Since the moment José Mourinho started managing the Giallorossi, he’s been pretty open about one fact: Roma are seriously behind the Big Three northern clubs in terms of squad depth. Part of that is on transfer mistakes by Monchi and Gianluca Petrachi that the club is still recovering from; part of that is on the financial largesse Juventus, Inter Milan, and AC Milan have at their disposal (and perhaps the financial trickery they’re able to get away with). Regardless of why Roma was lacking in depth last season, though, Roma was lacking in depth last season, and the position where that was most evident was right-back.
With Bryan Reynolds clearly needing more time to develop and Davide Santon providing little to no value, Rick Karsdorp became Roma’s only natural solution on the right side of the defense. Nicola Zalewski could slot in at right-back from time to time, sure, but that was truly out of position for him, and while Karsdorp performed more than admirably last season, it was clear that he was mentally and physically exhausted by the time the season wrapped. A right-back who could both provide Karsdorp some time to breathe and who could maybe pressure him for his spot in the starting eleven was clearly needed; fortunately, Tiago Pinto has filled that need only a few days into the summer mercato, and on a pretty bargain deal at that.
The signing of Turkish international Zeki Çelik had been rumored for months, but today’s announcement from the club has made it official: the Giallorossi now have real depth at right-back for the first time in several seasons. Çelik is joining from LOSC Lille and by all accounts, both the club and player are ecstatic to have made this move become reality:
We are really pleased that Zeki has decided to come to Roma – his conviction in choosing to join our project is a vital ingredient in building a squad of players united by their ambition,
What is more, despite still being so young he has already picked up a lot of experience at European and international level, which will prove to be very useful as this group continues to progress.
It’s an honour for me to play for such a big club; I have big ambitions and I want to help this team be successful
I feel focused and ready – I will never let up and you will always see me fighting for everything out there on the pitch.
Not only does Çelik provide rotational ability at right-back, he also gives Roma a different style of right-back to work with than Slick Rick. Where Karsdorp has shown off his ability as a wing-back, Çelik presents as a player with more defensive capabilities; the statistical whiz-kids on Twitter have even put together offensive and defensive comparisons of Çelik and Karsdorp that make this point abundantly clear:
Some obvious caveats to that data include the fact that Çelik has been playing in Ligue 1 for LOSC Lille while Karsdorp has been in Serie A, so the statistical comparisons on display here aren’t completely transferrable. Nevertheless, just like Roma’s move for Nemanja Matić, these are the kinds of signings Tiago Pinto needs to make to give José Mourinho the depth he needs to compete on several fronts. Roma has its star players; Lorenzo Pellegrini, Tammy Abraham, and Nicolò Zaniolo are the young superstar core of this squad, and barring a Zaniolo transfer, it looks as if that core is intended to be around for the long haul. Making sure that core has a deep and balanced squad around it is what separates the Giallorossi from consistent Champions League qualification and all the money that provides.
Many Romanisti have been complaining about Roma’s “lack of movement” on the transfer market to date, but signings like Matić, Çelik, and Svilar are just what the doctor ordered. If Tiago Pinto brings in Davide Frattesi sooner rather than later, signs Houssem Aouar as a Mkhitaryan replacement, and continues to get rid of the deadwood in the squad, he can shut the doors to Trigoria and get a solid A for this mercato in my book.