really lacks a true striker that could spell Tammy and he even at times play with him in a two-striker look. I think if Roma keeps SES and Eldor around and plays Zalewski in his more natural attacking role then the rest of the roles have cover. That’s why I’d look for a striker. In an ideal world, Roma could land a Gianluca Scamacca type to create the most feared two-headed monster in the league. But, since Roma isn’t PSG or even Juve then it’ll have to be a more cost-effective player. One free agent I’d kick the tires on if he’d be willing to take a reduced role is Andrea Belotti. I think he’d fit right in with his leadership and work ethic.
Jimmy: Bren’s article convinced me on the Dusan Tadić front. My heart would love a Scamacca or a Raspadori, but I don’t think that will happen unless (gulp) we sell Nicolò Zaniolo. I will say that more broadly, I’m not too invested in who we find as another striker simply because I’m not convinced the Giallorossi will move on from Eldor Shomurodov. Will Roma truly sign another striker with two on the books already? I’m not convinced.
BSanti: It’s widely expected that Roma will revert back to Mourinho’s preferred 4-2-3-1 next season, which means whoever you bring in will have to be content with a back-up role given that when Tammy’s fit, he’s starting. Sure, there will be plenty of minutes to go around, but are Mertens or Belotti eager to be in a reduced role at this stage of their careers? I’m not so sure. Pinto may want to kick the tires on a player like Luka Jovic - a young player that’s played a bit part at Real Madrid thus far that could come in and provide both some competition and relief for Tammy.
Regardless of position, there is some scuttlebutt that Roma will go BIG on one transfer this summer. Take a wild guess: What position and what player?
JonAS: Pulisic from Chelsea. Always bet on the American dude.
Bren: Hmm, this is tough. As far-fetched as the Paulo Dybala rumors first sounded, it made a certain amount of sense if you felt that a) he wanted to remain in Italy and b) his Juve-ness would prevent him from going to Inter, and c) that he’d be tempted to move simply to play for Mourinho.
And, well, it looks like none of those are true. We’re pretty set in defense, we know defensive midfielder is being addressed in the short-term with Matic, so I think the big glaring hole is out wide. For Roma, going BIG means something in the €40 to €50 million range, so with that in mind, give me Goncalo Guedes. He’s the right age (25), the right position (LW), and has exactly what Roma needs at that position: speed, aggression, and playmaking ability. I’d also throw Berardi into the mix, but I think that depends on what happens with Zaniolo.
ssciavillo: I said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t think Matic is the end game at central midfield. While it is possible that they spend big on an attacker like Guedes, I think Roma buys another top quality midfielder besides Frattesi to give Mourinho the roster he truly wants. I don’t know who that is. I already mentioned Neves. He would be ideal. But knowing the way Pinto operates, we probably won’t even know until the player is on the next flight to Fiumicino or Ciampino airport. I will say though, if Zaniolo is sold then there will be a hefty investment in the attack along the lines of Guedes or Berardi.
BSanti: Is it time to save Hakim Ziyech from Chelsea and finally bring him to Rome?
Jimmy: If Frattesi doesn’t qualify, I’m going to go with Goncalo Guedes. The right combination of established yet not too established. Berardi doesn’t excite me at this point, and I don’t want to lose Zaniolo.
Roger Ibañez or Nicolo Zaniolo: You can only keep one. Who ya got and why?
JonAS: Is there a third option? No? Damn, tough question. This one hurts but I’m gonna keep Ibanez. Simply because I think it’s easier to replace a type like Zaniolo than Ibanez. C’mon we finally have luxury at CB and now we would lose another vital piece like Benatia, Marquinhos, Manolas etc? Enough already.
Bren: This was supposed to be tough, Jonas! See, I would say the opposite because Roma always seems capable of finding pretty good center-backs. That being said, I’d still go with Ibañez for no other reason than health. I think they both have star potential, but Ibañez still has the knees he was born with, and, even putting that aside, I think he has world-class potential. I love Zaniolo, but I’m scared he may never fully realize his potential. But I’m really splitting hairs here because they are probably my two favorite players–I think letting either leave would be a tremendous mistake on The Friedkin Group’s behalf.
ssciavillo: I’m keeping Zaniolo. It’s not every day a generational type of talent walks through the Trigoria doors. And even after two ACL surgeries, Zaniolo still physically looks good. The mental side of the game can still be honed for the 22-year-old. That’s not to say Ibañez can’t be awesome as well, but I just feel like it’s harder for Roma to lure top attacks.
