Whether intentional or not, José Mourinho's substitutions on Sunday sent a subtle message to the Roma brass: bring me Andrea Belotti. With a flurry of missed chances and his club clinging to a one-goal lead, Mourinho removed two of Roma's most dangerous attacking players, Tammy Abraham and Nicolo Zaniolo, in a 10-minute span. Rather than bringing Eldor Shomurodov or Felix Afena-Gyan into the fray to hunt for a second goal, Mourinho inserted a pair of defensive midfielders for the stretch run: Nemanja Matic and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Speaking after the match, Mourinho, as only he can, toed the line between deflection and outright admission, denying that his substitutions were designed to kill the game while also conceding that he's not pleased with his attacking options off the bench.
"There was evident fatigue, so the players I replaced them with – Matic, Wijnaldum – were not there to kill the game, they were there to control the situation.
"If you ask me, would I prefer to have strikers of the same level that I can replace the others with, of course I would. That is what Manchester City, Liverpool and a few Italian clubs can do."
The striker to whom Mourinho was referring is, of course, Andrea Belotti. While Roma and Belotti reportedly agreed to a three-year deal earlier this month, the 27-year-old striker remains rooted in Sicily, training on his own while he waits for Roma to free up enough funds to complete the deal.
According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, while Belotti prefers a move to Roma, where he'd reunited with his former Palermo teammate Paulo Dybala, he has offers on the table from Nice, Monaco, and Galatasaray.
But there's just one problem. Well, three problems, if we're being specific. Before Roma can bring Belotti into the fold, GM Tiago Pinto reportedly must find a new club for one of Eldor Shomurodov, Felix Afena-Gyan, or Justin Kluivert.
With Shomurodov's move to Bologna seemingly on ice as the two clubs haggle over a final price point, Roma has shifted their attention to Felix, who may find a new home in Salernitana, or Kluviert, who could soon move to Fulham for a reportedly €10 to €12 million according to reports from England.
At this point, Pinto is likely to pursue the path of least resistance, but he better act quick; Belotti has already missed one match, and he's not likely to sit on the sidelines much longer.