Even though the club signed veteran midfielder Nemanja Matic on a free-agent deal earlier this week, Roma's exhaustive search for a (young) defensive midfielder continues as we work our way through mid-June. While Matic will steady the ship for the 2022-2023 season, José Mourinho and GM Tiago Pinto have identified several targets to fill the position on a long-term basis. First among these marks is Aston Villa's Douglas Luiz. Still, with the Brazilian midfielder perhaps a bit too expensive for Roma's current tastes, the Giallorossi are being linked with a host of alternatives to the 24-year-old.
Late Friday afternoon we discussed the surprising addition of Bayern Munich's Marcel Sabitzer to the rumor mill. Sabitzer, who signed with Bayern last August, may find himself searching for a new club after a rather pedestrian debut season with the perpetual German champions. While rumor holds that Roma and Bayern have had preliminary discussions on a potential €15 to €20 million transfer for the 28-year-old Austrian international, the Spanish press has connected a new name with the capital club: Saúl Niguez.
Saúl, a 27-year-old Spanish utility midfielder, came up through the Atletico Madrid ranks in the early days of the 2010s and was a mainstay for the Mattress Makers, making 188 La Liga starts between 2015 and 2021. Capable of playing various midfield roles, including defensive mid, Saúl's standing with Atletico fell precipitously once the twenty-teens gave way to the twenty-twenties. From 33 appearances and more than 2,000 league minutes during the ‘20-’21 season, Saúl saw a measly 201 minutes with Atletico this past season before joining Chelsea on loan on deadline day last summer.
Unfortunately for Saúl, the new location didn’t bring better luck. Buried on the bench at Stamford Bridge, Niguez logged only 480 league minutes for the Blues this season, returning to Atletico as fresh and as frustrated as the day he left.
All of which leads us to today's rumor. According to Spanish paper AS, Roma and Atletico are discussing a potential loan for Saúl, though the transfer is far from simple. Despite being sent on loan last season, AS reports that Saúl remains in club President Enrique Cezero's good graces, which essentially means Saúl can stay if he chooses to do so.
If, however, he wants to move on from Atletico, Roma and José Mourinho will be waiting with open arms, as both AS and Il Tempo report that the two clubs have had preliminary discussions over a possible Saúl transfer. Further complication matters is Saúl's €8 million net salary, which may prove cost-prohibitive for Roma, even with the Growth Decree savings factored in, meaning Roma will either have to shed some salary or convince Atletico on the merits of a dry loan for the 27-year-old midfielder.
Saúl wouldn’t be the most exciting addition to the squad, but given his tactical flexibility and the fact that he may have something to prove in 2022, he could be a surprisingly effective singing for the Giallorossi, particularly if they're able to arrange a low-cost and/or dry loan.