Meanwhile, as Bren said, they’ve done a good job replacing center backs with great scouting. That said, ideally, I’d keep both around for at least another season. Also, my answer is dependent on Zaniolo extending his contract so Roma doesn’t lose negotiating power next time when he’s 12 months away from free agency.
BSanti: Zaniolo all day. Roma have always been adept at finding quality replacement CBs, and with Smalling, Mancini, and Kumbulla at Mourinho’s disposal, I’ll stick with keeping a player that seems primed to explode next season.
Jimmy: Zaniolo, easy peasy. As Brandon said, Roma can seemingly find superstar centerbacks in between couch cushions; finding a player as intriguing as Zaniolo, with star quality to boot? That’s a lot harder.
Bren: You guys are citing me as evidence why Roma should sell Ibañez and keep Zaniolo, yet I made the reverse argument! Haha...This question was a bit more “hot-takey” than I intended, but if everything else is equal, I'd err on the side of the player's injury history. But yes, Zaniolo has near unlimited potential, too. Don't sell either.
What should Roma do with Stephan El Shaarawy?
JonAS: I won’t mind keeping him around. Mourinho used him at LWB a lot but I’d like to see SES closer to or next to Abraham up top with Pellegrini behind them. If (a big IF) we would sell Zaniolo then at least SES can ease the pain a bit. And at the age of 29 he’s far from done. But next season is really do or die for Stephan. Another mediocre season and he’ll leave 100%, no more Chinese league excuses this time.
Bren: Yeah, I hope they keep him but I certainly wouldn’t blame him if he chased a larger role with a smaller club. I still think he should be the first man off the bench, but, for whatever reason, that wasn’t always the case last season. He has all the necessary traits to be an asset for Roma deep in matches, so I hope Mourinho can figure a consistent role for him next year.
ssciavillo: I hope he sticks around. He proved a few times this season that he can be a match-winner off the bench. Plus, if Roma plays more 4-2-3-1 this season then he can play in a more natural attacking role when he does play rather than LWB. If Roma is truly trying to build a deep roster to play on three fronts and not have to sacrifice too much quality during two-match weeks then you keep SES around unless he asks to go somewhere else to play more.
BSanti: I definitely hope they hold onto him. It’s no secret that SES hasn’t lived up to expectations since being brought back to the club, but it’s clear that he still has enough in the tank to be an asset to the club. There was a stretch last season where SES seemed to be finding his groove, so it could just be a matter of giving him some minutes and getting his confidence up.
Jimmy: I think he leaves, simply because he wants to be starting week in and week out; it’s understandable, considering he’s theoretically at the peak of his career right now, but he won’t be starting regularly for a successful Roma. I’m sad about that, because I do love what he can bring to the table; his problem in Rome has been his lack of consistency in providing those backheel goals and excellent wing play.
Let’s talk Davide Frattesi for a moment. Where would he fit in this current squad and is there a limit to what Roma should spend to bring him back?
JonAS: I’ve not seen enough of Sassuolo to understand what he’s capable of or what he can do. He’s only had one good season under his belt in Serie A so I fear people might get too enthusiastic about him. But honestly, I’m a fan just because he’s a quality Roman youth product and the more, the merrier. Frattesi-Matic-Pellegrini could work in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 with Lorenzo in the hole. Or an all-Italian midfield of Frattesi-Cristante-Pellegrini against smaller opponents.
Bren: I do think people are putting the cart ahead of the horse with Frattesi, assuming that just because he’s Roman and looks up to DDR that he’ll somehow become his equal or at least a contemporary version of De Rossi for the Giallorossi. He’s still pretty young and if bringing him home gives him added motivation to succeed, then sign me up. In terms of fit, I think he could learn at Matic’s feet, learning the finer points of the position, while playing alongside Pellegrini can only help his development. Is he Veretout? Cristante? A bit of both? I’m not entirely sure, but the talent is obvious. Sign him up and worry about the positions later.
ssciavillo: I think landing Frattesi and bringing him back home would be a great move for Roma. His Serie A experience is limited to just this one season really, as referenced by Jonas. However, he showed all the tools to be coveted by all the big teams and earn his first national team call-up. He’s a true box-to-box guy so I think he’d be an ideal Veretout replacement with a higher upside. He will come in with some added pressure being a Roman born and bred much like Pellegrini when he came back from Sassuolo. However, if the club is patient with him like it was Pellegrini we could have the makings of a superb midfield led by two primavera products in a couple of seasons for years to come.
BSanti: Going off of Steven’s point, I’m not sure that Frattesi would have the luxury to be eased in similarly to Pellegrini. As we all know, Pellegrini had DDR, Nainggolan, and Strootman in front of him, so aside from being Roman and a former primavera player, there was no urgency to get him into the starting line-up. These days, Roma is a bit thin in the midfield, so there’s quite a bit of risk throwing a young player like Frattesi right into the fire.
Jimmy: If Roma makes the right moves this summer, including Frattesi, I think he will have a bit more wiggle room to slowly blend into the squad. Pellegrini, Cristante, Matić, Frattesi, Bove, and a Mr. X DM is an excellent midfield rotation, and it would allow for some of those players to go hot or cool at different points in the season without killing Roma’s hopes for Champions League football. As for a limit on what they should spend, I think a fee of 20 million euros plus Felix Afena-Gyan will get the deal done.
Give us a random, middle-of-the-road player that could help take Roma to the next level.
JonAS: Muriel or Zapata from Atalanta. I’ve been waiting to have one of those two dudes in Roma for quite some time now. Simeone from Hellas could be a sudden stud too, paired with Abraham.
Bren: Come on, you know where I’m going with this one: Fabien Centonze, Metz’s right-back. Now that they’ve been relegated, he could be acquired on the cheap and he’d give Mourinho a tough-nosed alternative to Karsdorp at right-back. I’d also be very intrigued by bringing Benjamin Bourigeaud from Rennes aboard; those 11 goals and 16 he tallied last year would be a tremendous boost for the club.
ssciavillo: I’m bringing back another former Roma primavera player. Instead of breaking the bank on Guedes, bring back Gianluca Caprari for half of that to add to the attacking depth. He can replace Carles Perez and provide more goalscoring punch in a wing/AM rotation with Zaniolo, SES, and Zalewski. At 28, he’s in his prime and really had a nice season at Verona with 12 goals.
BSanti: I have to agree with JonAS on Simeone. Let’s make it happen, Pinto!
Jimmy: Well, now that someone said Giovanni Simeone... I gotta go with him. Man that would be fun.
Volpato, Bove, Trippi: Keep one, sell one, loan one. Go!
JonAS: Keep Volpato (I do not want to make Totti angry). Loan Bove. Sell Trippi.
Bren: Keep Bove, loan Trippi, sell Volpato.
ssciavillo: Keep Bove, loan Volpato, sell Trippi (with a buyback clause).
BSanti: Keep Volpato, loan Bove, sell Trippi.
Jimmy: Keep Bove, loan Volpato, sell Tripi. We’ve got a good number of defenders so I wouldn’t be heartbroken over losing Tripi, though I would love to see all three of these guys become part of Roma’s senior squad full-time.
You can sign one player from your homeland that has never been linked with Roma before. Who is it and why?
JonAS: Patje Vandecasteele from VK Langemark-Poelkapelle. I heard he has a great left foot.
Bren: Well, he has no reason whatsoever to leave BVB, but give me Giovanni Reyna. Our last teenage trequartista sensation, Alessio Riccardi, hasn’t panned out, so if we’re looking for a young creative player with a ton of upside, give me Claudio’s kid.
ssciavillo: I love Jonas’ shout for Pulisic earlier, but we need a DM and I love Tyler Adams. I watched him grow as a young player with RB New York and now he’s a starter at Leipzig. Give me the 23-year-old Adams to shore up DM for the foreseeable and create a young dynamic MF with Pellegrini and Frattesi.
BSanti: Well, Rui Patricio isn’t getting any younger, and although Roma have been linked with Mile Svilar from Benfica, the youngster is only 23, so how about bringing in Zack Steffen from Manchester City to bridge the gap between the two?
Jimmy: Tyler Adams is a good one, Steve, but I’ll go with Gio Reyna from Dortmund. It’ll never happen, of course; my bet is that in a season or two he follows Haaland to Man City. But I can dream of a Reyna/Pellegrini/Frattesi/Cristante/Jorginho midfield, can’t I?
Now that you've heard our takes, tell us what you think: Who are Roma’s ideal targets this summer? Who should they sell? Will Frattesi be worth the chase?